We are back for episode five. Two groups go home tonight, and we open with what Nick Lachey’s voice over touts as the biggest opening number of in Sing-Off history. Urban Method opens up the group number, Lionel Richie's "All Night Long," followed by The Deltones, then Pentatonix whose soloist over-enunciates just to annoy me. The Aires follow, then North Shore, oddly apart from everyone else up in the balcony. Then Delialah’s here back on stage. The Yellow Jackets are mixing it up in the crowd. The Collective descends the audience stairs with Ruby’s vibrato OUT OF CONTROL. Vocal Point enters the stage in similar fashion. Afro-Blue makes an entrance in style with a quasi-congo line coming from the back (not to mention the opening number’s slickest vocals). The Aires front man is doing his all to bust a gut, and Ruby is not to be outdone. Good song choice and fun enough opening number, particularly considering how many groups the number had to account for.
The Yellow Jackets are back in the opening slot. These guys definitely have something to prove this week. They’re taking on by Wannabe The Spice Girls. In the intro video, the guys acknowledge that the odds are not on their behalf being one of three remaining all-male collegiate groups. Some fun opening bits with two separate groups singing against one another. The tenor is way over the top on the solo here—cutesy and a bit graing this week. The solo to follow is better. The classical voice guy is… rubbing his pec. Uncomfortable. (Male) Posh Spice is embarrassingly British. They fade into a free-for-all of do-si-do choreography for a moment. The good news is that the bass sound is good and full here, and the group sounds very clean on its build to finish. This was fun and mostly funny, but also a bit grating. Far better than any other a cappella treatment I’ve heard of this song. This is the kind of song choice I usually balk at male groups picking for competition, but the guys took it seriously and did well, particularly under the guilty pleasure guidelines.
Sara loved that the song was fun and showed off personality. She did observe there were tuning issues and that it’s easy to over-sing. Shawn found the song strange but enjoyable, but noticed that the harmonies were a bit pitchy. Ben says it was really entertaining, and that the group worked an event into every four-to-eight bars. He notes that one of the challenges the group will have to address is giving a face to each of the voices to help them connect with the audience.
Delilah is up next with “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara from Flashdance. We open on most of the girls seated in chairs, save for the soloist. She sells the vulnerability of the opening well, though I’d like a little thicker sound from her voice—maybe she’s just saving it. The girls are up and dancing behind the solo. The solo sounds a little flat to me, the group a little more subdued than we’re used to hearing from this group. I hear the bass loud and clear and the perc is quite good, but the group sounds a little restrained otherwise. The choreo is mild. The harmonies sound a little sharp. Nice little scale-vocal-breakdown effect on the close. Good, but probably the weakest we’ve heard Delilah to date.
Ben calls himself a big Delilah fan. He liked the verses—he says it took the harmonies a little while to come into focus, but they worked well once they arrived. He praises the breakdown on the second chorus. Sara said this song felt like Delilah—the emotion was coming across, and she identified some pitch and rhythm issues. She praises the personality that came across, but says technically it wasn’t up to the group’s first two performances. Shawn praises the solo, but said the group’s sound came undone a bit late in the song, and says he loves the group’s perseverance and heart.
North Shore originally wanted to sing “Mmm Bop” by Hanson. As they state in their intro video (loosely quoted) “if we’re going to compete with young kids, what better to sing than a song by young kids.” In the eleventh hour, they switched to Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love.” I love this song--let's see what they can do. The guys start with a slow tempo and soft sound, then go doo-wop on their way into the first chorus. I hate to say it, but the guys really do look older here with the elementary choreography and more basic sound. I feel like this performance is just missing its heart. They finally pop on the second course as the group lets loose and gets big. It’s not until this moment when I feel like I’m hearing the North Shore I know. Nice finish to a lukewarm song befitting how little the guys were able to prepare for it.
Shawn liked it but wanted to see another side of het soloist and the group on the whole. He says they always nail the entertainment part, he wanted more emotion. Ben says they’re total pros, but he wanted to hear a more identifiable tone to the vocals. He liked it, though. Sara comments on being an old Huey Lewis fan and appreciating the risks the group took. She wanted to hear more diversity from their sound, but liked it nonetheless.
The Collective is here with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Hmm… I wonder who will take solo on this one. Sigh. Nice resonance to the choral sound in the background. Solo is suitably subdued on the opening. Second solo shows some good emotion. The group sound skews jazzy rather big on the verse, which I think is a big mistake—with only two minutes with which to operate on a song like this, you need to pop right off the bat . Dueling solos on the chorus. I’m nervous for the power harmony note, but they—actually pull it off reasonably well. The perc is really good. Against all odds, this is probably the best we’ve heard them, and, as much as I didn’t expect to be writing it, I think The Collective just punched its ticket for another week on the show.
Sara loved it. She liked the group sound and praises the soloists pulling off a blend. Shawn wanted the rhythm to kick in sooner. Ben says that the group grabbed him from the start this week. He respected the choice not to glom on to the traditional groove of the song from the get-go. He observed a surprisingly good blend this week. He thought everything was a step up from where it had been in weeks prior.
The Dartmouth Aires bring us Jesse’s Girl by Rick Springfield. Just based on the hype video, it seems like these guys are having more fun than most of our other groups, which is nice to see. They appear in purple and white letterman’s jackets. The choreography is cheesy and overly literal but fairly appropriate given the song. The solo is selling the emotion far better than the song selection probably deserves. I’m looking for a little more bass sound; particularly from a group with so many dudes. The perc guy sits up front—good, but nothing out of this world from him—I’m nitpicking a bit, but I never like to see the VP guy isolated unless he’s going to do something truly spectacular. Smart circumnavigation of the guitar solo with some soaring vocals. Nice fun, free-style dance session. Inspired, super-flexible dancing from one of the dudes. Nice power finish. Nothing about this blew away, but it was all fine enough.
Ben praises the energy of the choreography. He liked the tenors and the top, but found that the bottom wasn’t grooving as well as it should have—the basses weren’t gelling down below, and he says that would have spared the group some visual energy. Shawn feels similarly about the absence of the bass groove. He says the energy was there and the movement was smartly planned. He was entertained. Sara loved the solo’s range and control and the blend even while the guys danced. She did note that the group was missing consistency on the low end.
North Shore swan songs it up with a classy little rendition of “Good Night Sweetheart” by The Spaniels. Silky, smooth vocals all around here, and sold with dignity and gusto. I’ll concede North Shore is probably the group least capable of diversity at this point, as demonstrated by their inability to nail a song down this week. Nonetheless, this swan song shows they had plenty left to offer the show. I do not like this decision.
Afro-Blue is back with “Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. The bass sound is sick. I like the way in which they dominate the background sound, but give each of the women a chance at the solo to start—the soloists’ respective strength is a bit of a mixed bag, but I still like the idea. Really fun paired off male-female choreography. Cool, almost Latin groove in the second verse. Really fun sped up groove on the finish as they split into two lines and dance on through .This is the kind of genuinely fun visual that can really captivate the general public. Paired with solid sound, you’ve just gotta love it. While other groups start to trail off, or are just starting to hit their stride, Afro-Blue is only widening their lead in the competition.
Shawn says the group achieved the perfect blend of keeping the original song so people could get into it, then mixing up the sound to make it more complex and interesting as it went on. Ben says the first chorus was missing some of the baritone meet and the second chorus kicked in beautifully. He praised the confidence the group showed in letting each female member take the lead, but wanted to hear them enunciate a little more clearly to elevate from very good to great. Sara loved the wedding march (Shawn corrects her—it was soul train line). Sara felt like she was missing a little meat in the middle and the end went a little sharp, but she loved it.
Pentatonix planned on taking Cher’s “Believe” to the stage, but switched to the song Sonos had planned to do—“Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. Killer perc. Some nice sound effects in general. The solo is good, but his voice is just not nuanced enough for me to get fully onboard with his take off on the original. The visual presentation is fun with plenty of re-arrangements and posture changes as opposed to traditional choreography, which serves them well. Although it’s a bit overly clean, I really like the “You are the radio star” interjections. Really fun audio effects from the perc guy. I’ve gotta say, I have not been on board with this group prior to this point, but this just worked. Thumbs up.
Sara says the group made really distinct choices and delivered them. She praises the bass and drums. Shawn speculates the group was sent back in time from the future to save a cappella. He credits them for pushing the envelope. Ben says the group really hit on something. The looseness really suited the group. He commented the group was a little on top of the beat at times.
The Deltones are up next with Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart.” This group has lot of provin’ to do to hang around this week. Some rough edges on the blend on that opening. I fear the soloist is in a little over her head on this one. Nice visual with the group clustered to the side as the soloist walks out then spreading behind her as it goes on. Good bass sound on the chorus and a nice little swell into the bridge. The soloist opens up a little there, but I fear it’s too little too late. The backing solo is a welcome addition and it’s a good decision to explode the closing chorus, but the sound is just messier than what we’re hearing from anyone else tonight. Cute little breath effect on the finish, to meet the Not bad, mind you, but not up to remaining in the competition.
Ben praises that the group earnestly sings the lyrics on each outing, but says he wants more of a face, or distinguishable identity from the group. He said the breakdown should have been anthemic, but didn’t quite arrive there. He liked that the group didn’t take itself too seriously on the close. Sara says she liked it, but thought the song choice may have been too serious. She would be interested in hearing more voices drop out to mix up what they’re serving up. Shawn praises the solo. He liked the performance but wanted to hear them mix up their sound more, too.
Here comes Urban Method. The group is taking its “innovative style” to Bell Biv Davoe’s “Poison.” The perc is on point, as expected. The lead vocal matches well, and the rap interjection is more fun than previous weeks. This is a perfect theme week for this group because it forces them to take themselves less seriously. Without the over the top attempts at dramatics, they’re so much more palatable. I don’t quite buy the attitude the ladies are putting on, but it’s a minor quibble. Fun little laugh on the end to drive home the guilty pleasure nature of the song. Like Pentatonix, I wasn’t feeling this group prior to this point, but this was quite good. Certainly their best showing so far.
Shawn loved the attitude of the performance, and lauds the bass. He liked the arrangement, the sexy sway and three-part harmony of the women. Ben thought it grooved from the beginning to end, but thought the solo got lost a little on the lowest parts. He praises the performance on the whole, and gives a fun bit of advice to the soloist as a father. Sara liked it. She thought the group was a little pitchy early on, but it was well-done overall. Ben attempts to rap—and it’s as delightfully awkward as you would hope.
Vocal Point wraps up the evening, with their missing man back in action. They perform Kenny Loggins’s “Footloose.” I love the look with red blazers and sneakers, white shirts, black ties and slacks. They’re something so collegiate male a cappella about the starting sound of the song. Nice groove as they near the first chorus. Classy but fun. The choreography is cheesy as all heck, but sold 110% percent and befitting of the song. The guys have a sensational ability to keep their tuning in check even as they bust loose on their rock and roll rebel yells. With the exception of Afro-Blue these guys take prize for most fun on stage tonight. In a good week for all-male collegiate groups, this was an excellent outing for Vocal Point—they pick up the first win in this ongoing triple threat death match for a cappella supremacy.
Ben credits the group for bringing it with a rock and roll sound and credits the energy the falsettos bring to the song. He lauds the baritone sound, too. Sara says it was a lot of fun to watch them perform. Shawn credits the groups’ diversity—different sound, different voices, different personalities, making the judges and audience alike go crazy.
Elimination time. Pentatonix and Urban Method are both safe. Vocal Point, too. OK, I really liked Urban Method and Pentatonix this week, and Vocal Point was great. And we all know The Deltones are out. But Afro-Blue in the bottom two? I call bull spit. Sure enough, The Deltones are out. Their swan song is Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye to You.” This is kind of the perfect song for them t leave on, given the identity they’ve established on the show. Perfectly serviceable rendition of the song, and solo fits much more comfortably on this one than it did on “Listen to Your Heart.”
Next Monday, the top eight takes on the hip-hop episode. And North Shore’s early exit immediately makes more sense. And Urban Method heaves a sigh of relief at a bye-week.
That’s all for now. Be sure to check back later this week for The 3Gs and a radically updated ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings.