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Pitch, Please! A Cappella

University of California, Los Angeles

Made To Fly (2019)

4.3

August 7, 2020

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.3
Tracks
1 Wings / Be My Husband 4.3
2 Palace 4.7
3 God is a Woman 4.7
4 My Heart With You 4.0
5 Love Never Felt So Good 4.3
6 Streetlights 4.3
7 Beautiful 4.3

Recorded 2019
Total time: 26:40, 7 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Wings / Be My Husband 4
2 Palace 4
3 God is a Woman 4
4 My Heart With You 4
5 Love Never Felt So Good 5
6 Streetlights 5
7 Beautiful 4

Made To Fly by UCLA's Pitch, Please! is an expressive piece of vocal art exuding copious amounts of emotional and musical creativity. The tracks featured work together to display the vocal depth and outstanding skillset of Pitch, Please!, culminating in an album that feels modern, audibly pleasing, and laden with complexity. Made To Fly isn't without its faults, though, as the group sometimes veers off course in fully executing on some of the artistic concepts.

What stands out the most on Made To Fly is the uncanny ability of Pitch, Please! to make listeners feel an emotional connection to the group's songs. Tracks like PalaceStreetlights and Beautiful bear a massive tone that strikes a sentimental chord with each listen. The use of minimalistic elements throughout Palace, such as sparse vocal layering coupled with the song's patient, yet building progression, is riveting. By the song's end, you're completely in harmony with the group's emotional wavelength.

Streetlights is a beautiful culmination of poetry, music, and life. The arrangement is so intricate with its diverse use of rhythms and sublime chord structures that it makes the group's job of singing effortless. And yet, the singing is so elegant as it paints a beautiful yet somber picture through song. Beautiful is a true showstopper, which makes its positioning as the album's closer extremely fitting. The collective singing of Pitch, Please! on this track is one of the album's best with its rhythmic layering, rock solid key change, and stunning ending chord.

While Made To Fly is so adept at pulling at your heartstrings, it also delivers with its more upbeat selections. Wings / Be My Husband and God is a Woman transcend any thoughts of generic pop. The former has a blend of various musical elements including cabaret, pop, and electronic that add a unique flair and intensity depicting how much power Pitch, Please! has to offer. The latter serves up a nuanced and original take on the Ariana Grande hit as each vocal line showcases how it is indeed possible for every part to have style. With both tracks, the rhythm section deserves special honors as bass and percussion create a genuine groove that's fun to listen to.

When it comes to Pitch, Please! being at its best, look no further than Love Never Felt So Good. The track has it all: jazz, electric singing, transitions, and balance. What the song does exceptionally well is having such a distinctive sound and feel from anything else on the album, and it's nearly flawless.

As a whole, Made To Fly is commendable, but there are moments when tracks feel thin and enhanced by production. The album's opener is one place this is evident, and while the effects are cool, it needs more vocally to bring out the song. In other cases, some tracks could use a few more creative refinements to take them up a notch.

This being said, Made To Fly has so much joy and conviction that it's a ride worth taking!


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Wings / Be My Husband 5
2 Palace 5
3 God is a Woman 5
4 My Heart With You 5
5 Love Never Felt So Good 4
6 Streetlights 4
7 Beautiful 5

If I was only given one word to describe Made To Fly, it would be the following: blueprint. Not because Pitch, Please! has followed the path of other groups, but because this album is what collegiate groups across the country should look to when recording their next album. Yes, the album has a lot of great soloists and song selections, as many albums do. But, as I have said in reviews of other groups, it's not just about singing the notes written on the sheet of music; it's about making the music come to life through dynamics, phrasing, and vowel choices, just to name a few. And it's here that Pitch, Please! truly excels.

Let's dive into My Heart With You to explain what I mean. Throughout the second verse, the arrangement calls for changing dynamic levels seemingly with every line. Starting off at a mezzo or so through the first couple of lines ("A tattered photograph my pocket holds / I keep you secretly"), there's a crescendo on "I studied every line" before immediately dropping to a piano on "You're etched upon my mind". Keeping that piano level, the group gradually crescendo through "For not a million soldiers could take you from me", with a final dramatic slide up to the final chord. It plays to the emotion that the song is calling for — a sense of long lost love and longing, and the group does a masterful job in conveying that. The dissonant chord in the second chorus on "should our fire turn to dark" was also brilliantly executed. Dissonant chords like that are tough, because they could come across as out of tune if a group doesn't fully commit. Pitch, Please! does, and even extends the length of the chord from the original, adding to the emotion of the moment. I could go on and on with other moments in this track, but the bottom line is that arranger (and the group's founding member) Thaddeus Demeke knocked it out of the park with this one — easily my favorite track on the album, and it's definitely in contention as one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Demeke also arranges the opening track, a mashup of Little Mix's Wings and Nina Simone's Be My Husband. Simone's track only appears for a brief moment with regards to the lyrics, but what I think is brilliant about this track is that Demeke brings the tempo and feel of Wings down to a more soulful track in order to fit in the Simone lyrics. I also can't mention this track without giving a shout out to beatboxer Andrew Sonico Eugenio and his insane breakdown. Beautiful, which is also a Demeke arrangement, caps off the seven-track album with a solo that is traded off between Brayden Sutton and Sarah Hua seamlessly, and ends with a final chord that would seem fitting as the final moments of a movie. 

Made To Fly is an absolute smash of a first album, and I already can't wait for the next record release. For those who are looking for how to improve your own group's musicality, this is the record to pick up.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Wings / Be My Husband 4
2 Palace 5
3 God is a Woman 5
4 My Heart With You 3
5 Love Never Felt So Good 4
6 Streetlights 4
7 Beautiful 4

UCLA's Pitch, Please! comes out swinging with its album Made To Fly. Whereas many debut releases show promise underneath rough edges, Made To Fly shows promise through incredibly high levels of polish.

This polish means that there are hardly any distracting moments throughout the entire duration of this album. Arrangements are clean and full, while blend is smooth and sync is tight. Soloists hardly slouch in their delivery, and the background voices almost never step on their toes. All of this is rounded out by phenomenal production values delivered by Brandon Tai, Hansel Romero, Ed Boyer, Dave Sperandio, and Bill Hare.

So why not a perfect score? I mentioned earlier that Made To Fly subverts the usual nature of debut albums by being incredibly polished and devoid of rough edges, but by the end of all my listen-throughs I almost wished it had some roughness to it. There is just enough lack of bite and personality to much of the album that holds me back from getting excited by it.

This comes through in different ways depending on the song and moment. Voices may get loud or quiet, and tempo may be fast or slow depending on the song, but the ensemble feels held back from having raw emotion during those moments. This is most prevalent on songs such as Wings / Be My Husband and Streetlights. Soloists never feel like misfits for their given songs, but I wish they took greater ownership of their lyric. There's almost a sense of carefulness in songs such as Beautiful during highs and lows, when instead there should be zero restraint. My Heart With You is one of the best opportunities this album had to show vulnerability and emotional intensity in full force, but instead it feels robotic, as if the singers are all tracking carefully to a metronome behind them. Additionally, because the vocal delivery lacks consistency, where sometimes vowels are formed in a choral style while in others it feels conversational, it makes me skeptical about the intended identity of this performance. I'm the most critical of this song not because it's bad, because — don't get me wrong — it's not. It is, however, where I felt the most missed opportunities.

Palace, on the other hand, evokes precisely the kind of emotional vulnerability I was looking for on the rest of the album. The arrangement is just minimalist enough to keep focus on Thaddeus Demeke's beautiful lyric delivery supported by Jaycee Lanza's incredibly supportive duet. And when the soloist goes into full drive, the ensemble and arrangement go with him. If Pitch, Please! can access this raw and emotional delivery for an entire project, then as far as I'm concerned, Pitch, Please! is immediately in the top tier of collegiate a cappella recording groups.

One thing to note in the future: liner notes for an album should always credit original songwriters. Crediting original performers helps but it is not necessary — crediting original songwriters, however, is.

As is, Made To Fly is an incredibly polished, if a bit too restrained album, that showcases unbelievable amounts of potential for a debut release. Pitch, Please! has opened the door to sheer excellence, and that door remains wide open for the group on future releases.

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