A Moral Victory for The Bellas



Watching The Barden University Riff-Off for the first time ranks as one of my favorite moments of the past year. It ranks right above moving to New York City and right below the first time I got 50 likes on an Instagram photo.

I love the concept of people mobilizing organically. It takes superb organizing skills. Like, in The Little Rascals when Spanky called an emergency meeting in the beginning of the movie or in The Warriors when Cyrus holds that huge midnight summit in the Bronx. I can dig it, because I can barely get two friends to agree on the same restaurant, let alone rival acapella groups agreeing to meet in an abandoned pool on a school night.

For those who are aca-uneducated, a riff-off is a competition in which a random topic is selected and different teams take turns singing songs within the category. In order for a group to change a song, they need to match a word from the current song.

The first topic that magical evening, selected by virtual wheel, was "Ladies of the 80's."

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Six-time International Championship of Collegiate Acappella champions, The Treblemakers are the first to jump in the game, because if anyone knows Material Girl, it’s Bumper.

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They get through the first few bars of Hey Micky, before The BU Harmonics cut them off at “You’re so fine,” to seamlessly transition into, “You’re so fine and you’re mine” from Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

They impressively build it up with a bass line and a harmony to back it up.

Fine. Whatever.


This does not sit well with The Barden Bellas. Team Captain Aubrey Posten throws her hat in the ring with Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

Fat Amy does what Fat Amy does best and the ladies add some improv choreography to bring the point home.

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A High Note comes and tries steal the bacon, but is *clap clap cut off* because she doesn’t match up the words with the old song.

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I feel her pain. I’m always the person who always get lyrics wrong. Some of my more notable gaffes:

Taking Back Sunday - New American Classic

What I thought they said: 
“You’ve got to get medicine / it’s all in your head”
What they actually said:
“You’ve got to get better / said it’s all in your head”

I never bothered to change it because: one, it still makes complete sense, and two, I was really damn proud of myself for learning that song on guitar and at that point in my life, the only way I could sing and finger-pick a guitar was from complete muscle memory -- no way was I going to change my whole shit because Adam Lazzara didn’t believe that pharmaceutical drugs were the best way to combat mental illness.

Swedish House Mafia - Don’t You Worry Child

What I thought they said: 
"Don’t you worry / Tiesto’s got a plan for you”

What they actually said:
“Don’t you worry / see heaven’s got a plan for you”

I thought Tiesto sang it. Who knew?

Anyway, The High Notes fuck up and now they needed to pick a new category.

Songs About Sex.

Cynthia Rose brings S&M to the pool and Stacie channels her best 2010 Ri-Ri and takes over.

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Mortal men would be aca-intimated. Not The Treblemakers. They respond with Salt-n-Pena's 1991 hit Let’s Talk About Sex.

Stacie tries to turn the boyz in to men with I’ll Make Love to You, which had the most potential to be the smoothest song of the night, before Harry Connick, Jr. takes away Stacie camera time from us.

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At this point, The Bellas look resigned to defeat. But -- wait, whaa?


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Everyone in the pool is speechless.

Even her fellow Bellas. (“Rump..shakers?”)

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Shots fired. Track jacket and Jesse Swanson are impressed.

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The crowd starts to feel it and Beca’s girls lay down a beat for the chorus.

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At this point, it’s over. Kyra Sedgwick in the ninth inning over.

Everyone knows whoever does “No Diggity” at karaoke automatically wins. It’s arguably one of the best songs of the 90’s and always elicits an “Oh, shittttttttttt” response.

This is one of those magical moments in competitive history. Anyone can make a crowd applaud, but very few can make them stand up. Have you ever been in an arena and a sorry Jumbotron operator puts up a graphic urging people to cheer louder? People can force smiles, but they can't force laughs.

We all know what happened, though. After winning the pool over, the judge disqualified The Bellas because of a rule violation. Everyone is shocked. If you kept score at home, this is an easy Bellas win. It vs. It's?! A contraction violation is the holding call of acapella. It happens on almost every single play, it's just a matter if the officials want enforce it or not.

Traditional sports narrators say, "there's no such thing as a moral victory," but contextually, this is the highlight of Beca Mitchell's young career! She toiled as an electronic musician, trying to find the perfect balance of creativity and accessibility. Here she finds exactly what she's been searching for in her laptop and headphones. All she wanted was the ability to influence people. Satisfaction for her is found by being able to discern and curate what she thinks a certain group of people will respond to. 

The game may have robbed her of a legitimate "hello, world" moment, but she made her statement loud and clear. The argument that "Acapella is a game of punctuation" is as dated as the triple option. Beca Mitchell is looking to change the game. See you in the pool next year, Treblemakers.


I don't care gif by megahakunamatata. Nick Sugai is on #TeamAnnaKendrick. Follow him @nicksugai.