Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Round 3 of the Sing-Off Rocks!

On the Rocks from Oregon rocked the house Monday

Once again, all of the six remaining groups competing on the Sing-Off, an a capella music competition airing on NBC this December, came prepared to impress and I was blown away by all of their stellar performances. On Monday’s episode, each group performed twice: first, a rock song; second, a “guilty pleasure.” The result was a mixture of twelve performances ranging from dark to cheerful, and sexy to silly.

I almost didn’t post any reviews today, because all of the groups did such a wonderful job. Any negative comments are nit picky, so I’m labeling them as such, not to detract from multiple congratulations and kudos all around.

If anything, the judges were in rare form this episode, and I wish I’d written faster and been able to write down all of their extremely colorful comments.

The Backbeats

Rock choice: You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi
The Backbeats opened the show with their rendition of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name,” excelling in vocal prowess. Their well orchestrated mix of backup vocals blended richly into the background and lifted up their lead singer without overpowering her. My friend Geoff, who watched with me was also impressed that the percussion vocalists emulated snare reverb, a hallmark of ‘80s music. The judges thought the song was too fast, but both Geoff and I disagreed.

Backbeats performance of You Give Love a Bad Name
Judges review of their performance

Guilty Pleasure choice: Love Shack by the B52’s
For their “guilty pleasure,” the Backbeats chose “Love Shack” by the B-52s. I was thrilled to see the girls dressed in Go-Go dresses and the guys dressed in fun multi-colored casuals. All of the singers, especially the lead, did a wonderful job sing-acting their campy roles. It was a fun and very entertaining performance.

My nit picky criticism: It is difficult to take a well known song such as Love Shack and perform it in a way which is acceptable to the audience. If you cannot mimic it exactly, you should make it your own. Most of the Backbeat’s version of the song was mimicry, which can be a great thing, but the lead’s range was not as low as perhaps necessary to mimic that of B52’s male lead vocalist, Fred Schneider. Perhaps if they had arranged the rest of the song so that it was even more of a departure from the original, I would not have felt that something was missing and would have enjoyed the differences instead of noticing them.

Backbeats performance of Love Shack

Street Corner Symphony

Rock choice: Creep by Radio Head
I never imagined that a cappella could sound “dark,” but Street Corner Symphony managed to pull it off in their rendition of Creep by Radio Head. The vocals were phenomenal at the start of the song, with the lead singing his heart out, and the backups gently oscillating throughout the background. Their version was more eerily disturbing and moving than the original, making it one of my favorite performances of the night.

My nit picky criticism: The chi-ching at the beginning of the chorus was too loud. During some moments in the chorus, it seemed that everyone except the percussionists hit the same vocal range, failing to round out the vocal backdrop.

Street Corner Symphony’s performance of Creep
Judges review of their performance

Guilty Pleasure choice: Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Street Corner Symphony’s second performance, “Come On Eileen,” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners was amazingly fun and wacky with wild choreography and a clever vocal arrangement. Once they reached the chorus, the song really rocked. I laughed as they dosey doed around the stage while still managing to sing perfectly matched harmonies. Judge Shawn Stockman echoed my thoughts: The great thing is you guys weren’t afraid to be silly.

Street Corner Symphony’s performance of Come On Eileen

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town

Rock choice: Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones
The smooth opening notes of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones melted my heart as Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town made the song sound hot and sexy. The old loose and relaxed, soulful choreography where the singers line up behind the lead was the icing on the cake. I loved the way they surprised us with loud stomps during the “Oh No No No,” portion, something which seems lost on the ‘small screen’ when replayed on the internet. Judge Ben Folds made us all laugh when he said the song reminded him of sitting on the floor as a kid, listening to an old Otis Redding live recording, “In Person at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go.” Ben said he would point the speaker down into the floor so that the sound vibrations would shake his butt. (That image is now forever burned into my brain.)

Jerry Lawson’s performance of Satisfaction
Judges review of their performance of Satisfaction

Guilty Pleasure choice: Easy by the Commodores
Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town’s second performance was “Easy,” by the Commodores, which once again showcased their incredible wide range of vocals.

My nit picky criticism: The song seemed to move too fast for me and my guess was that this was due to the time constraints of being required to perform their entire piece within a set amount of time. It was not the “smooth,” I’d become accustomed to.

Jerry Lawson’s performance of Easy

On the Rocks

Rock choice: Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard
Determined to make it to the finals against all odds, On the Rocks, the largest member group remaining, performed a dynamic arrangement of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard. Their instrumentation was absolutely perfect and their vocally synthesized electric guitars were real “wow” moments. They were very tight, despite being such a large group. This is not one of my favorite songs, but they made it cute.

On the Rocks performance of Pour Some Sugar On Me

Guilty Pleasure choice: Kyrie by Mister Mister
On the Rocks’ rendition of Kyrie, by Mister Mister, was another “wow” moment. I was so impressed with how the backup vocalists did not overwhelm the lead – they performed at absolutely perfect levels, and their vocal swells melded together in range like the colors in a rainbow. The lead vocalist, Peter, was incredible and in my opinion, has a shot at being a soloist. It was one of my favorite performances of the night. Judge Shawn Stockman echoed my thoughts, saying “If I can be cheesy for a second, it felt like I sprouted wings, and I just jumped off the Grand Canyon and just flew away and looked at rivers and deer and birds and other birds, and I was saying: Hi.”

On the Rocks performance of Kyrie
Judges review of their performance of Kyrie

Groove for Thought

Rock choice: Changes by David Bowie
Amanda, the youngest member of Groove For Thought, showed off her vocal prowess by singing lead in their rendition of "Changes" by David Bowie. She started off the song in a lilting airy tone, then as the backup singers joined in, the song soared into honey sweet.

My nit picky criticism: Amanda’s vocal mic was turned down too low and I feel it threw her off a bit. At first, I thought the backup female vocal was a bit off key, but my friend Geoff pointed out that the discordant notes are an intentional jazz style. Whatever it was, I felt it didn’t work for this particular song while it has fit well into their other song selections in the past.

Groove for Thought’s performance of Changes
Judges review of their performance of Changes

Guilty Pleasure choice: You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates
Hall and Oates are not one of my favorite bands, and “You Make My Dreams Come True” is probably my least favorite hit of theirs. However, Groove for Thought’s dynamic arrangement actually made the song sound very cool. The simulated horns were rocking. The doo waps, multiple leads, and dance moves were sure to please. It was such a joyful and pleasant rendition, I played it over and over again, making it one of my favorites of the night.

Sadly, Groove for Thought was eliminated. My guess is that we have not heard the last from them, especially Amanda, who will only get better as her voice ages into a more mature and stronger soulful tone.

Groove for Thought’s performance of You Make My Dreams Come True


Rock choice: Every Breath You Take by the Police
I had to laugh when I heard Committed perform this song, because it was clear that they, along with millions of other fans, do not get the meaning of this song. “Every Breath You Take” by the Police is actually sung in the voice of a stalker who tells his victim he is watching her every move. Despite that, hundreds of happy couples request to have this song sung at their wedding.

At first, the percussion seemed too loud and the song too fast, but once they settled into their groove, it worked, and I realized that Committed was doing what all teenage-to-twenty year olds do, which is that they were creating a more contemporary upbeat rendition, something that would be popular among their peers. At the end, they launched into a remnant of a Seal song, and that made it interesting.

My nit picky criticism: I would have enjoyed a more dynamic vocal arrangement.

Committed’s performance of Every Breath You Take
Judges review of their performance of Every Breath You Take

Guilty Pleasure choice: I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys
Committed’s performance of “I Want It That Way” by the Back Street Boys was perhaps the most harmonious performance of the episode, and seemed to improve on the original. It was absolute perfection in range, arrangement, percussion emulation, and vocal execution. I forgot there were no real instruments, which made it seem even more spectacular.

Committed’s performance of I Want It That Way

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