The Sing-Off Season 4, Episode 2


It's party anthem night on The Sing-Off.

For our opening number, we, suitably, hear "Let's Get It Started" originally by The Black-Eyed Peas. Ten leads the way brilliantly before being joined by The AcoustiKats and Calle Sol. Vocal Rush leads off the transition to Ke$ha's "Die Young" which is noteworthy for two reasons--that marks two consecutive opening numbers where that group was the pivot point to take us from stand-alone song to medley, representative of the producers' faith in the excitement this group engenders as well as their collective good ear to pull off the transitions.Also, the show is continuing to drive home the group's youth ("Die Young" and "We Are Young" in episode one). Home Free, then Street Corner Renaissance join the party, followed by the ladies of Element. VoicePlay gets the next transition into Rhianna's "Don't Stop the Music,", leading to The Filharmonic's big entrance. Another fun opening number all around.

Vocal Rush leads off the night with C&C Music Factory's "Make You Sweat." Make no mistake about it, this is a great a cappella group on any level of performance, but put a lights show behind it, and this act is downright professional .Very good rap solo, then America gets its formal introduction to the musical beast that is Sarah Vela. I'll put her up on the level with just about any soloist in a cappella today. Really fun arrangement, providing plenty of room to slow things down and rebuild to bigger and bigger moments. Just sensational.

Jewel says they're the united colors of beautiful and praises Sarah's cold intro to her solo. She thought the rap was a little rushed. Shawn said the performance was hot and praises the VP. He does say the song was a bit rushed, though. Ben says they keep forgetting how young the group is. He says he loves the group and its personality, though he would like for them to firm up the groove, which isn't just about VP. He lauds their full sound for being predominantly female, with just two male members.

Here comes Home Free, taking on the Rascal Flatts version of "Life Is a Highway." Unaccompanied lead-in before the perc joins, then the bass, then the harmonies key in. I positively love the way this group builds a song. I think they were right not to move much in week one because things get a little awkward when they try to lock step. That said, the bass saves the day with another inspired bit of a solo before the group spread itself across the stage to cut loose. When they're true to themselves and focused on the music, Home Free is very, very tough to beat, and certainly the most studio-ready group of the current roster (arguably the most ready in Sing-Off history for this early on in the season).

Shawn says the group moved all right, and he appreciates that they know what they're about and stick to it. He cites the beginning, the build, and the end as a tutorial on how to build an a cappella song. Bensays the performance was really good. He loved the bass and the drumming. Jewel says they're her boys, and liked that the song told a story.

VoicePlay is back, and bringit with Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music." Choreography is at its best when it complements the music and I loved the lead in with the guys brassily providing the instrumentation, elanign on one antoehr while honey worked the stage, then functioning as her combination band and and backup dancers. Very nice rap segment, and I'm really digging the pace. Slick slowdown segment en route to the breakdown.Very good showing, replicating much of what worked on episode one and leaving behind most of the dregs that buried them last time out.

Shawn says it was a great comeback experiment and thep erformance was seamless. He singles out the high notes for being exceptionally good.Ben says it was a mean performance. He likes their ablity to make it work from all across the map and modulate without missing a beat. Jewel says they were polished and professional, but also let their personalities shine on this song.

Up next, Street Corner Renaissance singing "Do You Love Me (Now That I can Dance)" originally by The Contours. THe gang hangs around a park bench whilst our narrator gets us going. Part of what I really like about the presntation is here that it very sincerely feels like something you could see se guys doing on a street corner jsut as easily as they're doing it on stage--charming, effortless, and very entertaining. Very well-sung and well-danced. My one real complaint for this song was that it felt a little too comfortable for this group. Yes it was professional, yes it was slick, but gone was the adventurous spirit the group demonstrated in recreating the One Direction song in episode one, and the one blow-away moment had far more to do with dance than the music. Street Corner is plenty safe for this episode, but I don't think they'll make it too much further if they can't find ways to keep surprising the audience.

Shawn praises the guys' shoes, and says music is not just a young man's sport--these guys show there are always opportunities for real talents. Ben liked the group's ability to make it feel like there's a band, but said they probably don't need VP the way they get the crowd clapping along. Jewel says the group proves that less can be more. This group brings a vibe that lets people sing along and they're always fun.

Element is here, singing Pink's "Raise Your Glass." Excellent blend, good staging, and they look fantastic. The perc is pretty sick, particularly when Rachel gets the spotlight to implement her swirling sound effects. That said, I worry that this performance suffered from an all-too-common affliction among upper-tier but not quite sensational all-female groups--too much precision, not enough letting it all hangout. This is a party anthem, and a well-chosen one for an all-female group. So where's the carefree power (exhibit A: the half-hearted fist-pump on the first iteration of "we will never be anything but loud and nitty gritty")? Element is one of the more vocally talented groups this season; I want to hear them back that up with some genuine vigor.

Jewel praises the leads and the group's ability to maintain its sound while moving. Ben credits Johanna's bass, but said he wanted to hear more opportunities to hear a genuine lead, focused from the start. He says their blend is getting better. Shawn praises them for working their choreo in heels. Shawn liked the doubling up on the solo, but seconds Ben's call for more true soloist time during which we can hear an individual star.

The "a cappella fraternity" The AcoUstiKats are up next, with fresh choreogrphy from "Mama Kat." And here they come with Outkast's "Hey Yeah." The choreography is a little over the top here--not necessariliy in a good way. Exceptional choreography should shock and awe whilst looking effortless. I'm feeling the effort on most of what the guys are serving up. Good fullness of sound, the blend isn't quite there and I just don't love this group's leads. Ron in particularly is clearly a very talented dude, but I don't feel they've picked the right vehicle to showcase his abilities. They didn't wow on episode one and week two hasn't proven much stronger.

Ben talks about butts and says the group is a lot of fun but he wants them to embrace the groove. Shawn say the group was fun, but says Ron was doing too much and he wanted the group to distribute key parts more prominently.Jewel is a fan of Mama Kat, but found something funky with the groove and questions if this song was in their wheelhouse. She liked the way they escalated the energy as the song moved along.

Calle Sol is back in the hizzy. They're singing Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca." Sometimes the obvious song choice is the right one. Slowed down start. Ben looks uncertain. Or constipated. The ladies intercede to sex things up a little, then they spice things up more meaningfully on the chorus, and mix up the tempo in verse two. This definitely got better as it went on. They're still a better dance troupe than an a cappella group, but I felt the vocals caught up some on this go-round.

Shawn worries the group lost its vocal nuance in all its movement.Jewel thought there were some holes in the performance to keep it from fitting seamlessly. Ben says the group had the party down and the dancing worked, but the party needs to be supported by the music, and they need to tighten things up.

What time is it? Guess it's Ten o' clock. The crew brings it with Nelly's "Hot in Herre." This is a tough pick because it kind of demands the rap, and that does not feel like this group's wheelhouse. To their credit, the backing vocals are setting the tone perfectly--nicely arranged, nicely executed, and even well danced. The more breakdwon the better on this song as the group let loose as it went along. The lead is undeniably talented, but I didn't think he was fit on this song--more a singer than a rapper, and it didn't quite jive for me.

Ben says he only defrocks for 98 Degrees, so Ten, Nelly, et al. can keep dreaming. Nick says that explains all the weird fan mail he's gotten. OK. Ben goes on to say the lead vocal was grooving. Jewel says the trills were icing on the cake for this song and everyone in the group comes across as a lead singer, in a good way. She's looking forward to hearing the group continue to grow. Shawn says Ten was cohesive, but he's waiting for the group to take him to church.

Here comes The Filharmonic, showing us that "This is How We Do It." Sweet all white duds (with yellow work boots) tonight. Gotta say, I love the attitude these guys bring to stage. Terriffic blend and everything about their performance is fun, from the way they move to the way they hand off the lead seamlessly, to the way they go sexy in a quasi-winking sort of way, without going over the top enough to lose their musicianship. Very nice showing for the guys--I'd argue a big step up from episode one. Also, some of it has to do with song choice, but a lot more of it's a matter of swagger and being true to themselves: I view these guys as a Filipino Florida State Reverb.

Jewel loved it. She loved the arpeggios and harmonies, and that each group member was a star. Shawn says they were fun from the start, but need to watch their tuning to protect from going sharp. He notes the fun choreography, simple arrangement, and ambition of the performance. Ben thought the song was awesome and says the guys have a really slick mid-range.

It's time for the ultimate sing-off hell in a cell, loser leaves town match. What, that's not what they're calling? Meh. Calle Sol and The AcoUstiKats are going head to head with Kelly Clarkson's This is actually the best vocal we've heard from AcoustiKat Ron. Go figure. Calle Sol isn't bad, but pretty straight forward, standard fare for them. Calle Sol looks great, sounds good; AcoUstiKats look good, sound very good--AcoUstiKats get the nod from me. Ben dug the AcoUstiKat intensity, though he thought the music wasn't as on point. He thought Calle Sol was more focused, but imperfect. Shawn saw emotion from both groups. Jewel says she wants both groups to be empowered... but only The AcoUstiKats get to do that on NBC. Calle Sol is, indeed, headed home.

That's all for this episode--catch you tomorrow for episode three!