I, like any nerd child growing up in the early 90s, loved Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. I mean, a game show for kids based on GEOGRAPHY? You have to find a crook using knowledge of states and countries and, to track down Carmen herself, identify countries on a giant map in a certain amount of time? SIGN ME UP. For all the non athletic kids out there, this was the best alternative to Nickelodeon Guts. I did not “have it” as required by Guts (“it” being a single athletic bone in my body), but I did have a certain penchants for maps and atlases. Carmen Sandiego was the game for me.
Any fan of Carmen Sandiego knows that probably the greatest part of the show, besides the absolute global geek out, was obviously its house band Rockapella. This five-piece a capella group performed the classic theme song “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” and intermittently sang little ditties throughout the show.
They specialized in parodies! Oh, you’re so silly, Rockapella.
As I got older, I had forgotten (or rather, stopped thinking about) this show and Rockapella. That is, until the late 90s rolled around and this amazing Folger’s commercial started airing in our homes:
At the time this started airing (1998), the boy band movement was just about to hit a fever pitch. Even me, a still pretty nerdy but now teenaged girl, was not immune. Along with my all time favorite bands of R.E.M., Better than Ezra and Fountains of Wayne now stood groups that relied heavily on strong harmonies and dance moves to attract an audience. Of all the so called boy bands of the time, I aligned myself with *N Sync, because they were the best singers with the most incredible harmonies. Plus, they were cuter than Backstreet Boys. (By the way, my favorite was, and still is, JC Chasez. He has the best voice in the group and, besides that, LOOK AT HIM.)
When I first heard the Folgers commercial, I was freaking out over the sounds. I’ve always been a sucker for excellent harmonies (when Hanson came on the scene a year earlier in 1997, 13 year old Jenny could hardly deal with the trifecta of musicians, excellent harmonies, AND BROTHERS). Rockapella was blowing my mind. This jingle was catchy as hell, and they didn’t even use or need instruments.
It didn’t make me go out and buy Folgers, but it did lead me in the years since then to buy a few Rockapella albums (their Christmas ones are DELIGHTFUL) and see them live a couple of times. In recent years, a capella music has turned cool and mainstream, and Rockapella continues to play shows and make albums.
Every so often, I’ll search out the Folgers commercial on YouTube and reminisce about being a nerdy college student, seeing Rockapella live at a park in Pittsburgh. Or about being a nerdy teenage girl, rocking out to a capella jams in her computer room. Or about being a nerdy pre-adolescent watching Carmen Sandiego in her grandparents’ living room and shouting out answers to the TV. And then smile over realizing that, even though I’m nearly 30 now, I haven’t really changed all that much.
Oh, and I drink coffee now. I don’t think Rockapella had anything to do with it, but it’s worth noting. Not really a Folgers girl but, now that it’s on my mind, maybe I’ll give it a try.