The Sing-Off Season 4, Episode 5


Strap yourselves in--it's time for episode five, "Movie Night!"

The opening number de jour is "I Had the Time of My Life," with the Home Free bass rattling our bones on the intro. While I hate to see groups go home, these opening numbers do get more cohesive as the season progresses. Interesitng hcoice for a mixed selection of group members to make their intros collectively, rather than having the groups cordoned off from one another as they typically have been up to this point.

Six groups left and there will be no fewer than three ultimate sing-offs tonight with two groups going home. Jewel is the coach/challenge levee-er this go-round.

Home Free sings Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman." Hot perc lead-in, and Austin's owning the lead early on with a bass backing lead midway through the verse. I love the choice to spotlight Tim--whether anyone expected it or not, he's approaching Avi Kaplan-level breakout star of the group.Very nice fallout moment where the soloist breaks away to serenade Jewel and the guys shift to soft, stacatto instrumentation in the background before the drum solo leads off a sprint to the finish, featuring their most traditional take on the song's original hook.

Ben notes that the group diversified the style and any given one of the styles would have worked, but he liked what they did. Shawn points out that the departure from the original hook had him worried, but says they worked it out, bringing it in on the finish. He lauds Austin and Tim's performances in particular. Jewel notes the difficulty of the group's transition, filling Roy Orbison's shoes, and points out that Tim is a dancer.

Vocal Rush is here, bringing Phil Collins's "Against All Odds" to the stage. Really interesting song choice for this group, and I love the idea of hearing the softer side of them. Really lovely solo here and I love the subtlety of the harmonies behind her as they build into the first chorus, and the warm hum of the bass holds down the anchor. New lead on the second verse as the original lead swings into VP mode. Great emotion from the group. This is riveting a cappella right here. While the interpretation is ostensibly pretty straight forward, the group does a wonderful job of letting subtle dynamic and rhythmic shifts tell a story.

Shawn lauds the soloists and VP, and talks about how cohesive the group is. Ben observes that the group members seem to each stand for something and praises the leads, too, though he thinks there are small technical holes in what they're doing. Jewel says they don't know how to not be emotionally honest. She lauds the first soloist for being vulnerable.

The AcoUstiKats are back with Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll." Old school choral harmony on the opening, before the guys hand it off to the lead, leaning on a jukebox. The intro video was correct that this song is, for many of us, inextricable from the movie moment it represents in Risky Business and I couldn't help feeling that most of this looked a little too rehearsed and careful to capture the spirit of that film scene--an effect that was not helped by the creative choice to switch up the style and tempo so much in the arrangement. Fun bit as Ron gets the lead for his best solo of the season to date--this guy oozes talent, but I didn't feel either of the group's first two selections really showed off his talents the right way. Here we have it. Three of the guys strip to their boxers to pay homage to Tom Cruise in their high-energy finish.

Jewel talks about the guys using energy and fun to blow up this song, and praises the underwear choreography. Shawn says the guys were rocking and rolling, though he could have done without the physical over-exposure. He says sometimes the harmonies wavered with the choreo. Ben liked it but says he's not sure he was sold on so many styles of music being represented and says he could have used more rock and roll, though the guys sold the song well.

The Filharmonic hits us with Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." Unaccompanied solo on the opening. Good combined visual aural effect as the guys offered up a soft, warm, buzzing harmony behind him then switched the lead. Great build into the first chorus--I might have waited for that solo switch to the chorus to maximize the drama there. Better emotion on the leads this time around, though I'm still seeing too many boy-band-generic smiles in the background. Excellent soaring tenor on the breakdown. Every a cappella group needs to try its hand at a ballad here and there and I'm glad the guys held out to this episode, because it was an excellent stylistic shift for them.

Jewel compliments the emotional sincerity of the performance. Ben says the timbre of Joe's voice was an awesome strength for him, and praises VJ's lead as well, but notes the group needs to be careful not to blow any harmonies. He calls on the VP to be more careful about its use of cymbals, because they're often not necessary. Shawn loved that the group made the song its own, though he seconds the group's need to lock its harmonies and says The Filharmonic can be better.

Voiceplay in the house with "Don't You Forget About Me" originally by Simple Minds. I'm hesitant about the song choice for inevitable Pitch Perfect comparisons, but, as the brilliant Lindsey McGowan pointed out to me, two of the same arrangers from the film work on this show. Very Breakfast club opening with the group dressed in its nerd-jock-burnout-princess best, and start the song poised around a table straight out of a high school library. Well, not my high school of yore, but maybe a Hollywood one. Pretty soft, slow take on the song, building to the emotional finish as group members removed visors, glasses, and other accoutrements to challenge the front of the stage together. Excellent power moment there and this may be Honey's best lead to date.

Shawn praises the arrangement and Honey's delivery. He says he wanted a little more of a peak, getting to the true payoff moment of the song. Ben says Honey's solo was fantastic and he liked the symbolism of the group members removing pieces of their high school personalities and moving forward. He didn't think the shift to half-time was necessary, and thought the performance lost a little energy there. Jewel says she's proud of Honey for letting her honesty come through. She liked the polyphany of the song with different distinct melodies going on from each group member. Shawn simplifies and rephrases: "It was dope."

Ten sings Adele's "Skyfall." Very cool intro with the group reserved and bass-heavy behind Peach's deep lead as the smoke machine works overtime delivering the dramatic effect. This group definitely wins the superlative for most improved blend this season. Excellent shift to the second lead. Visually captivating. Huge dramatic moments, merging the slick vibe of the song with the group's church instincts. Wow, what a statement. I had kinda sorta pegged this group as one of the two to go home tonight, but it does not look like that will be the case.

Ben says the performance was really good. They hold back the groove like no one else and he praises the choir. Jewel lauds the leads and the intricacies of the harmonies. Shawn says it's a joy to see this group develop and he's watched the group get better and better from show to show, and says they're finding their voice now.

It's Sing-Off time. The AcoUstiKats-Voiceplay pairing is up first, singing Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Slick intro on this one with the groups more acompanying one another than competing. Fun workout montage from the 'Kats, then Voiceplay which takes a more specifically boxing-centric approach to their visual presentation. Voiceplay shrewdly drives a mix up to the tempo. This is certainly the most overtly collaborative of the ultimate sing-offs to date. As such, I have a really difficult time picking a winner between the the two groups, though I'd have to give Voiceplay the duke for their overall body of work (not just this performance).

Ben calls this performance a demonstration of the inherently collaborative nature of a cappella as the groups clearly worked together. Shawn says the performance was a lot of fun and lauds the choreo. Jewel says the performance was funny and the music was sound.

Vocal Rush and Ten go head to head for "Fame" originally by Irene Cara. Sultry opening lead from Sarah Vela. I'd have to call this one of the toughest sing-offs to date to call from a talent perspective, and considering each group's long-term potential for the remainder of the show. Very interesting little salsa sample here and awesome sound from the assemblage. I'm gonna go ahead and cop out here and say each of these groups deserves a pass.

Jewel says the groups did not diss\apoint. She found the performance nuanced and fun. She compliments the crescendo as they mixed the two groups together. Ben says the groups seemed to rub off on each other--it was a youthful performance for Ten, and Vocal Rush tightened things up. Shawn says the performance took him back to his performing arts school days saying the groups brought vocal gymnastics to the stage.

I just had an epiphany--I think I understand this collaborative "sing-off" format now. It's Deke Sharon's evil mastermind plan to show America the best a cappella possible. I'm not mad at it.

Home Free and The Filharmonic close the show with "I'm All Right" originally by Kenny Loggins. The Home Free guys are very, very at home on this vocal, doing their thing in simple, straight forward fashion. The Filharmonic modernizes the sound a bit with a very nice solo from Joe. Killer bass rush from Tim on the second tempo shift. VJ leads us into the next transition saying he's going to "make it sexy now." Very fun perc off in the end game. These groups are both pretty fantastic and do some pretty wonderful things on this collaboration, but as good as they are, I don't think The Filharmonic are quite competitive with Home Free (if we're going to look at it as a competition... which I'm not convinced we're supposed to).

Shawn praises the gopher dance moves and likes that this performance showed off the respective skills of these two groups. He likes each crew showing off its personality. Jewel says she has not stopped giggling, and compliments the groups for highlighting their commonalities and differences. Ben praises the groups' ability to cram stuff into that performance, saying it was like a video game and lauds "America's first beatbox off." I love you, Ben, but I also invite you to any ICHSA or ICCA competition in which the judges' deliberations run over time.

Elimination time. Vocal Rush, Home Free, and Ten are all safe! How about that--the powers that be and I seem to agree on our top three! The Filharmonic joins them in venturing on this season. It's Voiceplay and The AcoUstiKats headed home. Tough to watch these groups go, though I feel that was probably the right choice at this point.

That's all for this time. Excellent episode tonight, and two more to go. Catch y'all tomorrow!