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Artikel Tagged ‘The Sing-Off’

The Sing-Off 2011 – Live Finale

by Robert-Jon Eckhart, originally posted at http://acappella.robert-jon.nl on December 6, 2011

Oh yeeeaaaaahhhhhhh!!! As I’m writing this, some of the best groups from all seasons are singing their hearts out during the final episode of the season, the live holiday special. (NBC gracefully waited until the Dutch sinterklaas-evening was over to air this. Very nice, NBC.) Me? I’m still happy about last week’s results. Can I just praise myself for a little bit? Do you mind? Well, this is my blog so I’ll do whatever I want and @#$% you if it bothers you!

Here’s what I posted in the second installment of my Sing-Off reporting:

“I’m not posting [Pentatonix'] performance for being flawless, because it wasn’t. In some parts they were sloppy on the timing, which is unforgivable in a clubbing-song. Also, giving four people each their fifteen seconds of fame within a two-minute song made it a little messy and some effects, like the skipping beat, weren’t tight enough to be really effective. No, the reason I’m featuring this video is because when they win The Sing-Off Season 3 in November, you’ll be happy you saw all their performances from the get go.”

I fucking called it bitches!! HA!!!

(Deep breath…) Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get to some sensible writing. During this episode I finally saw so very clearly why Pentatonix is such a deserved winner. First, let me recap the episode for you. The first hour and 45 minutes consisted of a variety of performances. (More on those later.) After that, the first group got eliminated and sang their swan song. It was Urban Method. Sad, but to be expected. They didn’t seem to connect to the home audience at all. After that, we got to see compilation videos of the two remaining groups.

First up were the Dartmouth Aires. So were they consistently great, during the entire season? Yes, absolutely. Would they be able to speak to a mass audience? With Michael as their frontman, certainly. Should they be on Broadway, even while placing second? Yes, probably. But I also felt a sense of accomplishment in the group. They had made a journey and came across as “being there”.

While the Pentatonix video exuded a completely different vibe. What I saw was a beginning. Don’t forget that Avi and Kevin hadn’t met the other guys until a couple hours before their audition. Pentatonix didn’t have their Big Achievement last week. What they did was taking their first steps. What I saw, was the five of them 25 years from now, looking back at this video and saying: “Ah yes, that is how we started.” Meanwhile having transformed the way all of us practice our beloved genre. This was just the rock dropping into the water, the ripples have yet to be felt.

Ok so there was some singing too this episode, a lot actually, but since the voting closed a day before airing, it was for shits ‘n giggles mostly. Also, the sound was a small disaster during this live show. I’d love to hear from somebody on the inside what happened in the studio. All I know is that many off-key notes where heard in living rooms and the volume levels were inconsistent during the entire evening. Was this mistake or is it just this hard to mix a live a cappella show with this many microphones?

What I did enjoy was Nick Lachey performing with Pentatonix. I’ve been enjoying Nick’s lame music-puns through all seasons and I actually really like his voice! While he didn’t have a lot of lines, he did have a big role in setting the tone for the show. This was his moment to shine and I think he was fantastic. Dorky, but fantastic.

This one was great as well. Ben is known for letting his audience sing with him and didn’t disappoint here. (Although I suspect them of practicing this before the show!!) He doesn’t have the most mainstream voice but I thought the song was cool, I loved the big harmonies with the audience and it’s hard to beat Ben in authentic showmanship.

Other than these two, the songs weren’t up to par with the rest of the season. A lot of critics have been criticizing the show, which makes sense since they’re critics so basically that’s what they should do. As a fan though, I though the finale was lovely. I just appreciate how much time was put into it and how many different groups of people we could see performing.

Next week I’ll be talking about the holiday special, as well as doing some looking back at the entire season and looking forward into the possible future. Peace out.

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 10 – Highlights

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.

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 9 – Highlights

by Robert-Jon Eckhart, originally posted at RJ’s blog on November 22nd, 2011 – sorry for the SoJam-related delay ;-)

 

Episode nine! We’re getting close to the end of this series and I love how the advantages of a longer season are starting to show. First off, some people are really finding themselves. (I’m talking about Urban Method’s Katie of course. I mean, wow. That’s transformation on a personal level. After watching this episode I even dreamt about her and me being romantically involved with each other. Wait, I wasn’t gonna share that! Help! Cheese. Buildings. What was I talking about?)

Right. What I really love is how the groups are learning from each other and stealing each others’ tricks. While Vocal Point is usually super-smooth, they involved a very cool skipping beat in ‘Every little step’, which before was exclusive to Pentatonix’ clubbing style. Seeing Mitch (from Pentatonix) obviously loving it in the background made the entire thing even more awesome.

But Pentatonix wasn’t just watching passively how other groups were stealing their moves. They came back strong with a signature Committed-style choral breakdown followed by a little à-la-Nota samba beat in their rendition of ‘OMG’. In ‘Let’s get it on’ Avi even brought some Afro-Blue style bass licks. Just fun stuff all around, noticing these little things really gives the show more depth.

Mehr…

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 6 – Highlights

by Robert-Jon Eckhart, originally posted at RJ’s blog on October 29, 2011 – sorry for the SoJam-related delay ;-)

After last week’s episode, we had half of the contest behind us. In this season, the groups get ten episodes to compete. (There is an eleventh live show dedicated to showing some of the best talent of all seasons.) After five of those ten episodes, eight of the initial sixteen groups remained. And still, I feel like we are only starting out this week.

This is the first week when all groups where introduced at the beginning of the episode. There’s eight groups left, and there are eight boxes in the studio. From now on, no more box-switching. Every time a group leaves, there will be an extra empty box in the studio. There are now few enough groups left to really get to know all of them, and feel the loss when one of them gets eliminated.

Also, for the first time in Sing-Off history there was a sing off in the Sing-Off. (Yeah, this might get confusing.) Basically the two bottom groups get the chance to impress the judges one last time, at the end of the episode. They each sing their own rendition of the same song, while the other group watches and listens from the back of the stage. This is pretty intense, but it works and does provide a great way to compare two groups. After performing back to back, the judges send one group home and the other group gets to stay for another week.

Winners

I’ve been checking myself for being biased towards these guys, but found myself not guilty. Once again, Pentatonix put on an incredible performance. Truth is, I didn’t even like the first minute or so. Then I realized it was because I was truly intimidated by them. Besides being amazing vocalists (in all honesty, we see so many of those) these guys know how to use their brains and put their talents to use. For every song they choose a style and they dedicate themselves to it 100%. All of them. And that’s what makes this group work. I can’t see how they’re not gonna win this show.

Concerning this performance, everyone just went nuts about it. As Sara Bareilles said, they went to the sweet spot and everybody in the audience just went with them. Screw technical perfection, this will be my goal from now on when I’m performing myself.

This week was Hip-Hop week, which was fun ’cause we got to see some groups outside of their standard repertoire. Once again the Dartmouth Aires performed surprisingly well. In some way they seem to consistently avoid the weaknesses that larger college groups tend to have. (Being chaotic, not having a recognizable face in front of them, not being able to convey a message.)

We saw a new face, Henri, coming down with come smooth rap lyrics. He doesn’t have the energy of Urban Method’s rapper Mike by any stretch of the imagination, but his chemistry with Jesus Christ Super Rockstar Michael was great and brought the overall energy level up to par. I also have to applaud them on how they can cram a full song-experience with highs, lows, breakdowns etc. within one minute fifty. These guys know what they’re doing. Good stuff.

Where ma girlz at?

This last video is going to be technically interesting. The all-female group Delilah has had a rough couple of weeks where they ended in the bottom two twice. Mainly because they tried on some musical styles which they just couldn’t handle with female voices only. This week they took a Lil Wayne song (what?) and arranged it beautifully over their powerful voices.

This is a great example of how your brain is your most precious skill in making music. Sure, they have great voices, but they can still suck as a group if they forget to use them properly. Luckily, this week they didn’t forget.

Dude, what else is up?

For those who like hip-hop at its most hip-hoppish, you should really take a look at Urban Method’s rendition of Airplanes. I liked it and they’re a skilled group, but what they lack in comparison to a group like Pentatonix is the ability to exert a certain energy with the entire group. Mike is super intense, then come the lead girls and the others aren’t really that memorable energy-wise. Still a recommended watch though.

Another great example of brains over belts was the battle at the end of the show, where The Collective and the Yellow Jackets sang different renditions of the same song. Watch it here. The Collective is the only group I have been really critical about. At this time I must admit they really tried and took the judges commentary to heart. But at the end of the day (or rather, at the end of episode 6) they still didn’t perform with a group-mentality, and as such I think this was a good moment for them to leave.

further reading

At this time, only a quite personal blog by Shawn Stockman. Recommended.

Robert-Jon Eckhart is Vocal Blog’s Sing-off correspondent and blogs at http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl. He is one of these guys who ought to wear the new aca-nerd shirt collection to be seen at www.facebook.com/acappellazone. Thanks so much for your Sing-Off rants – from the European perspective. By the way, if you want to have the US perspective, go to www.5thjudge.com by Warren Bloom. And if you are from Germany (a tiny country in the middle of Europe under the totalitarian copyright rule of www.gema.de), don’t waste time getting upset over not being able to see all these shiny Sing-Off videos. My advice: Travel to one of the www.casa.org festivals in Raleigh, L.A., Boston or New York and see the best of US collegiate a cappella live. I’ve been to SoJam A Cappella Festival 2011 lately: It’s really, really, really worth the trip! ^FSt

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 5: Highlights

26. Oktober 2011 1 Kommentar

by our Sing-off correspondent, Robert-Jon “I-adore-Sara-B” Eckhardt (originally posted at http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl on October 23rd, 2011)

Hey guys! I hate to get all fanboyish up your ass but oh my god did you see that Pentatonix performance? Remember how four episodes ago I wrote that I knew that they could pull off crazy sound effects and skipping beats perfectly? Well, this week’s your proof.

These guys are doing everything right. First off their song choice “Video killed the radio star” was perfect for the Guilty Pleasure theme of the night. I love the silly moves, the 80′s synths and al the crazy sound effects throughout the song. Also, great choice to bring in Mitch for the bridge. He and Scott have distinctly different sounds which makes the entire thing even more interesting. They could’ve done this for 3:30 minutes easily without getting boring.

After broadcasting, the song quickly rose to #160 in the iTunes top 200 charts, which is quite an accomplishment for a two minute live recording. Well deserved.

Next up is Urban Method. They really shine in being the only group with an effective theatrical presentation. What I mean by that is that they take their choreographies beyond just doing dance moves, and actually create a scene on stage with recognizable personas. In this case, Troy has obviously fallen victim to the sultry moves of the three ladies at the center of the stage, while his friend Mike is trying to save him from taking their poison. (Never trust a big butt and a smile!)

Also, I have a soft spot for 80′s rap and dance moves. How I wish I was born 30 years earlier.

And then there’s Vocal Point. They don’t have as many tricks up their sleeves as the previous two groups, but they more than make up for it with plain skill. Two weeks ago they went all classy and jazzy, but this week they pulled off the high-energy “Footloose” just as easily. There aren’t that many groups that can hold up this beat and energy this consistently throughout a song.

The group has quite a few very skilled tenors amongst them. Just listen to the confidence and power in the ending chord, or the high climax around the 1:20 mark. What I wouldn’t give to be able to belt it out like that!

further reading

There has been quite some talking about the elimination of Sonos last week. Debating anything from their skills as singers to the relevance of the show itself. I’ve seen many interviews by Chris Harrison appear, explaining both the group’s and the show’s decisions. I can recommend these to on Digital Spy and Sin3g, the latter one actually being a personal response to a blogpost on Sin3g, rather than a formal interview.

After that, don’t forget to read Shawn’s blog. Ben’s episode 4 blog is online but through some faults in the website, you can’t read it. Again. (Get your stuff together NBC website-folks!) Luckily his episode 5 blog is available here. If you still have time left after that, know that all groups are blogging on the NBC website.

See you next week!