20 Reasons Why Atlanta is America’s Music Capital

We are a cappella nerds

Illustration by Miss Lotion

My heart flutters when someone makes the sounds of an 808 drum machine with his mouth. The little hairs on my arms stand on end when a trio of tightly blended voices sings the perfect D minor chord without support from any other instruments. I can’t help it—I’m an a cappella nerd. And in Atlanta, I’m definitely not alone.

For the uninitiated, a cappella refers to music performed only by voices; the Italian translates to “in the manner of the chapel.” The genre has long been a mainstay at universities. Georgia Tech has groups like Infinite Harmony, Nothin’ But Treble, Taal Tadka, and Sympathetic Vibrations. Emory University has Aural Pleasure, Chaitunes, Dooley Noted, and more. The scene is busy at UGA too. But the genre isn’t just confined to colleges. The postcollegiate scene is on the rise here, with several pop-rock vocal bands—Best to Burn, Octave, Southern Tonic, the Graduates, and Sound Investment among them—singing their aca-hearts out at local bars, festivals, corporate events, and parties.

There is, of course, something inherently dorky about simulating a trumpet with your mouth; it’s hard to look cool when you’re singing mainstay aca-syllables like “doot” and “bow wow.” But the hip factor has ticked up ever since The Sing-Off drew eight million weekly viewers to NBC in 2009—with third-season winners Pentatonix going on to win three Grammys. Next came Glee on Fox. The Pitch Perfect film franchise launched in 2012. And, in December, the Atlanta premiere of its third installment sold out. I know because I was there (performing with Best to Burn)—and it, like our burgeoning scene, was aca-awesome. —Christine Van Dusen