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Gemini Blvd.

University of Central Florida

B.Y.O.V. Bring Your Own Voice (2015)

3.7

October 1, 2015

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 4.0
Innovation / Creativity 3.7
Soloists 3.7
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 3.0
Tracks
1 Storm Comin' 4.0
2 Who Did You Cross 4.0
3 Breathe Me 3.3
4 Clarity 4.3
5 Shark in the Water 3.7
6 Almost Skinny Lover 3.7
7 Wanna Dance 4.0

Recorded 2014
Total time: 20:47, 7 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Storm Comin' 4
2 Who Did You Cross 4
3 Breathe Me 4
4 Clarity 4
5 Shark in the Water 4
6 Almost Skinny Lover 4
7 Wanna Dance 4

By no means am I a DJ, but I do appreciate the art form and the ability of those who can mix songs into new works. This seems to be the methodology behind the songs presented on Bring Your Own Voice from Gemini Blvd. of UCF. While the project hints at what new styles could be brought to audience favorites, I cannot help but feel that I lost some of what the originals made me enjoy in the first place. While Bring Your Own Voice feels youthful, we hear a perception that vast changes are needed to make a song better.

Storm Comin' fits the group perfectly. It's simple, a bit soulful, has a nice balance between parts and gets the point across all in under two minutes.

Who Did You Cross is high-octane with two impressive soloists that show a lot of range throughout the track. This reimagining creates more of a pop/rock tune in comparison with the original. The only drawback is that I wish the inner voices were more present to fill out the sound.

With Breathe Me, I applaud the group's effort, but I feel a bit lost in regards to the final intent. There is too much processing on the lead's voice, often coming across as robotic. In addition, I'm not sure that Breakeven was the best selection to include as a mashup; the two just don't sit well for me. The song is redeemed with the build up to the bridge that releases a great deal of emotion and energy along with the somewhat cool and dark ending.

Both Clarity and Shark in the Water are the shining moments of the entire album. Clarity fuses foundational elements of another song to add to the already great nature of this song. The group's build with the soloist throughout the pop-oriented track makes everything easy to listen to. Shark in the Water just feels right as chords are easily distinguishable to the ear, with a great group foundation and soloist —  Shark in the Water has a better lasting effect than any of the mashups.

Almost Skinny Lover is another good duet by the group that's a bit more relaxed than all of the other tracks. I'd caution the group to make sure the backs don't overpower soloists, but it is a solid track. Wanna Dance, while executing a great dance, Latin, and pop-heavy feel, makes me miss the original Whitney Houston track. I lost the RnB and soul nature that was slimmed back to allow We Found Love (opb. Rhianna) to make sense in the mix.

While I have offered some creative critiques on the album, the overall sound is really impressive. More than anything, I would love to see Gemini Blvd. focus more on single songs instead of mashups. The group has a large, polished sound that is capable of executing various elements, and I do believe that the singers may have overthought this project a little.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Storm Comin' 4
2 Who Did You Cross 4
3 Breathe Me 3
4 Clarity 5
5 Shark in the Water 4
6 Almost Skinny Lover 3
7 Wanna Dance 5

The run time for Bring Your Own Voice is concise and to the point, but the release still features creative arrangements and a clear initiative to establish some kind of individual style.

Storm Comin' is a great choice for an intro. It's quieter, more exposed, and feels a lot like a tune up (in a good way) for what's to come on the rest of the album. I can appreciate the blend and more choral approach to the backing vocals and how it effortlessly transitions into Who Did You Cross.

Who Did You Cross does a good job of injecting energy as the truer first track of the album. The beginning solo feels a bit stiff rhythmically at first, but falls into place once the energy and volume gradually increase. The song is riddled with flashy percussion breakdowns and bursts with shiny high belting vocals. Thus it's an easy sell for the a cappella fiends.

Breathe Me is a nice concept blending The Script's Breakeven with Sia. The tunes do line up well to form great base ingredients for a solid mashup, but Gemini Blvd. doesn't quite deliver enough 'je ne sais quoi' to make the arrangement pop out of the staff paper. There's an almost sterile, mechanical feel to the piece that detracts from the impact. The sound is well-tuned and blended and pretty, but I can't help but feel like it needs a bit of dirt rubbed in it.

Clarity is the obvious stand out on the album. The solo is a touch too nasal sounding at times, but the energy of the performance really locks in well with the background. The mashup choices (John Legend, Zedd, Coldplay) are clever and seamlessly-integrated. What really seals the deal here for me are dynamics and crunchy, crisp percussion. Another easy sell.

Wanna Dance is another surprisingly clever interpretation using clever mashup choices. The Rihanna verses are well-chosen and woven together, and the energy never wavers. The solo here is great, but much like Breathe Me, it could use some more angst, attitude, or a touch more grit.

Bring Your Own Voice packs just enough punch in its seven tracks to keep itself firmly planted on the radar. With clever song selection, consistent energy, and arranging, Gemini Blvd. succeeds in bringing its own flair to the table.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Storm Comin' 4
2 Who Did You Cross 4
3 Breathe Me 3
4 Clarity 4
5 Shark in the Water 3
6 Almost Skinny Lover 4
7 Wanna Dance 3

Bring Your Own Voice is exactly what you'd expect from collegiate a cappella if you've watched the Pitch Perfect series. Some good solo voices, crazy mashups featuring songs designed to pump you up, a dubstep breakdown in the back half of the uptempo numbers, and sparkly harmonies across the board.

And that's okay. It makes for some nice moments in Clarity, which is actually set over the well known accompaniment of Viva la Vida instead. The transitioning from one part in the mashup to the next is flawless, not forced or uncomfortable. If you didn't know the songs, it is entirely possible you might miss the switch happen. Credit goes to the arrangers for some slick work tying everything in together and adding some lovely chord progressions and bass riffs of their own from time to time.

I just wish there was more cohesion on this album. I think there's a great deal to learn from the adage "Too much of a good thing." A cupcake is great because of the combination of the cake, the frosting, and the sprinkles together. But having an overabundance of frosting scratches your palate, and you lose the richness of the treat in its entirety. What Gemini Boulevard presents is solid work, but the division and concentration of the material leaves you still a little hungry for more substance than frosting.

What do I mean by this? Over 70% of Bring Your Own Voice is composed of the aforementioned crazy mashup/medleys. This makes it extremely difficult to get more than a smattering of sampler material from this talented group. Don't get me wrong, the samples are nice, but where's a full, finished product? And more importantly, I'm unclear as to why some of these songs are matched together. I praised Clarity before, but I'm not certain I know why it opens with the chorus of All Of Me, which otherwise never returns in the song. Almost Skinny Lover is certainly the strongest in terms of its combination; I would hold it as the example for choosing mashup material from this album. I would also offer that this group should move on to tackling innovative arrangements of full songs to help them stand out from the crowd, and to offer more than just a novelty act who can slam a lot of music into one piece. This product alone would give credence to an assumption of their arranging chops, so I don't think it would pose a great challenge.

A little attention to detail in the placement of sprinkles would go a long way as well. The lack of space between the end of one track and the start of the next on this kind of album makes it impossible to mentally process the song before, exhausting the listener instead. Crediting isn't great either. "OPB" is a terribly ineffective method to use when crediting invented medleys, as the artists most certainly never performed what was created. Also, percussion credits are omitted.

The composition of Bring Your Own Voice is too much for repeated consumption in one sitting, much like a rich dessert, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have a listen every now and again.

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