* * *Let’s take a minute to talk about the stakes of The Sing Off, or lack thereof. There’s something inherently charming about a reality singing competition in which the prize is a Sony record contract and $100,000. Split amongst the multiple members of a group, it’s not a ton of cash, and a record contract doesn’t really mean anything if the label doesn’t invest in you. As my friend Randi said, labels have to recoup 100% of their costs before you will see a penny of what you’ve earned in royalties. Winning The Sing Off is nice, but unless you put heart and soul into it (like Pentatonix has, to great success), it’s not going to make your career. So off we go, for a night one hour of low-stakes singing fun.
Tonight’s theme is Number One Hits, and our opening number is “In Your Eyes.” There’s a Tufts Beelzebubs a cappella version that I love, but one of the producers on The Sing Off is Deke Sharon, Bubs alum and arranger extraordinaire, so I’m hopeful it’ll be good. We’ve only got four groups performing tonight – Street Corner Renaissance, The Filharmonic, Ten, and acoUstiKats. The arrangement has great texture, which I think is easier to accomplish with the slightly smaller mob they have performing tonight. I like the echoing “in your eyes” parts – there’s a soprano somewhere in there that is absolutely killing it – and the unison solo at the end is very powerful. The basses are singing ridiculously low, even for basses. I think this is the best group number we’ve seen so far.
One of the four groups tonight will be going home in the Ultimate Sing-Off. First up is Ten, who will be performing “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. Shawn comes by to coach the group and tells them to slow down the song and enjoy the groove. This, frankly, is terrible advice. The performance drags at the beginning, slow and muffled, and then when they speed it up halfway through, it goes to crazytown. The VP is weak and it just overall is not a good performance. Shawn and Jewel both loved it, and I’d like to know what they were smoking. Only Ben has anything to say that aligns with my thoughts.
The acoUstiKats are next, and they’ll be singing “Amazed” by Lonestar. Shawn tells them that Boyz II Men was offered the song and they turned it down, so according to him, he knows it better than anyone. The arrangement has some really nice bass tones, but I am distracted by how tight their pants are. The girlfriend of one of the Kats is crying in the audience. Ben thinks that this performance separated them from the hundreds of other all-male collegiate a cappella groups in the country. I would like to counter with...every other all-male collegiate a cappella group. There is nothing special about this group, I promise you. But wait! One of the group members is talking to his girlfriend. And then he makes her come on stage. And then he proposes to her, and she says yes. Good for those...22 year olds? I have a cold black heart.
Street Corner Renaissance is ready to go, and they’ve prepared “Forget You” by Cee-Lo Green for tonight. The rehearsal has some weird tuning in the chords. The performance is kind of empty – I miss hearing a full complement of background singers on this song. It was very smart of them to have multiple guys on the backing “ah”s in the bridge. The judges are a little more hard on SCR than they have been previously. Ben says they have a great sound, but that they want to see the group push themselves and discover something about themselves that the didn’t already know.
Finally, The Filharmonic is going to be singing “One More Night” by Maroon 5. We get some really awkward footage of them in the package (maybe someone at NBC should have removed them dumping water on themselves?) This arrangement isn’t showing them at their best, though they are doing a great job of singing while moving (unlike Calle Sol last night.) Ben doesn’t like the performance and gets Nigel Lithgoe-style booed by the audience. Jewel notes that the judges are hard on them because they’ve set their expectations high. It’s clear they’re being set up to be in the bottom two.
The judges deliberate. I really wanted the acoUstiKats to get sent home tonight because they were so boring, but with the proposal, it looks like that won’t happen. Instead they’re safe, along with Ten. SCR and The Filharmonic are going to the Ultimate Sing-Off. The song is “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam, and it’s a doo-wop song, which seems kind of unfair to The Filharmonic. Regardless, I think SCR is destined to be going home tonight, because their shtick is good but has nowhere to grow. The groups trade off (I think fewer times than some of the other groups have traded off in this gimmick so far) and then the judges make their decision: SCR is going home, and The Filharmonic stays in competition.
Two hours of The Sing Off has definitely felt too long, but one hour tonight felt too short. I’ll see you back here for Monday’s show. What time? How long? Only the crazy NBC schedulers know for sure.