Every so often, we’ll see a band make great use of Web 2.0 technology, and we’ll praise them for their forward thinking and innovative spirit. Boyce Avenue didn’t so much use this technology as build their entire reputation on it. The band was born in 2004, consisting of brothers Daniel, Alejandro, and Fabian Manzano. The name comes from a combination of the streets they lived on as kids. In 2007, they started posting their covers of popular songs on YouTube. The videos attracted thousands of viewers, because they were both well-made and showed off Alejandro’s amazing vocal skills. I really like their covers, because I have a real appreciation for the stripped-down, acoustic sound. I feel like we don’t get enough of it in today’s slick, overproduced, digital-sounding era of music. In this way, Boyce is a delightful throwback. Here are some samples to whet your appetite:
“Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye & Kimbra): Some vocalists are good because they have a titanic range. Some are good because they can rouse a room and have a lot of power in their voice. Alejandro is good because he is a very nuanced singer. He knows just the right amount of emotion to infuse into his vocals, and conveys just the right feeling with his songs.
“Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen): Boyce Avenue’s more interesting moments occur when they take one of those aforementioned slickly produced pop songs and turn them on their heads. In this cover, Alejandro gives a bouncy dance song an entirely different feel.
“Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman) & “Airplanes” (B.o.B & Hayley Williams): Occasionally, Boyce will team up with another artist (usually another YouTube sensation) to record an acoustic cover. Their cover of “Fast Car” with Kina Grannis is every bit as good as the original, and Kina’s voice is a good counterpoint to Alejandro’s. Rapper DeStorm completely rewrites B.o.B’s part of “Airplanes,” putting an original spin on the cover.
Soon after Boyce’s YouTube breakout, they created their own record label, 3 Peace Records, to distribute digital copies of their acoustic covers. Within two years, the band had attracted so much attention that they signed with major label Universal Republic Records, and were off and running, releasing their first two albums (All You’re Meant to Be and All We Have Left) within less than 2 years of each other. While I like their original songs, they don’t have the same uniqueness as their covers. They also largely abandon the acoustic format on their albums, meaning Alejandro’s voice can’t shine as much. Perhaps it is for these reasons that they are no longer signed to Universal Republic, and now exclusively release their music via 3 Peace Records. There are plans for a third album, but I would be just fine if they stuck to the acoustic covers. Their albums aren’t bad, though, and I’ll leave you with two cuts from them:
“Hear Me Now”
“Dare to Believe”