By Nadia Jo
Astrology, romance and music filled Toyon Hall as Stanford’s Mixed Company performed in their highly anticipated annual anti-Valentine’s Day show “Love Sucks” last Friday. This year’s “Love Sucks” emphasized Mixed Co’s lighthearted spirit in the group’s first full-length show of the calendar year. A stellar alignment of raunchy skits, classy choreography and heartfelt, moving songs showcased the ability of Mixed Co singers to rise from their most vulnerable selves to fun signature bops that do not take themselves too seriously.
Mixed Co began promoting the show early this quarter, dubbing themselves “Mixed Co–Star” to merge their name with the popular astrology app, Co–Star. Then, Mixed Co unveiled pictures of group members from an otherworldly photoshoot, featuring singers washed in pink, purple, red and blue lights in posters plastered around campus.
By the time audience members walked into Toyon Hall, the excitement in the air was palpable. Paper streamers covered the ceiling, and paper heart cutouts with flirty messages were plastered over all the walls. The audience members buzzed with anticipation, then screamed with excitement and clapped thunderously as members walked onstage, showing off various levels of nudity. Ranging from fully clothed to shirtless, Mixed Co singers rocked lingerie, leather jackets and skirts, suspenders and tutus as per “Love Sucks” tradition.
The opening number, “Lost in Japan” by Shawn Mendes, featured Ava Ford ’23. Mixed Co showed their energy in this upbeat song, with singers waving their hands together and moving in sync. Then a poignant atmosphere settled over the stage as the group started humming pure harmonies. Vibha Puri ’20 stepped into the middle of the sweeping vocal layers and swaying bodies and began singing “idontwannabeyouanymore.” The raw emotions of this famous Billie Eilish single permeated throughout the room as Puri sang with sincerity and vulnerability. “idontwannabeyouanymore” was one of the highlights of the night that created an especially intimate atmosphere where audience members could empathize with the singers through their own heartbreaks and struggles.
Then, Ashwin Pillai ’23 appeared to lighten the mood, acting as the show’s emcee during skits in between songs. Dressed in a classy black dress shirt and pants, he described “Love Sucks” as the “raunchiest a cappella show Stanford has to offer” over the audience’s enthusiastic cheers. The first skit featured a dramatic intra-group breakup prompted by Co–Star. Then, Mixed Co introduced several new members with descriptions of his or her horoscope and personality. When Pillai was dubbed a “studious student by day and sensuous lover by night,” audience interjections reached a humorous climax. Unfortunately, it was difficult to hear skits later in the show thanks to the chaotic energy of the crowd, but the few snippets the audience could make out were entertaining.
While the skits showed Mixed Co’s humorous side, their song selections were more profound and touching. The next song was “Light On” by Maggie Rogers with Katelyn Osuna ’23 as the soloist. Osuna’s confident and expressive voice effectively conveyed the song’s optimistic outlook. The following Billy Joel classic, “And So It Goes” with a solo from Harry Bernholz ’23, showed off the a cappella group’s excellent chemistry. The choral, almost hymn-like performance detailed the story of a disintegrated romantic relationship, and the singers showed how comfortable they felt blending their voices together. The following number, “For Once In My Life,” featuring Eric Hatch ’23, channeled Stevie Wonder’s typical joyous spirit, the performance showcasing plenty of fun vocal riffs and smiling singers.
Throughout the night, Mixed Co playfully dissed other a cappella groups like Fleet Street and The Harmonics, as well as MS&E majors and the class CS 107. One member lamented, “The last time I was f*cked was on that 107 midterm.” One of Mixed Co’s strengths was balancing the lighthearted and emotional aspects of the show, and the group delivered show-stopping dramatic moments in Disclosure and Sam Smith’s “Omen.” Noah Geller ’21 and Natalie Stiner ’22’s sultry voices led the audience to cheer during the climax of the song. Near the end of the song, all singers turned towards the audience then froze. With a collective “woosh,” the singers jumped into the song again. After this dramatic performance, soloist Alexa Thomson ’21 brought the audience back into a fast-tempo song with “All The Time” by Zara Larsson. Singing about memories of a former lover, Alexa completely owned her time in the spotlight.
Another highlight of the show was “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap, once again showing off the group’s ensemble skills. Ethereal soprano voices soared over the full and resonant bass, and the intricate vocal layers allowed much room for the audience to appreciate the complex harmonies and nostalgic lyrics. Mixed Co delivered an unforgettable punch with the explosive “Maroon 9: A Maroon 5 Medley” as the finale, featuring hits like “Animals,” “One More Night,” “Misery” and “She Will Be Loved.” Switching between many soloists, Mixed Co members sang about both raunchy flings and heartfelt romance. At the end of the song, everyone in the audience chanted emphatically, “One more song!” Of course, the a cappella group had to comply: Mixed Co’s performance manager Morgan Gwilym Tso ’22 soloed in the encore song, “Smooth” by Santana ft. Rob Thomas. The crowd clapped along as Morgan grooved to the melody and finished the night on a funky note.
“Love Sucks” offered plenty of opportunities for the audience to empathize with singers through laughter, heartbreak and the endless search for satisfying romance. Mixed Company reminded everyone that romantic love may suck, but love for music and camaraderie is one of the best feelings Stanford community members can experience.
Contact Nadia Jo at nejo ‘at’ stanford.edu