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Video Spotlight: Shape of You / No Diggity mashup by VoicePlay featuring Matthew Darren

As I write this, Middle Tennessee is expecting what could be a terrible storm in a few hours. I'm not a fan of terrible storms, but that's okay. It'll be okay. I mention this because VoicePlay has just released a brand new video. What can that possibly have to do with storms? Well, if you know your Norse mythology you know that Thor is considered the god of thunder. What does VoicePlay have to do with Norse mythology? Well, their new video is a mashup of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity". It features our fabulous foursome with special guest Matthew Darren. Otherwise known as Harmony Thor.

No, I did not come up with that myself. It won't take too long to figure out how he got that name. Just watch the video. Hopefully he doesn't mind it because I'm pretty sure he's stuck with it now. In any event, I have Thor on the brain. So this impending storm seems rather appropriate. 

As for the mashup? Meh, it's all right. And by all right, what I really mean is wonderful and I absolutely love it. I might even be a little obsessed. This is one of those videos that I watch and wonder why they aren't more popular. I don't think they get the credit they deserve. Don't get me wrong. They have a lot of fans who love them and get more all the time. But if you ask me, they deserve more. They really do. 

My last post, the sixth installment of my Music Therapy series (in which Layne gets a mention), was one that I felt like I needed to write, but this one? I decided to write it for two reasons. The first is because it's really flippin' good. The second? Because I really, really wanted to. I started planning out this post after watching it for the first time. I couldn't get to writing it fast enough. This is not typical for me. Not at all. 

Meanwhile, 2017 has been a bit of a roller coaster for us VoicePlay fans and probably especially so for them. If you're already a VoicePlay fan, you know what's been up. But here's a quick rundown for rest of you. This year started with an announcement that their baritone of five years, Tony, was leaving. This news, while not surprising, was met with sadness and concern. What would this mean for the rest of the group?

Well, our guys didn't let us worry about that for too long. They were quick to put up a video reassuring fans that they were staying together and launching a search for a new official member. Their shows have gone on as scheduled with the help of their wonderful fill-ins. We've gotten new music/videos. In fact, these last two mashups (the other being "Scars To Your Beautiful & All Time Low") are quite possibly their best mashups to date. If you know me, you know how much I love their mashups. So that should tell you something. 

What we, their loyal VoicePlayas, have been reminded of during this time is how lucky we are to be supporting these guys. Other artists could learn so much from these four. Namely, how to treat their fans. They are so great to us and they have never let us forget how much they care about their fans. I have a lot of respect for these guys. As musicians and performers, yes, but also as men. 

Now they've gone and introduced us to Harmony Thor, er, Matthew. I had no idea what to expect from him, but my goodness. I think you're gonna like him. I think you're gonna like him a lot. Take a few minutes to watch the video and then we'll talk about it. Well...I guess I'll talk about it and you'll read about it, but you know what I mean. Check it out. 

Ooh, look at VoicePlay changing it up at the beginning.The first few seconds did throw me off a bit. Both because of the brief absence of Matthew and because of the height of the then empty mic stand. Goodness. Also, Geoff's opening bass riff mixed with accompanying hand gestures. I'm generally not a fan of what I'll refer to as the bass wars, i.e, when people try to say that their favorite bass is the best bass to ever exist. But in saying that, I maintain my opinion that when it comes to imitating the bass instrument? Geoff wins. He's musical in a way that a lot of other basses are not. I feel like I'm constantly pointing that out about him, but I can't help it. I need to give our bass dude his props. He's so great, you guys.

Of course, he is but one half of our beloved rhythm section. The two words that come to mind when I think about Layne's vocal percussion in this mashup? Clean and smooth. It's so smooth. Part of the fun of getting a new VoicePlay video is hearing what Layne's decided to do this time. File this under things I've said before, but his percussion is always exactly what the song needs. He always makes it interesting too, which I appreciate. Him and Geoff complement each other perfectly. I'm going to start referring to them as the Dynamic Duo of Rhythm. Because that's what they are, dangit.

I'll get to Matthew momentarily, but next up? Earl and Eli. One thing that strikes me often is how effortlessly Earl hits those soaring high notes. One of the best things about 2016 was getting to hear how great of a singer he really is - I mean, he's always sounded good, but it seemed like we got to hear more of what he can do and he can do a lot. His voice is so versatile and so uniquely his. There's some other singers who have somewhat similar voices, but Earl's just has something special about it. You're never going to mix his voice up with anyone else's. You just aren't. 

Eli. Oh Eli. I was just thinking about a few things me and him have in common. We both wear glasses. We both go by a shortened version of our first names. And we're both a bit, well, vertically challenged. Me more so than him. Seeing Matthew next to him made me chuckle because it brought back some memories of the tall country acts I've met. It's times like that where you feel like you understand what it'd be like to be a hobbit visiting Rivendell. Not trying to call Eli a hobbit, mind you. I'm just saying that that's how I feel when I'm around tall people. 

In any event, I love Eli. His voice is one I could never get tired of listening to. Those vocal runs at the end, though. What's funny is right before they happened I was thinking hmm, we haven't really gotten a classic Eli vocal run in this so- okay, nevermind. He pretty much always has one run in particular that basically blows my mind. I did dub him the King of the Vocal Run for a reason. Also: him walking away at the end makes me giggle every time. Truth be told, I have a hard time wiping the smile off my face when I watch (or listen) to this. I love it so much. 

All right, you guys. I didn't want to have to admit this, but I think I have no choice. Because being introduced to Matthew has brought this issue right to the forefront. We're talking hair envy here. It's a real problem, y'all. I'm not proud to admit it, but I have it. It is what it is. Nothing I can do about it. But for real, is it my imagination or does it seem like every time a guy has long hair that it's always beautiful? Always. The only time I can get my hair that straight is when I enlist the help of a professional. The hair envy is real, my friends. 

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, can we talk about his voice? Because we need to talk about his voice. Holy smokes. It has a velvety quality to it and I like it. A lot. He actually reminds me a bit of Chris Young, vocally speaking. If you know me, you know I love me some country music. Chris happens to be one of my favorite male country singers. Really, one of my favorite singers, period. So reminding me of him? That's a very good thing. 

thought he blended in with VoicePlay incredibly well too. His voice added more of an edge to their sound that I love. It came across like they'd been singing together for years; that's how well he fit in. I think that this might be the best collaboration that VoicePlay has ever done and they've done some wonderful ones. It's definitely up there. I just love the way they all sound together. A lot.

Some silly thoughts I had while watching this: I think that if a would-be burglar happened to peek into wherever they filmed this, he would automatically be like "nope!" and walk away. Also: thinking about how appropriate the nickname Thor was for Matthew. That got me thinking about if that would make the five of them the A Cappella Avengers. I don't know about the rest of you, but that sounds like the name of a movie I need in my life. Let's see, we have a Thor. How about Captain Castellucci? The Incredible Earl? Layne Stein? Try Laynee Stark, Iron Beatbox. Okay, I'm not sold on Iron Beatbox. VP Man? Not so great either. No matter. Rounding out crew would, of course, be Eli "Hawkeye" Jacobson. The A Cappella Avengers: saving the world from bad music one song at a time!   

On a more serious note, what a difference a few months can make! Back in January I wondered if I'd be able to listen to VoicePlay without missing Tony's voice. "Scars to Your Beautiful / All Time Low" put that worry to rest. Yes. Yes, I am. Now with this new video, I find myself thinking that Tony leaving may have been the best thing that could've happened to VoicePlay at this point. 

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love everything that they did with Tony and always will. But his leaving has given VoicePlay the opportunity to reinvent themselves. We've seen a definite upswing in their creativity this year. This is something that really began with the launch of their Patreon campaign back in 2015, but they've taken it to another level. They've gotten stronger and they've gotten better. Something I expect will continue, especially once they decide who'll be the new member of the group. This is an incredible time to be a fan of theirs. I just know that their best is yet to come. I'm so excited to see what happens next!

Because I assume everyone wants to keep up to date with our merry band of A Cappella Avengers, here's some links for ya:


Matthew Darren

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