The Sing Off Season 4 Episode 2 recap

Having kids is fun…except when you want to live-tweet The Sing Off.  No worries, I am sitting down to write this about a half hour in and catching up from the beginning on the DVR.

Before I begin, I want to direct you to Randi Stanley’s excellent cold-water realizations about The Sing Off right here.

The most important point is that we need to remember that a record label/television studio is picking the winner, and the winner has to be able to tour and generate money. So, high school and college groups are never going to win. I know I pushed Vocal Rush in the first post, and I think they can go pretty far, but they will not win.

Ok, so tonight’s theme is party anthems (“BYO Pitchpipes”), and the evening begins with a medley of applicable music, including the staple “Let’s Get it Started,” “Like We’re Gonna Die Young,” and “Don’t Stop the Music.” Another nice, high energy opener, nice solos from Honey (VoicePlay), the dude from Filharmonic, and Emoni from Ten. Fun medley, the parts were (as usual) assigned with care and precision.

Vocal Rush started the season off strong; let’s see how they handle the song “Gonna Make You Sweat,” bringing me way back to my elementary school days with C&C Music Factory. Holy cow I’m old. These kids weren’t around back then. It’s good that they identify the importance of the contrast from the darker, more mature “Bottom of the River” on episode 1.

As expected, they start with a lot of energy. I don’t feel like they are as polished musically this time. The moves are fine, Sarah Vela can really wail, the VP is pretty good, but the group is rushing. Correction- they’re pushing and pulling; the rhythm is most definitely taking control, but not in a good way. The breakdown is pretty cool, almost redeeming them, but then it becomes a jumble again. At times, it almost feels like the bass is headed off into a different style with the line, maybe a Latin style, and that’s not good.

Ben was totally right, though, that they have the potential to get the backbeat working and also that they have a nice spread considering the instrumentation (lots of female singers, only 2 guys, one of whom is on bass).

Here comes Home Free, who promise to “stand up in their boots and really give it to” us.  Interesting. “My hips lie, they don’t tell the truth”- love it. They acknowledge the movement is a weakness, but make light of it. Have we heard “Life is a Highway” on the show before?

Nice groove from the rhythm section, good energy in the sound even more so than the visuals; not a big fan of the bass solo in every song, so I hope that stops at some point. Transitions were good, it got a little weird close to the end, but I still think they are quite good. The bass, on the actual basslines, is smooth and fairly precise. I liked the way they started bare (bass/VP/solo) and built the sound. I’m still buying stock on Home Free.

VoicePlay is back, and I’m looking to see if they learned from episode one and have figured out how to arrange for the new configuration or just make things lock better with it. They’re off to a nice start with the heads and the rhythm from the backs on “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” THIS is what I was looking for from these guys. They are rushing it a tad, but damn can they sing, especially Honey.  The breakdown is a direct ripoff from PTX, but it doesn’t bother me. The biggest thing is that their sound is really full, particularly coming after the quintet. Ben calls it a “mean” performance, and I agree.  As I said in the first post, I think they have a real shot at winning this thing and tonight was a good comeback.

Next up, the producers (via Nick) make an appeal to the boomer (and older) generation by reminding us that “age is just a number.” Street Corner Renaissance is here to keep that demographic interested, and just like Jerry Lawson and North Shore, they are quite good at their style. It’s cute having the Vocal Rush VP working with one of them, but really just unnecessary. SCR does their thing well, and they should just own it. They were fine, I don’t really have much to say except I think they’re probably gone either this episode or the next.

The ladies of Element are performing “Raise Your Glass,” and they have some energy in the sound, though it’s a little empty at times in the backs. The bass is great yet again, but the perc is rushing just a bit. The breakdown is fun. The dual solo is a little perplexing, I wouldn’t have gone that route, particularly where it didn’t feel entirely comfortable in their ranges. The blend is settling in, as Ben said, and I think they improved from episode 1.

The ‘Kats have the male group energy thing down with high kicks and so on, but I can say this from my own experience in one of my college groups- it’s dangerous having a lead with a lot of classical training and a tendency to turn on the vibrato. The guys are rushing a bit, the solo is pushing out of the pop realm, but the modulation hits fairly well. Ron recovers towards the end, so I don’t think they’re going home yet. Overall, it was solid but I don’t see that level taking them all the way through the competition.

Calle Sol starts off strong with a slow intro to “Livin’ La Vida Loca” that I really like, but then once they kick into the rhythmic section things start to fall apart, there are some holes in the sound (arrangement?) and the tempo is all over the place. I don’t think the problem is the singing and dancing together (as Shawn said), I think the sound was just empty.

Ten is gonna cover “Hot in Herre,” which is a fun tune and I’m really hoping they kick things into another gear. There’s definitely some nice color chords in the backs, the horn parts are funky, I don’t particularly love the breakdown but it’s a stylistic choice more than anything. I do particularly love the guitar parts about a minute into the song, and they end strong. It’s interesting, they’re all professional background singers but I don’t feel like they are comfortable singing as a backing “band” (like Ben calls them) quite yet. I maintain they have a ton of potential, and the soloist (Emoni) is great. It was much better than last episode, and I’m just hoping they continue to build on it.

Filharmonic is closing things out with “This is How We Do It,” an oft-covered song since I was in college. They clearly have a ton of energy, but things are a little empty and then they start a cascade and things pick up in the backs. These guys are tight, they are smart, and when they aim for the fences, they knock it out of the park. The solo didn’t really bother me (pitchwise) as much as it apparently bothered Shawn, but I stand by my prediction that they are headed deep into this competition.

I would probably say Calle Sol and either Street Corner Renaissance or the ‘Kats are in the bottom two, but it could be Element. Then again, I thought VoicePlay was safe last time…

And, I was partly correct. Calle Sol is battling for their lives, and so are the ‘Kats. I think I like this “Ultimate Sing Off” thing.

For Nick’s sake, I hope Calle Sol goes because he really struggles with the Hispanic group names. (that’s a joke, but not really).

For my sake, I think Calle Sol is probably the weaker group and I really don’t see the last male college group going yet- that genre has always gone deep because of the broad appeal.

When the ‘Kats get their turn in the battle, they make it clear that they’ve still got something to contribute and a deeper, bigger sound (obviously). Look a small group is almost always gonna be at a disadvantage against a big group in a situation like this, unless the smaller group has such smart, effective arranging that they make you forget about size with their power or unique harmonies. Calle Sol just didn’t do it here, so I think the ‘Kats move on.

Well, it’s always too bad when a group has to go, but I think Calle Sol (like the Footnotes in episode 1) were the weakest group tonight (except perhaps SCR). So far, I’m surprised that the show has been fairly accurate in removing the weakest group.

There seemed to be some good progress with a few groups, most notably VoicePlay, Ten, and Element, and I think Vocal Rush and Home Free continued to prove their worth.

What did you all think?

What do you think?