After 2 long months of a cappella goodness (and just as much a cappella heartbreak), some great music, some OK music, and some incredibly outstanding music…Season 3 of “The Sing-Off” has finally come to a close, and with tonight’s finale, brought an often uneven, but ultimately rewarding, season to a fitting end. Who took the title? In the off chance that you’re reading this post specifically to find out, I won’t spoil you yet. I will hint right now that I think America made the right choice. Now, on to the beginning of the night’s festivities, where the groups tackled one more last individual performance before pairing up with the judges:
- Pentatonix (performing “Without You” by Usher feat. David Guetta): On a night where I was rooting for them to win it all (as I have for most of the season, of course), I’d have to say this was one of their weaker efforts. Not because of lack of strength in the arrangement…as always, it was a beautifully daring reinvention of yet another song we all know. Rather, I heard some pretty recurrent pitch problems pop up every time Pentatonix got to a particular reharmonization they made in the chorus (or at least, that’s where I think it was). Every time that chord came up, it didn’t quite click, and the soloist and the rest of the group sounded like they were in two different keys for a brief moment. All that aside…Pentatonix at their worst is just as good as the other two finalist groups at their best (sorry Urban Method, but it’s the truth), and everything else about it was top-notch (the solos, the arrangement, the blend), so I still enjoyed this performance immensely…the uncharacteristic pitch issues just got in the way a bit.
- Urban Method (performing “Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Heroes feat. Adam Levine): Much like Pentatonix’s first outing tonight, I felt this wasn’t up to Urban Method’s usual standard, but I still really liked it. While at the start of the season, Myke’s rapping bugged me (apparently so much that I’ve been spelling his name wrong all season…sorry about that), by this point, I’m totally used to it, and it really works. Given the fact that this song is normally a rap/singing combo, it worked especially well here. The arrangement was nice and inventive, but it seemed a bit too unfocused at a few points, and I heard a few small pitch issues here and there. And when all was said and done, it really didn’t cohere as well as it should have. That said, it was a fine effort by Urban Method, and proof positive why it’s not a bad thing that they made the finals.
- Dartmouth Aires (performing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf) (featuring AMY WHITCOMB!!!): By now, you probably know exactly what I’m going to say here. (The good news for you Aires fans is that you won’t have to hear me nitpick them any longer, after tonight.) And, well, that’s pretty much what I’m going to say. Michael is just not a good soloist. He has a voice, he can hold the notes, he can belt them out until the cows come home…but it doesn’t move me at all. It’s very Broadway, but not in a good way. It’s all flash and no substance, all shouting and no heart. It’s distinctive, for sure, but for all the wrong reasons. Anyways, enough yapping about how I can’t stand his solo work. Him aside, this performance wasn’t terrible (the background vocals weren’t significantly off, though they were as usual a bit nondescript), and if I’m remembering the original song correctly, the arrangement was a bit of a nice departure from Meat Loaf’s recording. My favorite element, however, had to be the surprise addition of Amy Whitcomb (of Delilah, formerly of Noteworthy, and soon to be a recording sensation if there’s justice in the world), who brought the whole performance up a notch, even if the material given to her (fawning over Michael while singing an 80s rock song) was a bit lackluster. Heck, if they had included a Delilah member in every performance, I might have not hated them as much…
After those three songs, each group got to perform with the judges. Well, sort of…more like two of the judges and our host. (Poor Shawn got left out of the proceedings.) Things were quite excellent here, and the round started off with:
- Pentatonix (performing “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” with Nick Lachey): Nick may be, by far, one of the weakest and most stilted reality-show hosts out there (Tom Bergeron & Cat Deeley, just to name a few, could emcee circles around him), but I’ll give it to him, he has a great voice, and he really got to show it off here. My only experience with 98 Degrees and their music was years ago, hearing a tiny bit of their Christmas CD on a carpool ride, so I’m pretty sure this was the first song by the group I’ve heard. Pentatonix was on their A-game, Nick looked like he was having a blast getting to sing one of his group’s old songs, Kirstie looked charmingly starstruck (I wonder how many girls would have killed to be in her shoes, singing next to a boy-band icon?), the whole group and Nick played off each other perfectly, and it was, as a whole, tons and tons of fun. But it wasn’t just fun, I might add…it was high-quality music as well. (Take THAT, Aires.)
- Urban Method (performing “Gonna Get Over You” with Sara Bareilles): As you may recall, Sara Bareilles performed last season with the Backbeats, and I went into super-fan mode and loved it. Sara, and Urban Method, stepped it up with an infectiously delicious take on her new single “Gonna Get Over You” (which I posted about a month or two ago). Sara hit it out of the park, and Urban Method delivered one of their best performances of the season, perfectly capturing the energy of the song, and making it an absolute joy to watch and listen to. The choreography was clever, the arrangement was undeniably solid, and Myke even slipped in a tiny little rapping at the beginning that perfectly in the performance. (Look how far I’ve come since the first time I heard him…) While their first performance was proof why they belonged in the finals, this performance was proof that they’re true contenders. I loved it.
- Dartmouth Aires (performing “Not The Same” with Ben Folds, & the audience): I’d have to say this is my favorite Aires performance of the season…it only took the absence of Michael’s usual solo work, and the help of the entire audience, for me to finally get behind one of their songs. (I might…shudder…even consider buying this on iTunes. The pull of Ben Folds, it is too strong…) The audience harmony effect was ultra-cool, the background vocals by the Aires were a bit unfocused, but they worked well enough, and I may be in the minority, but I love Ben’s voice. It’s hard to get used to, but it works perfectly for the songs he writes, and he’s a perfect example of how a live performer can be unassuming yet completely energetic and charming. (Take notes, Michael.) I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did, but I thought it was a treat, even with the Aires on stage.
Now, things got group-tastic (excuse me while I go slap myself about the head for inventing such a lame word…) with two performances…one by the ladies of the top 10 groups, and the other by the men. The top 10 groups also got to sing us to commercial, which is always a nice touch, even though I wish I could see most of them perform a full song again. (Sad day for the other 6 groups. All they got was a seat in the audience.)
I’ve had the privilege of being on stage while Amy Whitcomb and a group of unbelievably talented girls (not Delilah, but the ladies of BYU Jazz Voices, a group I was in my freshman year of college) sang the heck out of “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” so seeing all the “Sing-Off” girls take on the song, with Amy contributing some kick-butt solo work in the second half of the number, brought me back to that thrilling experience. Everyone just rocked here. All the solos were strong and in the character of the song, the harmonies were gorgeous and full of life (that generally tends to happen when you get this many outstanding female vocalists together), and overall, it was terrific, and one of the highlights of the season. “The Sing-Off” needs more female-centric moments like this…here’s hoping they’ll include more than one all-girl group next season?
As for the boys, I must say my gender didn’t quite acquit themselves as well as the ladies did. Their take on “Born To Run” was solid enough, but it was marred by you-know-who (his name starts with an “M” and ends with an “ichael”) getting a large chunk of the lead vocals, the other soloists (aside from Scott) not quite standing out, and a bit too much going on in the arrangement at times. It was fun and full of energy, but coming off of the women’s fiery, darn-near-perfect performance, it couldn’t help but pale in comparison.
Afro-Blue got a deserving turn in the spotlight as well, getting to sing with R&B legend Smokey Robinson. I was thrilled to see them return to sing, and Smokey still has a terrific voice, even after all these years, but…I’d have to say it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Afro-Blue got little more to do than play second-fiddle, and Smokey seemed a bit disconnected from the group…in fact, after the performance, he gave a hug to Nick (rather than the people he just sang with…huh?) and awkwardly walked rather quickly off stage. (From what I remember, Smokey’s duet with Nota in Season 1 was similarly a bit chemistry-free where he was concerned.) I’m sure Afro-Blue had the time of their lives, though (how often do you get to sing with the guy who was one of the stars of the Motown era?), so that was wonderful to see.
After all these performances, it was time for the results to start rolling…and we discovered the 3rd place group ended up being Urban Method. It was a bummer to see them go out before the Aires (and it certainly made the final part of the show a tiny bit more nerve-wracking), but they really have come a long way, so making it to the finals in the first place is its own reward. The group bowed out with a fine rendition of “Coming Home” (delivered through tears at a few points), and off into what’s bound to be a bright future for them.
There were some breaks and montages in between that and the final announcement of the winner. The Aires’ “journey” package was a chore to sit through, and Pentatonix’s reminded me how Scott and Mitch (and maybe Kirstie too?) are NINETEEN YEARS OLD (chances are they’re also younger than me, since my 20th birthday is in less than a week), and therefore blow my mind exponentially. (They didn’t mention that specific fact, but they noted that they’re one of the youngest groups in the competition, which is crazy, and it jogged my memory to a week or two ago when the judges mentioned their young age.)
And after all that…plus an ungodly long pause by Nick (if anything, he knows how to draw things out…though I’m pretty sure they cover that in Reality Show Hosting 101)…we discovered the winners of Season 3 are…PENTATONIX! It’s the right result, and the group was clearly moved and thrilled to take the crown. $200,000 and a recording contract will really mean a lot to them, and I absolutely can’t wait to hear their CD. It was a great moment (made even better by the fact that the Aires’ swan song was relegated to an online clip), and a perfect end to a crazy season. Pentatonix really earned it, and I’m happy to see America agreed. They sang us out with “Eye of the Tiger,” and unfortunately got cut off by the dastardly credits, but…
We get to see them next week! Plus a bunch of great groups from all 3 seasons. (And, knowing the producers, some maddening ones as well.) “The Sing-Off” will have one last hurrah for the year with a Christmas special next Monday, and I’m quite excited to see that. I probably won’t be recapping that (after all, no one will be competing), but I’ll be watching it, that’s for sure, and loving it. It’s been an absolute blast recapping “The Sing-Off” this season, even with it being twice the length, and thus twice the posting. It’s been great to see a lot of reader interest over the past two months, and although I know most of you are here just because of the show, I hope you’ll stay around a while and follow my other posts as well. I’ll do my best to keep them coming, and not having as much of a lull as I’ve often had in the past. Thanks for reading, for commenting, and for visiting! It’s been a wonderful season. See you soon with more posts.