“The Sing-Off” Recap, Episode 2: Cooler Than Me

Holy cowpies, was this a good episode tonight. The second group of 4, in particular, was stacked with some dang solid numbers (I even kind of liked one of my least favorite groups). So let’s cut all the mishegas and get down to brass tax. (Enough figures of speech/vaguely Yiddish terms for you? 🙂 ) What happened tonight on “The Sing-Off”…after these messages.

  • Actually, it’s just one. I don’t usually comment on ads in my recaps (even if they’re hilariously/painfully bad and I have something snarky to say about them), but HOW FUN was that “Despicable Me” short? Honestly. It made me smile and laugh until the cows came home. If only all ads/product placement could be as awesome as that. 🙂 (“BANANA!”)
  • On The Rocks: Anyways, now that you’re potentially convinced I’m a corporate shill…I thought On The Rocks weren’t too bad tonight. What really made their performance for me, once again, was their boundless (yet not too grating) energy. They’re just lots of fun. But not terribly annoying…yet. “Live Your Life” probably wasn’t the best song for them to break out of the “we’re rowdy college kids who like to push boundaries, yo” mold, but the rap sections weren’t too painful (miles better than the devil children…OK, Beelzebubs…murdering the already bad “Right Round” last year), and the harmonies were hit-and-miss, but mostly a hit. I still have a feeling On The Rocks aren’t solid enough to make it all the way, something that Ben sort of nailed on the head tonight with his “fun/artist” balance comment. They’re entertaining to watch…but their vocal artistry isn’t quite the best. With a field this stacked, there’s a good chance On The Rocks might get lost in the shuffle, even though they haven’t truly stumbled yet.
  • Street Corner Symphony: You’d think a group saddled with such an overplayed song like “Hey Soul Sister” would be in big trouble, but when you’re a group as good as Street Corner Symphony…you’ve probably got nothing to worry about. The lead vocals were stellar, the arrangement was very inventive, and once again, the SCS folks brought an interesting dynamic to the stage. It felt intimate and classy, just like last night, but also brought the goods when it needed to (also just like last night). The middle part with the different soloist felt just a tiny bit muddled, but the effect afterwards when they shifted back into the chorus (“Hey, soul sister…”) was really cool, so it really didn’t hurt the performance too much at all. Street Corner Symphony definitely has kept themselves in the running for an incredibly strong shot at the title. I’m continuing to dig their sound, their vibe, and their arrangements.
  • Eleventh Hour: The high schoolers of Eleventh Hour did about as well as they did last night…a respectable job, but not a standout. Ben was right in pointing out that their arrangement of “Just The Way You Are” (the Bruno Mars tune, which I have recently come to appreciate a lot more) wasn’t very by-the-numbers, and did a great job of recreating the atmosphere of the song fairly effectively in an a cappella setting (not an easy feat). So they did that part well. However, a lot of the last half of the song went into a weird place for me…it felt like they were veering a bit too much out of tune. It might have been the soloist (who, I might add, was OK, but not stellar). This definitely wasn’t a trainwreck, but it wasn’t hit out of the park, in hindsight. The judges definitely made the right decision in sending them home. Hopefully they’ll have many opportunities in the future to learn and grow, since they have potential, and there’s a bit of time for that to happen for them.
  • Jerry Lawson & the Talk of the Town: Another solid, rootsy, vintage performance by Jerry Lawson and his boys. I wasn’t quite sure they’d be able to pull off “Mercy” at first (even with their excellent preview of it on Monday), and I have to admit some small parts felt the tiniest bit off. Still, the overall effect of the performance was smooth, assured, and excellent. It was an interesting variation on Duffy’s version. Jerry kind of (to borrow a phrase that interestingly, Committed used later) “took it to church.” His lead vocal wasn’t as hard-hitting as Duffy’s was, but it conveyed just as much power and emotion. I really enjoyed this performance, and even if Jerry & The Talk might not take it all the way (the judges love them, and so does the audience, it seems, but there’s so many great groups left that they might not be able to pull it off, however hard they try), the road to wherever they’re going in the competition is quite a delightful one.
  • (Eleventh Hour went home in the first elimination of the night. Props to those talented high school kids for getting this far, and the best of luck in the future, but it was a logical choice for the judges. They just didn’t bring enough of a spark and polish.)
  • (Oh, and Nota [the awesome winners from last year] came and rocked the house. LOVE them. I remember taking a listen to clips from their CD online a month or so ago, so I’d heard a bit of their version of “I Gotta Feeling” already, but they still knocked my socks off. I love how it subtly veered from a kind of slightly upgraded take on the song to a totally Nota-tastic tropical party of love. That was so not a technical description whatsoever. But I don’t care. :))
  • The Backbeats: I have to admit, even though I absolutely loved The Backbeats’ performance on Monday night, I wasn’t quite sure they’d be able to pull off another heartbreaking ballad tonight in “Breakeven.” Well…yeah. I was totally wrong. Their trifecta-of-lead-vocalists technique was pretty darn effective for the song, the arrangement was absolutely gorgeous and complex (the “barely breathing” effect took my breath away…pun intended, but really, it was dang cool :)), and everyone just went for it and nailed it. This group just never fails to deliver an incredibly solid performance. Probably the only thing that could hurt them down the road would be that their first two songs were somewhat melancholy ballads. I personally don’t mind it at all…but it might not hurt to branch out. Of course, next Monday is Guilty Pleasures Night, so I doubt the Backbeats will have much trouble with that. (P.S.: YES for Courtney Jensen’s peerless beatboxing skills getting spotlighted by a few of the judges. She really helped this song come alive with her vocal percussion, and I think she totally deserved the extra praise she got. Over and out.)
  • Committed: I loved their performance last episode, but somehow, I loved their performance tonight even more. Yesterday I was a solid fan…now (even with all the outstanding groups still in the mix), I’d be quite willing to hand over the win to these talented gospel guys. They really did a terrific job…and with “Apologize.” That OneRepublic song that’s been played/covered to death! And they made it sound fresh and new and amazing! Their vocals were just as smooth and rock-solid as the first time they came out, but what impressed me even more was the top-notch, creative arrangement. They added a little reharmonization in the mix that really brought the song alive. The familiarity of it brought us in…and then the subtle, delicious little twists they added, combined with their ultra-classy performance energy, made the whole thing soar. And that part where the soloist was all by himself…and then the rest of the group came in…wow. They seemed just a tiny bit flat in one or two spots, but that was probably just me, and it didn’t affect their performance in the slightest. There’s a lot of love in my heart for almost all the groups that are left…I’d be happy if any of them won…but with such a great performance tonight, Committed just may end up on top.
  • Groove For Thought: Still one of my favorites in the competition, though I’m still afraid they might be the victims of an early exit. (I guess I’m still scarred by Noteworthy getting booted in the second episode last season?) “Cooler Than Me” isn’t a song I particularly love, but GFT did a STELLAR job with it tonight. For once, the judges’ overuse of a particular word actually made sense…they kept repeating “cool,” mostly because that was the perfect way to describe their performance. It was just…dang cool. The harmonies were intricate and zippy. The bass of the group imitating an upright bass was a nice touch. That one soprano knocked it out of the park. The soloist was (to switch into Nicole mode for a second) like butter. Even the movements of the group added to the smoky, engaging effect. It was classy, smooth, and vivacious. (AP word of the day? :)) Groove For Thought may not be the absolute flashiest group at the end of the day, but their artistry is, in my view, subtly brilliant. It sneaks up on you, and before you know it, you’re in love. I hope they continue to go far, because I’m loving every minute of their music.
  • The Whiffenpoofs: And then there were those guys from Yale. I have to say that they definitely improved on Monday night, and there were some very cool harmony moments within their performance. Still, after the powerhouse 3 groups that preceded them (were the producers trying to make the second group crazy competitive? It seemed much more stacked than the first half to me), their more traditionally-rooted (and beatbox-free) take on “Haven’t Met You Yet” couldn’t help but seem a bit under par. Shawn was correct in pointing out that their lead vocalists were a bit weak (they just didn’t really cut it for me…especially that guy with the black hair who sang WAY too operatic for an a cappella group, if you ask me), and that combined with just a little something off in the general feel of the arrangement did them in, in the end, I think. They brought the fun, they brought the solid harmonies, but it didn’t pop as much as it should have. And thus, with that…
  • (They were the second group of the night to go home. I was on pins and needles for the elimination, mainly because 3 out of 4 of the groups were huge faves of mine, and given the judges’ history last season, anyone is in danger at any given time. Thankfully, they did this year what they just couldn’t do last year [no matter how much I wanted them to], and sent home the prestigious collegiate male group I didn’t really care for. Which this season would be the Whiffenpoofs. In case you’re wondering who I’m referring to last season, just think…devil children. :))

And that’s the long and short of it. By the way, how awesome was that opening song? Monday’s was hot and spicy and peppy, and when I heard the opening line of “Use Somebody” (a beautiful but very mellow song in most cases), I expected it to be just alright. Um, no. It was incredible. I told you they have some great talent this year. Anyways, see y’all on Monday for another recap, and look for some more non-reality-TV related features here on Harmony Avenue in the meantime. Give me some love (or some calmly worded disagreement/hate, if you’re so inclined :)) in the comments. I’d love to hear what you think. And be sure to subscribe!

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