Off The Beat
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Off The Beat


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The best kept secret in music



January 14, 2007

If asked to guess what songs an a cappella group covered on their latest album, what would come to mind? Were tracks from System of a Down, Coheed and Cambria, Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance or The Killers anywhere in the answer? On “Kenophobia” U Penn Off the Beat breaks all the rules of a cappella to put out an album that really rocks. Traditional a cappella fans be wary, this is NOT your grandma’s barbershop group.

Off the Beat's founding member says the group was formed with the vision "to be the group that sounded like a band, not an a cappella group." Thanks to dizzying arrangements and excellent production values the group pulls off just that on “Kenophobia.” Songs like “Sugar We’re Going Down” leave the listener scratching their head wondering, is this really just voices? The group’s signature powerful vocal percussion is on display in this Fall Out Boy cover, and on majority of the album.

Another standout track is the group’s rendition of the Coldplay song “Fix You.” Coldplay is one of the bands that suffers from the blessing and curse of having its songs frequently covered by a cappella groups. Often these covers fall short due to the sparkling vocals Chris Martin provides in the originals. However, Off the Beat rises to the challenge with “Fix You” and serves up Will Green on lead for the track. His vocal performance never leaves the listener wishing they were hearing the original. “Fix You” climaxes with a clever tease of Coldplay hit “The Scientist” midway through the track. Off the Beat’s twelve members really come together as one voice on this lush ballad.

The group’s last album nearly swept the collegiate categories in the 2006 CARAs (Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards), garnering Off the Beat three awards. “Kenophobia” nearly assures the group of equaled success in the 2007 awards circuit. A song from the album has already been selected to serve as the opening track on the B.O.C.A. 2007 compilation. Off the Beat proves they’re not slowing down anytime soon with their latest. The only thing we’re left to wonder now, what can’t this group do?

— Julia Avanti -

"The Recorded A Capella Review Board Reviews OFF THE BEAT's Bombtracks - Best of 1997-2006"

Scale 1-5

University of Pennsylvania
Off the Beat
Bombtracks: Best of 1997-2006

Average scores:
Overall: 4.3
Tuning/blend: 4.0
Energy/intensity: 5.0
Innovation/creativity: 4.7
Sound/production: 4.7
Repeat listenability: 4.0
Soloists: 5.0

Reviews By

Rebecca Christie, Jevan Soo, and Robert Dietz

Recording Information

Recorded 1998 - 2006
Total time: 133:00, 32 songs

Ordering Information

To order this album, visit A-cappella.coma

Track Listing

1 Passive 5.0
2 Joining You 4.3
3 Paranoid Android 5.0
4 Question! 5.0
5 Mama 5.0
6 Here With Me 4.0
7 Silence 4.3
8 That I Would Be Good 4.0
9 So Cold 5.0
10 Jackie's Strength 4.3
11 Foolish Games 4.3
12 Bring Me to Life 4.7
13 When We Are One 5.0
14 Wild Horses 5.0
15 Let Down 5.0
16 Hide and Seek 4.7
17 Back on Earth 4.7
18 I Will Love Again 4.7
19 The Kids Aren't Alright 4.3
20 Possum Kingdom 4.7
21 Vaishnav Jan To 4.7
22 Free 4.0
23 Time and Time Again 5.0
24 Blood of Eden 4.7
25 Intermission 5.0
26 No One Knows 3.7
27 Pardon Me 4.7
28 Crash Into Me 4.3
29 Volcano Girls 5.0
30 Superman 4.0
31 Chop Suey! 4.3
32 Beautiful People 5.0

Review by: Rebecca Christie

Overall: 5
Tuning/blend: 4
Energy/intensity: 5
Innovation/creativity: 4
Sound/production: 4
Repeat listenability: 4
Soloists: 5
1 Passive 5
2 Joining You 5
3 Paranoid Android 5
4 Question! 5
5 Mama 5
6 Here With Me 3
7 Silence 4
8 That I Would Be Good 3
9 So Cold 5
10 Jackie's Strength 5
11 Foolish Games 5
12 Bring Me to Life 5
13 When We Are One 5
14 Wild Horses 5
15 Let Down 5
16 Hide and Seek 5
17 Back on Earth 5
18 I Will Love Again 4
19 The Kids Aren't Alright 4
20 Possum Kingdom 5
21 Vaishnav Jan To 5
22 Free 4
23 Time and Time Again 5
24 Blood of Eden 5
25 Intermission 5
26 No One Knows 4
27 Pardon Me 4
28 Crash Into Me 5
29 Volcano Girls 5
30 Superman 4
31 Chop Suey! 4
32 Beautiful People 5

Compilation albums are for newcomers and latecomers first, participants next, and old friends only in passing. RARB and I fall into the third group, having been lucky enough to watch Off the Beat through every step of the 10-year journey summarized here. So I'm going to resist the temptation to second-guess these song choices, or regale you with which songs I liked better the second time around and which songs I liked less. If you've heard the other albums, you have your own opinion. If you haven't and you just bought a 32-song retrospective, the last thing you want to hear is that you missed out on the really good stuff.

As a whole, this is the good stuff. Off the Beat is remarkable in its competence and consistency. Tracks from 1997 fit seamlessly with more recent fare, and pretty much every song rocks out. Ok, the tuning often isn't as good as I'd like it to be, even on songs I fell in love with the first time around. And ok, the noise-noise-noise arranging style is really not my thing, and I've heard it enough to no longer be surprised. But every time I think about this music from the perspective of a newcomer, I think "you've got to hear this". If you like these songs in their original forms, you've got to hear this. If you like college a cappella, you've got to hear this. If you like the people you know who took part in these performances, you've got to hear this. The overall art and vision supersedes the nitpicks I have with individual tracks, and the solo voices brim with talent and passion that holds the group together.

Question! strikes me as the archetypal Off the Beat track, with its blaring intro, abrasive energy and seeming absence of catchy melodies. I'd say at least half this retrospective falls into that mode. The rest is more of a grab bag, with the sort of oddities I personally am more drawn to. I still love the blazing electronica of Intermission and the traditional melisma of Vaishnav Jan To, as well as the extremely catchy spoken word of Time and Time Again. Ian Lear-Nickum has a spectacular voice, even if I have no use for Ozzy Ozbourne's Back on Earth, his opening showcase on disc two. Jessica Gordon is another singer whose voice stands the test of time, shining through on Joining You and Wild Horses. Elsewhere on the disc, Off the Beat's signature sound is cause for celebration and a few chuckles, since the busy syllables can be unintentionally funny. Case in point The Kids Aren't Alright, where the opening riff sounds a lot like a warning to present-day Afghanistan: "Oh no, no you been to NATO". The end of another track is more inspiring, sounding more like the call to arms "Glory no!".

Bombtracks Best of 1997-2006 shows the homogenization of the Off - The Recorded A Capella Review Board (RARB)


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Off the Beat is a coed modern rock a cappella group from the University of Pennsylvania

Beginning each September, Off the Beat embarks on a year-long journey of instrument-less imitation of modern alternative rock. Over the course of the year, they travel up and down the east coast performing at universities, stadiums, parties, and radio stations, produce 4 sold out shows at the University of Pennsylvania, and record a full-length studio album during the summer. OTB's repertoire consists of the latest alternative rock and popular music.


To date, Off the Beat has recorded sixteen full-length albums, and has become the most critically acclaimed co-ed group in all of collegiate a cappella. Off the Beat has won the Contemporary A Cappella Award for Best Collegiate Mixed album 9 out of the last 13 years. Songs by Off the Beat have been featured twelve times on Varsity Vocals' Best of Collegiate A Cappella.

The History of Off the Beat

In 1986, a determined freshman named Katie decided to form an a cappella group.

"I guess I started the group because no one was doing the music I liked and of course, it was incredibly exciting to start something of this magnitude...I always wanted OTB to be the group that sounded like a band, not an a cappella group."

"I was sitting with Mica and the musical director of Counterparts, Ed Schulteis, outside in the Annenberg circle and coming up with really stupid names... Basically I liked the idea of our group singing on the street -- the "beat" being the street, like for reporters and cops -- and I thought that it also made a lot of sense since rock has syncopation (hence the "off" the beat part)."

She was joined over the next year with mostly like-minded freshmen, rebels without a clue about a cappella. Unburdened by the constraints of experience, Off the Beat, as it was called, could be whatever its members wanted.

At performances, our acclaim was that we looked like we were having fun (we couldn't believe that we were actually performing this stuff in front of people). We were determined to have the audience enjoy performances as much as we did.

We appreciated every performance, every song, every joke, as a badge of our accomplishment. "...and we dreamed of being a cutting edge group, not known only for its personality."

A new crop of members brought energy, ideas, and dedication. This generation set its sights on becoming known for its musical talent as much as for its screwball comedy and entertaining shows. People started to come sober to rehearsal.

Our arrangements became more complex. Our blend became tighter. We rehearsed with our eyes closed, and we developed the wall of sound. We even stopped humming after the pitch was blown.

...Then came the signature OTB percussion, followed by our trademark syllables. Our repertoire expanded. And though it took four years to record our first CD, we managed to record our second CD in one.

Early on we still did silly skits. We continued to engage in lengthy discussions about the group's direction. We spent each spring break together, and some of us even lived together. We managed to progress musically while remembering our roots
(not that our alumni would let us forget.)

As a result, we evolved from a group of friends who happened to be singers
to a group of singers who happened to be friends.

So yes, our stable of soloists are diverse and impressive, our percussion gets more intense every year, and our alumni association is incorporated. But OTB's soul lies in friendship, lifelong relationships forged by a group of people brought together--not by career interests or dorm assignments--but by music.

After 20 years of growth and maturation, todays Off The Beat teaches workshops for other collegate and high school groups, is dedicated to its craft, and has gained a reputation not just for being musically innovative and talented but for