Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Sometimes life becomes so fraught with complications that it becomes a heated mess. Not a hot mess. A heated mess.

Let me explain where this comes from. The phrase “Heated Mess” comes from the new Pitch Perfect 2 trailer which was released to the general public recently.

Though the obvious incorrect pronunciation of “hot mess” was for humor’s sake, I began to ponder whether or not the phrase “heated mess” could actually enter our lexicon, with a slightly different definition than "hot mess."

Here’s what I came up with:

A cappella music is messy. The amount of success achieved within the last few years alone has created a storm of new content, new groups looking to get in on the action, and new revolutions in the field. This week alone, my Facebook page informed me that twelve groups had released videos, fifteen people were recording albums, and dozens were promoting their latest concert/show/gig.

This is not a bad thing. In fact, I’m of the opinion that the more a cappella music there exists in the world, the better. It also has led me to the conclusion that I follow way too many a cappella groups on Facebook. So I can hardly take my Facebook page/Twitter account as a realistic gauge for how a cappella is doing in the world.

Fun fact! 80% of the songs on my Ipod are a cappella. I have a problem…

But here’s where the “heated mess” comes in. The "heated mess" is essentially the precursor to the "hot mess." When a group reaches "hot mess" status, they need to hit the reset button. That’s my opinion. If your group can be classified as a “hot mess,” then whatever you are doing isn’t working. Let me define these more clearly:

A group I would call a “hot mess,” is stagnant and lost. Rehearsals are more arguing than collaborating; there are small factions within the group that oppose other members; everyone is talking revolution or forming a new group minus a few people. Your group is essentially on the brink of total nuclear meltdown and you basically have two options: start over or quit.

Now if any of this sounds familiar, you probably think your group is a “hot mess” right now. But this definition of “hot mess” is way worse than you probably perceive. If your group realizes they are in trouble and are working to fix that, you are NOT a “hot mess.” If there’s hope in the air; if there’s a sense that everyone wants to work for the greater good but no one knows how yet; if you know that one good gig can turn everything around again; you are definitely not a “hot mess,” so stop using those words…

That leads me to the “heated mess.” Think of the “heated mess” as the calm before the storm. It is this phase of a group’s lifespan that constantly goes unnoticed or ignored, much like a person who clearly has an illness but refuses to see the doctor, claiming that time will heal all wounds.

No. No it will not.

That mole on your back should be checked out.

Anyway, the groups that are aware of their problems can never be called a “heated mess,” and will never reach “hot mess” status, because awareness is the first step to recovery.

If you think you are insane, you’re not. Only truly insane people don’t think they are insane.

I’m talking specifically about the groups who are unaware that anything is going on, even though the signs are right in front of them. You can’t ignore that problem forever, so stop trying. You need to confront these problems head on and let people say what they need to say.

Try this exercise that my group uses whenever a problem arises and we need to have “the talk.” We call it the Angry Birds Talk.

Everyone sits in a circle and one person is handed a stuffed Angry Bird (hence the name). When that person has the Angry Bird, he or she is the only one allowed to speak. No one is allowed to utter even a sound. If you want to speak, the Angry Bird must be passed to you, even if it’s for one sentence.

The “heated mess” phase of a group’s lifespan is the most dangerous, because if left unchecked, the group will collapse under the sheer weight of hatred and negativity, leaving only a “hot mess” behind, and if you reach that stage, the group is essentially unfixable.

Know the warning signs. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Send your thoughts about the "heated mess" and "hot mess" to @docacappella on Twitter with the hashtag #heatedmess.

(Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theatres on May 15th.)

Marc Silverberg

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