It was Halloween tonight on “The Sing-Off,” and this particular group of superstar medleys was a real treat. (The previous line was brought to you by Nick Lachey’s writers. Not really, but it could have been. 🙂 ) Really, though, there was a lot to love in this week’s episode (even the conclusion, which brought an elimination I’ve been awaiting for weeks now), and although I was a bit distracted tonight having to help hand out candy to trick-or-treaters at a few points, I still really enjoyed it. (I also enjoyed watching “Rock Center with Brian Williams” afterwards. I used to watch “Dateline” with my parents as a kid, and this was kind of a nice progression from that…a great mix of news and a little entertainment. Plus I love Brian Williams. Also, I promise NBC is not paying me to write this. I just like random things, such as newly launched newsmagazine programs.) The Halloween-themed opening group performance was very interesting. I wasn’t big on the first two songs (Danny Elfman is one of my heroes, but I’ve vowed never to see “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and to be honest I’ve never heard of “Werewolves of London” before now…to top it all off, there wasn’t much great singing to be had in those first two parts of the number), but I LOVED the “Ghostbusters” portion. Which is highly ironic, since I actually hate that movie, and I’ve never been a big fan of the song, to be honest. I’ve never loved it as much as I did tonight, which is once again a testament to the power of a cappella, and great harmonies. After all that, the night started off with…
- Urban Method (performing a Rihanna medley of “What’s My Name,” “Umbrella,” & “Only Girl (In The World)”): Urban Method’s momentum has seemed to be slowing down a bit these past weeks, and tonight was no exception, I’m sad to say. It took a bit too long for their Rihanna medley to take flight…the girls once again seemed to be holding back, and the arrangement was OK, but lacked a bit of spark and originality. Their take on “Only Girl (In The World)” was a step up, though, and it ended the medley on a high note for sure. The soloist in that part, however, didn’t let out the more poppy side of her voice enough, I thought, so it wasn’t a complete slam dunk. I like Urban Method, and they’re bringing something different to this competition…but their past two performances just haven’t completely cut it, and at this stage in the game, that’s not a terrific omen.
- Vocal Point (performing an Elvis medley of “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” & “Jailhouse Rock”): I have to admit I’ve never been the biggest Elvis fan, but Vocal Point just may have changed my mind tonight. (OK, not really. But they came pretty close.) Rebounding from last week’s emotionally gripping but pitch-imperfect outing, they brought tons and tons of energy (as always) to the stage, and the result was business as usual for Vocal Point…pure fun to watch. If I were to pick on anything in their performance, it would probably be the first two soloists. They were good, but I found at many instances that their tone seemed a bit too ‘square,’ in many ways…like not quite dynamic enough for this kind of flashy a cappella setting, if that makes any sense. (The last lead, however, blew it out of the water in my book. He nailed the energy and classic quality of “Jailhouse Rock” without veering into Elvis imitation.) It was a great job by Vocal Point tonight, and I continue to be very happy that they’re still in the competition. (Go Cougars!)
- Afro-Blue (performing a Janet Jackson medley of “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “When I Think of You,” & “Miss You Much”): “Too ambitious.” That’s the phrase that seems to be haunting Afro-Blue throughout this season, by way of the judges’ table. The lovely trio of Sara, Shawn, and Ben seem to love Afro-Blue, there’s no question about that…but they seem to keep harping on the complex quality of the group’s arrangements, and that kind of bugs me. I will admit that the performance came dangerously close to flying off the rails at one or two points (particularly in the transitions), due to how much was going on harmonically…but the end result is that it didn’t. It still worked. Fabulously. I’ve never really heard any of these three songs before (Janet Jackson’s oeuvre has largely escaped my ears, except for the inexplicably catchy chorus of “Feedback”), but I heard them in an amazing way tonight. The arrangement was dynamic and brilliant and so gloriously inventive, the staging was classy and energetic (how is it that they can be throwing out these kinds of crazy chords AND still be paying attention to their excellent choreography at the same time?), and once again, I was in love. Afro-Blue can sing all kinds of intricate harmonies, and I’ll enjoy it every time. I just wish the judges would feel the same way.
- Dartmouth Aires (performing a Queen medley of “Killer Queen,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” & “Somebody To Love”): File the Dartmouth Aires also under the category of “group I wish the judges would feel the same way I do about.” After they pleasantly surprised me last week by delivering a performance that I actually didn’t hate, and after realizing that they were starting off with the impossible-to-dislike “Killer Queen,” I was trying to take a positive approach to the fact that one of my least favorite groups in the competition was taking on one of my favorite bands of all time. That positive approach didn’t last long, I’d have to say. The whole thing just didn’t work. It was energetic and flashy (as the Aires are wont to be), but there was no substance behind all that spectacle, which is pretty much how the group has gone through the show so far. The soloists were not cutting it (especially the last one, who took a pick-axe to the greatness that is “Somebody To Love” with his distractingly wonky falsetto). The arrangements were by-the-numbers. Their pitch and blend was hit-and-miss. It really failed to come together in my book. It’s not that Queen’s work can’t be covered well (even though Freddie Mercury is pretty much an incomparable vocalist), because it can and it has, but it certainly wasn’t here. And after all that, the judges gave the Aires unanimous, glowing praise, which I simply cannot get. I’ve been in agreement with them since Day One on pretty much everything else…so why is there such a disconnect between their love for the Dartmouth Aires, and my own opinions about them as a viewer?
- Pentatonix (performing a Britney Spears medley of “Oops… I Did It Again,” “Toxic,” & “Hold It Against Me”): This was probably the portion of the night that I was most distracted during (I had to run to the door to hand out candy, my grandma called, AND during the judges’ critiques, one of our dogs ran out the door and I had to go catch her really quick), but that didn’t stop me from once again getting a big kick out of it. I’ll have to re-listen to it more carefully once I
buy it from iTunesget the chance (OK, I’m so buying it from iTunes, let’s put that out there right now), but what I heard was gold. It’s not easy to translate electronically-driven music like Britney’s to an a cappella setting (does anybody even know what her real voice sounds like? Can she even actually sing? IS ANY OF THIS REAL?!?!? Sorry, got a little carried away there), but if any group was the right one to do so, it would be Pentatonix. Their creativity knows no bounds, and their female member (sorry I’m so bad with not knowing names…this is what happens when you’re an amateur blogger and all that) was a great choice to anchor much of the medley, delivering some powerful, assured vocals. For me, Pentatonix continues to be one of this competition’s front-runners, and I remain incredibly excited to see what they’ll do next.
- Delilah (performing an Alicia Keys medley of “Fallin’,”A Woman’s Worth,” & “If I Ain’t Got You”): Yet another performance I wasn’t able to devote quite my full attention to, but I still was wowed by nonetheless. That opening of “Fallin'”…where they had just the soloist singing by herself…was AMAZING. She owned that song, y’all. Like the judges noted, the sensibility of Alicia Keys was a perfect fit for the female-driven soulfulness of Delilah, and it spotlighted many of the group’s good qualities in a cool way. When “A Woman’s Worth,” which they did a great job on, was actually a low point of the performance compared to the other portions, you know you’ve got something terrific. Plus powerhouse vocalist Amy got her chance to shine once again, tearing it up on “If I Ain’t Got You.” Delilah is back on the rise, and I’m happy to see that being the case.
- Yellowjackets (performing a Billy Joel medley of “The River of Dreams,” “She’s Always A Woman,” & “Uptown Girl”): When you say things in your rehearsal package like “we’re NOT going home,” sometimes you get in trouble. This was one of those situations. Not a lot about this performance worked very well at all. Aaron was simply not a strong soloist…his tone was incredibly off, and his pitch wavered at quite a few points. The arrangement wasn’t all that and a bag of chips (it was a little too straightforward to make it stand out), and during “Uptown Girl,” I was seriously struggling to find the group’s tonal center. That pitch was swimming all over the place, and very rarely to the right places. All in all, it was not the Yellowjackets’ best night by any means.
- Before we said goodbye to one of tonight’s 7 groups, we had a stellar guest performance by Committed, last season’s top-notch champions. (By the way, how weird was it that the show had them sit in one of the opera boxes, like they were competing on the show again? It was kind of like someone going back to high school, then having to sit in their old desk.) Chris Brown’s music would be far from my first choice for a medley, but Committed sold it beautifully with their trademark intricate harmonies, and fine stage presence. It was great to see them back again (I was afraid all we’d get of them this season was the short appearance they had a month or so ago), and a reminder that this show really gets it right with the talent it chooses.
- Now back to the matter at hand…tonight’s elimination. And here is where I rejoiced, because…the Yellowjackets were FINALLY sent home. I called it beforehand that them and Urban Method would be the bottom two, and I was afraid that the judges would send the latter home, but I had a small feeling that they’d stay around simply by virtue of their unique concept. I was correct, and thus one of my least favorite groups was cut from the show…but not before they delivered probably one of my favorite swan songs in “Sing-Off” history. When they started off their take on “Tubthumping” (AKA that song that repeats “I get knocked down” over and over and everyone recognizes, but absolutely no one knows the name or artist of), I thought it was some weird, strange ballad of sadness or something. I was very surprised to hear them break into the familiar chorus, and it all went WAY uphill from there. They dropped in references to the judges…the show…heck, even the network “The Sing-Off” airs on…and had an absolute blast doing it. It was classy and tons of fun to watch, and a terrific impression to leave viewers with as they departed. I may have never been a fan (whatsoever) of the Yellowjackets, but they left on the highest of notes. I likely won’t be seeking them out much further, but I have to give them props for making a classy exit.
Next week, the groups take on two numbers…a country song, and a rock song. (That’s certainly an interesting combo, but then again, this is the show that brought us Radio Hits/60s Classics Week.) We’re down to the wire, with 6 groups and less than a month remaining, so things should get even more intense. For now, the customary poll, the also customary thanks for reading, a reminder that the deadline for commenting to enter to win the iTunes gift card giveaway is WEDNESDAY (there’s only two entries right now! Don’t miss your chance to win!), and as always…I’ll see you later with more new posts.