With the rise of groups like Pentatonix and Straight No Chaser, a cappella music is more popular than ever. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to hear modern pop songs and classic hits, given the a cappella treatment. If you’re looking for a great a cappella song, here are our top 25 recommendations.
1. Somebody That I Used to Know — Gotye
Somebody That I Used to Know was everywhere on the radio when it came out in 2011. Since then, it has been covered countless times, particularly by a cappella groups. Pentatonix famously covered it in five-person harmony, blending voices to emulate the original guitar riff. Canadian band, Walk Off The Earth also became famous for their cover. While it wasn’t unaccompanied by instruments, it relied solely on a single guitar (played by five people!).
2. Lost Without You — Freya Ridings
Lost Without You was released on a digital platform in 2017 as part of Freya Ridings’ debut EP. It became instantly popular, featured on commercials and television shows and covered on America’s Got Talent. The track was eventually certified double platinum. It also led to extensive covers online, many of which were purely vocal tracks.
3. Chandelier — Sia
The powerful chorus in Sia’s 2014 song Chandelier isn’t the only appeal when it comes to making a cover. A cappella groups will recognize the layered background vocals and instrumentals, all of which perfectly lend themselves to a group vocal cover. The song is so much more than the chorus, and those beautiful harmonies really come out through a voice adaptation.
4. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman — Aretha Franklin
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is inarguably one of Aretha Franklin’s most famous songs of her career. It has been covered countless times since it was first released in 1968, though you have to be ambitious to follow in the footsteps of the Queen of Soul. It has become a particularly popular choice for a cappella groups because of its multilayered harmonies and has lots of background instrumentalization.
5. MMMbop — Hanson
Hanson’s classic song MMMbop probably isn’t the first thing you think of when it comes to a cappella songs. But modern pop songs are an increasingly popular choice for a cappella adaptations — and let’s face it, there is never a wrong time to sing MMMbop. The ultra-catchy tune was wildly popular in its day and has become Hanson’s signature song.
6. Take Me Home, Country Roads — John Denver
Hypnotizing in its simplicity, John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads has become one of the most perennially popular country songs of all time. Artists have covered it, from Olivia Newton-John to the Dutch pop group Hermes House Band. Although the song has been officially adopted as one of the anthems of West Virginia, it is also wildly popular throughout Europe and Australia. It just goes to show that some songs are good enough to transcend borders.
7. Hello — Adele
Back in 2015, Hello was on the radio so much that we couldn’t stand to listen to it anymore. But even after its star popularity faded, it was still an often-chosen tune for covers of all kinds, from a cappella adaptations to instrumental versions. In the original version, Adele’s powerhouse vocals are the star of the show. But an all-voice cover really brings out the beautiful, layered instrumentals that make the song as good as it is.
8. Fire and Rain — James Taylor
Talk about a song that is good no matter how many times you’ve heard it. James Taylor wrote Fire & Rain after hearing that a dear childhood friend had passed away and his family had kept the news from him for several months. It makes that final chorus line twice as heartbreaking: “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, But I always thought that I’d see you again.”
9. Moon River — Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn performing Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is undoubtedly one of the most hypnotizing moments of the film. The director considered removing the scene, but Hepburn herself insisted that it be kept. It’s a good thing she did, as the song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song as well as two Grammy Awards. It has become a popular choice for a cappella covers, with its gentle, sweet chorus and romantic background instrumentals.
10. The Lion Sleeps Tonight — The Tokens
Is there anyone alive who doesn’t know this song? The infectiously upbeat chorus is almost too fun to resist, and you’re bound to get everyone in a good mood when you begin. The song is most closely associated with the 1961 doo-wop cover, but it actually had its start all the way back in 1939. The original version was recorded in Zulu. In the early 60s, an English version was recorded and skyrocketed to the top of the charts.
11. Somewhere Over The Rainbow — Judy Garland
There are few songs as beloved and much-covered as Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which was recorded for The Wizard of Oz all the way back in 1939. It’s hard to find a wrong way to cover this old favorite, as evidenced by the ukulele cover recorded by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole in 2011. If there is any further evidence needed to prove the perfection of this song, remember that seven-year-old Connie Talbot moved judges to tears when she performed it a cappella on Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.
12. Slow Hands — Niall Horan
Niall Horan released this sultry, lowkey song just after launching his solo career following the breakup of One Direction. It placed high on UK charts and the Billboard Hot 100, sparking covers of all kinds. The rhythmic instrumentals lend themselves perfectly to an a cappella cover that is just as mesmerizing as Horan’s original track. The song uses a stomp-and-clap rhythm that can be replicated either exactly as it is or through vocalizations and beatboxing.
13. Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah is undoubtedly one of the most popular a cappella songs of all time. But amazingly, it wasn’t popular at all when it was first created. In fact, Cohen’s record label refused to let it be recorded. Initially released in 1984, the song didn’t become widely known until it was featured on the Shrek soundtrack in 2001. Ironically, it was later covered so extensively that music critics begged performers to take a break from the ever-popular song.
14. Bridge Over Troubled Water — Simon and Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water features Simon and Garfunkel’s characteristic simplicity, relying on poetic lyrics and heartrending two-part harmonies. This might account for why it is one of the most widely-covered songs in music history, having been adapted by Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, John Legend, Willie Nelson, Andrea Bocelli, and Clay Aiken during his auditions for American Idol. The song is a simple and breathtaking piece that lends itself perfectly to an a cappella cover.
15. I Want It That Way — The Backstreet Boys
It is almost impossible not to bop along to the infectious beat of I Want It That Way. The song is so famously catchy that it was even the subject of a cold open on the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Seeing as an ensemble originally performed it, it should come as no surprise that the song lends itself perfectly to a group a cappella cover. There are harmonies and backing tracks galore, making this a great choice for a larger ensemble.
16. True Colors — Cyndi Lauper
True Colors is only one of Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits, but it has become a signature piece for the bright-haired pop queen. In particular, it was adopted by the LGBTQ+ community, for which Lauper has long been a vocal advocate. The song is a moving and beautiful piece of music, with stunning harmonies that lend themselves well to an a cappella adaptation.
17. Hero — Mariah Carey
Taking on a Mariah Carey song is a tall order, but it can be done. This 1993 hit is a great choice for an a cappella cover, whether by a female ensemble or a mixed group. Amazingly, Carey has said that it isn’t her favorite song, but others have clearly disagreed — it was one of the most successful tracks of her career and has become a standard for her concerts.
18. Don’t Worry Be Happy — Bobby McFerrin
It is almost impossible to ignore the message of this happy, upbeat song. Dont Worry, Be Happy is a laid-back reggae song released in 1988; it won a host of awards the following year and was adopted by many as a life philosophy.
19. The Wedding Song — Paul Stookey
This lesser-known but beautiful song was written by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary. It was first performed at the wedding of Peter Yarrow in 1969 and has been a popular choice for wedding ceremonies and other events ever since. The original track was performed with a single guitar accompaniment, making it an easy piece to transition to a cappella. Like many of Peter Paul and Mary’s songs, it is a beautiful song that relies on poetic lyrics and a simple melody.
20. My Way — Frank Sinatra
Old Blue Eyes had countless hits throughout his career, but one of the most enduring is undoubtedly My Way. The song has been covered countless times, with people drawn to Sinatra’s breathtaking performance as well as his lyrics about living life on his own terms. When it comes to classic jazz standards, there is almost nothing that beats it. Interestingly, though Sinatra’s version is by far the most famous, it wasn’t the original; the song was first recorded by Claude Francois in 1967.
21. Imagine — John Lennon
John Lennon’s solo career after the breakup of the Beatles went in a unique direction, with plenty of songs that exemplified the counterculture of the time. His 1971 song Imagine challenged listeners to think of a world where there was nothing but love, unity, and harmony. The song became the most famous track of his solo career; Lennon said that much of the inspiration came from his wife, Yoko Ono.
22. Rockabye — Clean Bandit
It might not be as well-known as their more popular song Rather Be, but Clean Bandit’s song Rockabye is a masterpiece in its own right. The song tells the story of a down-on-her-luck sex worker struggling to support her young son. It is packed with emotion and offers a unique challenge for a lead singer, wandering well into a soprano range. If you’re looking for an a cappella piece that hasn’t been featured on many stages, this could be the perfect choice.
23. I Can’t Make You Love Me — Bonnie Raitt
I Can’t Make You Love Me is undoubtedly Bonnie Raitt’s most famous song, and for good reason. This heartbreaking pop ballad is a tearjerker, thanks to both its content and its gorgeous melody. You’ll need to deliver up a lot of vocal emotion to do it justice, much like Raitt did in her original recording. The song can be adapted into an a cappella piece, and sounds particularly beautiful when sung by an ensemble.
24. Leaving on a Jet Plane — Peter Paul and Mary
Peter Paul And Mary relied on simple, moving tunes with stunning harmonies, and it was rarely more apparent than in the 1969 cover Leaving on a Jet Plane. Though the song was first recorded by John Denver three years earlier, it is most widely associated with the trio. It has long been a popular choice for a cappella covers, perhaps because it is so simple and evocative without being overly complex in terms of musicality.
25. I Say a Little Prayer — Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin could do no wrong, and I Say a Little Prayer is as good as any of her tracks. It has become a popular choice for a cappella groups, possibly because of its multi-part, easy harmonies, or possibly because it’s just so jazzy. It sounds beautiful adapted by a female ensemble, but it is also a great choice for a mixed ensemble of male and female voices. Really, there is no going wrong with the Queen of Soul.
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