While the verdict’s still out as to whether Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” lives up to the “greatest album of the decade” hype, it’s clear Gaga won’t be suffering from any sophomore slump. Boosted by Amazon’s decision to sell the album for 99 cents, it’s projected to sell more than a million copies its first week, a figure that’s definitely pleasing Stanford’s Mixed Company. The a capella group is looking to capitalize on Gaga’s success with the first official a capella cover of Gaga’s latest single, “The Edge of Glory,” on iTunes now, and a little taste of their next album, slated for a fall release.
Things were put in motion a couple months back by Mixed Co. alum, Sidney Li, who approached the group about recording a cover of Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” through A Capella Records (ACR), an independent label that has sent four of its artists to “The Sing-Off,” NBC’s a capella reality show competition. However, ACR President Chris Crawford quickly presented the group with a different option.
“He told us ‘The Edge of Glory’ just got released as an additional single; it’s number two on Billboard, and we want to make that a single from ACR, and Mixed Company is our first choice. Are you willing to do this?’” said Alex Cope ’13, musical director. “And we said, ‘Of course.’”
“We wanted one song on the album to be pretty relevant to what’s currently on the charts,” said Nick Chen ’13, album manager. “The problem was that ‘Hold It Against Me’ came out in January… I think in retrospect, people bought the song because it was Britney’s comeback, you know? It had no lasting impact the way that I think ‘The Edge of Glory’ will.”
The third single was inspired by the death of Gaga’s grandfather last September.
“The song is about your last moment on earth, the moment of truth, the moment before you leave earth,” Gaga said in an interview with Google. The power ballad does seem to soar to epic, rapture-esque heights with its heavy ‘80s influences, manifested in electropop synthesizers and a guest saxophone solo by E Street Band-er Clarence Clemons.
Crawford thought Mixed Co.’s talents ideally suited the Gaga song.
“I mean, this song just is pure energy. It’s all about energy, the celebration of life,” Chen said. “What [Crawford] liked best about us was our energy.”
The group had to capitalize on that enthusiasm to make the tight deadlines. With only one Monday rehearsal to learn the song, Mixed Co. rallied and spent 10 hours recording the cover two days later. Not all of Mixed Co. made it into the studio — just 10 members are featured, two from each of the vocal sections (soprano, alto and bass) along with a percussionist and soloist.
“Basically, this entire thing happened within like 10 days from inception to final product,” Cope said. “It’s really exciting.”
The end result sounds like something you might hear on a certain Fox series about show choirs.
“Yeah it sounds pretty ‘Glee’; a lot of it is super produced,” Cope said. “But I’m just blown away by how professional it sounds and how amazing our soloist was. I couldn’t be happier.”
Mixed Co. usually arranges its own songs in-house, but due to the time crunch, deferred to a professional, outside arranger.
“This whole process was very manufactured, but I think after everyone heard the final product, there’s no denying it was an absolutely amazing experience” Chen said.
Soloist Lauren Ottinger ’13 was selected for lead vocals just two days before the single was recorded.
“I always get weirded out hearing my own voice on an album, but it’s been really, really fun,” Ottinger said. “I think it was really an effort by the entire group.”