The two brackets have combined, and all 10 groups took the stage last night for a collection of “guilty pleasures.” (Meanwhile, that other reality show over on ABC counterprogrammed with an 80s theme. Those sneaky dancing devils*.) It was a fun night, and I still wish more people were watching (according to one of the show’s recappers on Twitter, Entertainment Weekly cut their coverage of the show due to said low viewership), but 2 great groups still ended up going home. How did it all shake out last night on America’s
only favorite a cappella music competition? After a stellar opening performance of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” (which I realized sounded so familiar because it’s sampled in “I Like It,” which, contrary to its title, I do not like), things kicked off with…
- The Yellowjackets (performing “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls): This was definitely my favorite performance so far by the Yellowjackets. I may still have my major musical qualms with them, but you have to hand it to them…this was so fun to watch. The novelty factor of a bunch of college guys singing a wonderfully dated hit by a bunch of random British gals (one of whom I have a major crush on, since she rocked it on “Dancing With The Stars”) was enough to make this at least somewhat enjoyable, but the wacky energy the Yellowjackets brought to it (that rap in the middle was classic), along with at least a slightly more focused blend than in the past, made it a treat. Am I suddenly a Yellowjackets fan? Of course not. They still aren’t quite cutting it for me, by any means. That said, this bundle of fun definitely bought them another week in the competition, both with me and with the judges.
- Delilah (performing “Flashdance… What A Feeling” by Irene Cara): I’d be lying if I said I was completely blown away by Delilah’s effort last night. Afterwards, I was surprisingly unmoved…but I still really liked it. Candace wasn’t quite a strong soloist as Amy or Kendall have been, and like either Shawn or Sara noted, I’m not sure which, she got a bit off the rails towards the end. Like the judges also noted, it took a tiny bit for the background harmonies to come into focus, which made the very beginning feel a bit more naked than it should have. It was a solid performance, but I agree that it wasn’t Delilah’s best. I do maintain, though, that they still deserve their place in the competition. When they’re on, they’re on. A slip-up like this doesn’t change that for me.
- North Shore (performing “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News): How cool would it have been to hear these 5 old-school guys sing a Hanson song (their original choice before they switched to “The Power of Love”)? I mean, it’s not every day you get to see a doo-wop group from Boston take on “Mmmbop.” Ah, well. We can’t have everything, I suppose. Anyhow, as always, I enjoyed their performance…but there was either something seriously off with my ears, or they had some major (and very uncharacteristic) pitch issues in places. There was just something funky going on with their pitch center at a few points, and it kind of took me out of the performance a bit. North Shore is nothing if not consistent…you can always count on them to deliver solid music…but this wasn’t quite the right song for them to hit it out of the park with, and their decision to ditch the Hanson tune was regrettable in that we didn’t get to see them branch out a bit more.
- The Collective (performing “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor): I wanted to enjoy this performance…and for the most part, I did…but I’m not entirely sure what the judges saw in it. Like North Shore’s performance last night, I don’t know if it was just me or not, but I heard the pitch going all over the place. The Collective certainly brought it, and their blend was markedly improved. And that duet by the two leads at the end was a nice touch to the arrangement. Still, I got the feeling afterwards that it felt somewhat like a hot mess, even though I liked it. That’s not an entirely comforting sign for The Collective going forward.
- Dartmouth Aires (performing “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield): They didn’t even land in the Bottom 2? Seriously?? The judges, if you’ll pardon my French, finally grew a pair and called out the Aires’ lingering sound issues (their low-end voices are just not there like they should, especially with the mammoth numbers the group has), but they largely gave them a pass based on how ‘fun’ the performance was. (They also complimented the solo work, which I personally thought was a bit weak. Sure, the soloists were belting out like nobody’s business, but their tone was approaching awful at many instances.) Sara, Shawn, and Ben? I love you, to no end. You’re by far one of the best judging panels on reality TV. But keeping this dead-weight college group on the show simply because they’re ‘fun’? There are a lot of other groups that are truly fun, and also bring a top-notch level of musicianship. You don’t need the Dartmouth Aires to stick around simply because of their ‘dorky college guys’ shtick.
- The First Elimination: I was hoping the Dartmouth Aires would at least be the last group called safe, but it was not to be…Delilah and North Shore were the two groups on the chopping block, and the genial guys from North Shore ended up being the ones getting the first cut of the night. Like I’ve said in past recaps, I wasn’t quite getting a potential-for-winning vibe from them, but I would have liked to see them around a bit longer, partly because of their experience and their class, and partly because we hadn’t really seen them truly veer out of their comfort zone. I’m glad Delilah stayed around (and I hope they rebound next week with a stellar comeback), but it was a bummer to see North Shore head home.
- Afro-Blue (performing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston): Holy. Freaking. Crap. I don’t have much to say about this performance except (once again) some pretty heavy gushing, so if you’re averse to praise, look away. Afro-Blue ROCKED this number. They’ve done an incredible job so far…just look at their last 3 performances (their smooth, sexy take on “Put Your Records On”; their deliciously inventive remake of “American Boy”; their underrated “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”), in case you need reminding. But still…maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting much due to the song choice (it’s a great song, it just didn’t seem to lend itself well to a fun, high-energy a cappella setting), but I was blown away. In fact, I was quite literally dancing in my seat, making noises of great delight, and waving my hands about in the air at the end. (All this at about 11 in the morning, mind you.) That’s how excited this performance made me. They turned the song on its ear, but as the judges noted, made sure to hook everyone in with the familiarity as well. The choreography was outstanding (how great is it that Afro-Blue can have such a high level of musicianship, but also show an impressive attention to detail in their dance moves?). They even showed some stellar depth on the bench by showcasing every single one of their female soloists. Once again, it all just clicked together perfectly. It was full of life and originality, it was tons of fun to watch, and it was the best performance of the night, and yet more proof that Afro-Blue deserves to go all the way, in my eyes.
- Pentatonix (performing “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles): Pentatonix’s star continues to rise with me, and after last week’s impressive showing, they delivered a killer (pardon the pun…of course, if you’re Nick Lachey, you’d welcome the pun) rendition of everyone’s favorite first-song-played-on-MTV, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The studio/club-type effects that they bring to many of their arrangements were in full effect last night, and it brought their performance alive. I’ll never be entirely sure how they do all those things, to be honest, but I don’t care…like Shawn amusingly noted, it’s almost like they’re from the future. Their arrangements are daring and they work very effectively, and they just keep getting better and better. I’m officially a fan (despite my past hangups over vocal tones and whatnot), and I’m excited to see what Pentatonix does in (if you’ll pardon or welcome another pun)…the future. (Ba dum cha.) Also, how awesome was it that Pentatonix chose this song in honor of the dearly departed Sonos? Awww. (Speaking of Sonos…check out their amazing CDs now. Your regret will not be felt if you do.)
- The Deltones (performing “Listen To Your Heart” by Roxette): Random side personal fact: I think a good friend of mine, who now goes to school in Idaho, used to sing this song jokingly. I’m not sure. Getting back to the Deltones…I thought they did well last night, but that kind of highlights a lingering issue with them (one that they themselves noted in their rehearsal package). They always are solid. They always do well. But they’ve never really broken out (not even on their poignant debut performance of “Feels Like Home”), and this performance was no exception. The soloist’s country twang was a bit distracting, but it actually worked. And the background harmonies were great…but it lacked a distinct hook, and looking back, pretty much all the Deltones’ performances have. They’ve amassed a fine body of work over the season, for sure. But I’m not sure a $200,000 recording contract would be quite the best venue for them, at least not until they find their niche a bit more.
- Urban Method (performing “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe): Well, we certainly know where the TV-PG-DL rating came from…that rap may have gone a little south content-wise, but you know what? Even with a rapping section intact, I enjoyed this performance. Maybe it’s lingering goodwill coming off their stellar, verse-free take on “Dance To The Music” last time out, but I thought Urban Method did a great job with this track that I’ve quite honestly never heard of in my life. The harmonies were fairly tight, the rapping was integrated nicely, and it seemed to be more effective than their past ‘rapapella’ outings have. It certainly wasn’t my favorite performance of the night, but it was an excellent step forward for Urban Method. (Also, it spawned pure, beautiful judging chaos: Ben Folds rapping, and them all dancing into the commercial break. I love when Ben, Sara, and Shawn go just a bit crazy. :))
- Vocal Point (performing “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins): And that’s how you close a show, ladies and gentlemen. Armed with missing member Ben (who I had no idea was from Australia, until this week), they delivered a rip-roaring, tons-of-fun performance of a song I’d have to say I’ve never really liked until now. The second lead vocalist got a little shrieky at a few points, but it didn’t really take anything away from the performance…the guys of Vocal Point just threw it all out there, and it ended up working very nicely. The dancing was also top-notch. (Of course, with a dance department like this at BYU, that’s quite understandable.) It was a great way to end the night, and the audience’s huge reaction signaled that Vocal Point is hopefully here to stay.
- The Second Elimination: By this point, I realized we had to send a group home…and I was wondering who the heck the judges would choose, because the second half of the evening was definitely much stronger than the first. Nobody really stood out…but I suppose the judges’ choice to send the Deltones packing was fair. Like I noted above, they were doing great work…but hadn’t had a star-making moment yet, and at this point in the competition, those are all too often very necessary. (The judges’ decision to place Afro-Blue as the last group called safe, on the other hand? Classify that under “1-800-What The Bleep?!?!?”.) The Deltones have a bright future ahead of them, I think, if they continue to fine-tune their blend and find their individual sound. The best of luck to them as they move forward.
The groups are now down to 8 (and for once, Nick actually confirmed how the next week will proceed…the next episode will find only 1 group heading home, which is interesting), and the competition is getting even more tight. I’m going to have to write a lot of tearful recaps over the next month-and-a-half, aren’t I? As for now, long live Sonos (still not over that), and see you next week with a new recap, along with later this week with more non-“Sing-Off” musical goodness. Check out the poll below, and thanks for reading!
(*Note: This is said with love. I’ve been a fan of said dancing program since season 2. I even watch the British version, for Pete’s sake.)