originally posted by Robert-Jon Eckhart on http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl on November 28th – thanks again RJ, for sharing your Sing-Off experience!
Wow. Wow wow wow! We’re coming to a point in the competition where i’m starting to feel uncomfortable criticizing these groups at all. In 10 weeks, we’ve gone from a mish mash of 16 diverse groups of varying quality to four top-quality a cappella groups each with a distinct personality. Since all performances this week were excellent, I’ll jump straight to the gossip-section!
In short, the internet just blew up over the elimination of Afro-Blue. As I expected, Pentatonix and Urban Method reached the finale without any problems. The final spot had to be battled for by two fundamentally different groups: young, playful, energetic Dartmouth Aires and mature, skilled, jazzy pros Afro-Blue. After a truly impressive and emotionally charged encore by both, the Aires were allowed to stay because of them being way more consistent during the entire season. Which, I think, nobody can deny they were.
If you want my outright opinion, here’s what I think happened: the elitist musician awoke in the viewer, filled with prejudice. Surely, a bunch of guys jumping around and having fun can’t be better at music than a serious group of trained jazz musicians? “Good music starts at being able to keep a stable pitch”, writes an indignant youtube-commenter. Well, I’m sorry I have to break it to ya fella, but you’re wrong. Good music starts at people wanting to hear more of it. This has always been the case and if your education has told you otherwise, I’m afraid you have been fooled.
So the judges have been flooded with outrage about this decision (on their twitter accounts mainly, which they all have) and how they have chosen to deal with it once again confirms why I love this show so much. Both Shawn and Ben have blogged, explaining how and why they made this decision. (As air-time is always tight and doesn’t leave much space for thorough explanation.) Ben’s blog stands out most since he openly admits that Afro-Blue was his personal favorite, and that they might’ve reached the finals if the judges had chosen to critique them differently. One night I even found him generously replying and apologizing to people on twitter who were dazzled by his decision. In today’s TV-landscape, it’s truly exceptional to find a judge with more heart for the music than for the showbiz.
This player will automatically play the encores from both Afro-Blue and the Dartmouth Aires. There has been some discussion online as to why The Sing-Off isn’t scoring well in the ratings. One of the suggestions is the unclear format: are two groups leaving per episode? Or just one? Will they have to do a face-off song or not? I personally would’ve liked some more info on why they are choosing to do the elimination as they do, but kinda liked that it changed a little every week. Kept things exciting.
The second video, of the Dartmouth Aires, shows what is maybe my favorite moment of the entire show: The bassist is supposed to stand up after Michael finishes his long note, but Michael just keeps it going for-fucking-ever. After one false start the bassist just stands up and looks into the camera, appearing to say “Yeah I know. Whatever.”. I love it because this is the reality of making music.
And here some more Aires to show how they ab-so-lute-ly belong in the finals. If the judges would’ve given me the task to perform Shout, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. It has no story-arc or structure whatsoever. But these guys, wow! Who wouldn’t go and see this in theaters?
Let me finish up by posting A change is gonna come by Afro-Blue. Just as a way of saying: I do understand why people are upset they had to go. This might’ve been their best performance of the entire season. This is epic skill time and no-one can deny it.
On the other hand, I must admit this song is just going over my head. It’s good but I don’t like it. Or, as Ben wrote in his blog, it’s a miracle a jazz group has even been able to participate in a mainstream tv-competition for almost the entire season. (And they’re coming back in the finals for a guest-performance as well.)
Let me close on the following note: there’s no such thing as an absolute in music being good. It all will come down to taste eventually. We, as an a cappella community, should be grateful for having a show on television that celebrates the wonder that is music over the cold skill of measuring people’s abilities against set standards. Ben has offered Afro-Blue studio-time in his personal studio and they ultimately will have the same amount of screen-time as the contest winners.
All will be well. See you next week at the big finale.