Musical movies don't always hit the right note. No matter what the content or chroeography is, you have to have the right team of performers behind the songs to make a hit. Luckily, the original musical comedy from Avenue Q director Jason Moore has Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow. The two leading ladies of Pitch Perfect both have musical background and training, from Kendrick's aptly named Camp to Snow's turn in Hairspray.
In preparation for the star-studded red carpet premiere, the a cappella actresses met with Buzzine's Tim Wassberg to share what it's like to perform a capella, emotional connections to music, and their twist on "No Diggity".
Tim Wassberg: With such a big ensemble cast, there are many moving parts to this film. For you two, what was it about Pitch Perfect that really challenged you as a performer?
Anna Kendrick: Yeah, it definitely was challenging. The scene in the riff-off when there's, like, four different groups and we're all jumping in—as you say, there were so many moving parts and it was so hard to keep track of what we were doing, where we were in the scene, and to try and have this kind of flirty, semi-romantic through-line with Jesse through that scene.
It was great to have somebody like Jason Moore, who directed Avenue Q, as the captain of the ship, because he comes from a musical background and he definitely has a film director's mind as well. We definitely relied on him a lot to make sure that all those moving parts were gelling and we were headed in the right direction.
Brittany Snow: I guess, for me, probably the hardest part was recording in the recording studio just because it was so foreign to me to be in a recording booth and not have anybody in there with me, and you could hear your own voice. I'm not a professional singer. I've been singing my whole life, but I'm not like Christina Aguilera, you know? I couldn't get in there and be, like, "Yeah," or whatever. I was so thrown by having to do that and it was definitely something that I was nervous about. When I actually heard it, I was, like, "Oh, it sounds good. There's nothing really to be afraid of," but at the time it was very jarring.
TW: There are so many great songs in this, from all different eras and genres. Did you get to choose any of your own songs? How did that selection process work?
AK: They picked the songs. I was actually not looking forward to singing "Don't You Forget About Me," because I don't have an emotional connection to this song. "No Diggity," I was so excited. I had to really learn more and find a way to feel connected to [“Don’t You Forget About Me”], because it's one of those songs like "Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun." It's almost a parody of itself at this point. I think I asked to rerecord that, like, three times because I was, like, "I can do it better. I can make it feel more my own." That was challenging.
TW: What was the hardest song for you to sing?
BS: Probably the hardest one for me was "Eternal Flame," because I felt like not only did I have to not sing very stylized, I had to be very cut and dry. That song is very sweet and cut and dry. I found myself being in the recording booth, like, "La-la-la," and hating it.
TW: How did these songs gel with your musical sensibilities, in terms of what you like to sing versus what you like to listen to? Is there a separation?
AK: Singing pop songs is really fun. They're written in nice, cozy keys that make your voice sound really sexy. I think there were definitely good choices made for the film. A Bruno Mars/Nelly mash-up isn't my dream song, but it was a beautiful arrangement and it was something that was really flattering for all our voices.
TW: And for you?
BS: Yeah, I think the same thing. Singing those songs, there's a connection to most of them because they're nostalgic in a way. It's either "No Diggity," which we've grown up listening to, or "I Saw the Sign," where everyone knows that song and you have a feeling about it. Those songs, performing them, you definitely have a connection to them as opposed to some weird indie song that we didn't really know. At least we knew all of them. I don't think that I would be singing them all the time, but I think that they were really fun and perfect for the movie.
TW: There obviously are different messages that go throughout it. You were talking about how "Don't You Forget About Me" didn't give you that emotional connection as much, but can you talk about how the songs do reflect where the characters are? Do they?
AK: Yeah, I think they definitely tried to create an emotional through-line with the music. Obviously, "Don't You Forget About Me" is a key song in the movie, but then I think the... Oh, I don't even know if we're allowed to talk about all the songs in the movie? I don't know.
BS: It's too late now.
AK: But it's not in theaters.
BS: I know, but it's going to be, like, soon.
AK: Our finale song is just such a celebratory song that it really is a perfect note to end on.
TW: Very cool, thank you. That was democratic. I liked that.
BS: A perfect note to end on.
Universal Pictures' 'Pitch Perfect' was released on Friday, October 5, 2012, and is currently playing in theaters nationwide.