The Sing Off Season 4 Episode 4 Recap

Before we get into Episode 4, let me point out a few things. First, as I mentioned, I have a lot going on at work and at home, which is why my posts are shorter than usual. Second, there are a bunch of good other recaps out there which you should check out, including

Warren Bloom at 5th Judge: http://www.5thjudge.com/

Mike Chin over at the AcappellaBlog: http://acappellablog.com/tv

Jodi Walker at Entertainment Weekly at Popwatch: http://popwatch.ew.com/

Brian Mangan: http://thereadzone.com/tag/brian-mangan/

Many/most of these are more detailed or perhaps just less harried than my own recaps, so I encourage you to check them all out.  Now- on with the show!

The theme of this show is “My Generation,” and I’m excited because the competitors include 3 groups that I perceive to be very competitive (VoicePlay, Home Free, Vocal Rush).

The intro is immediately better than the last group number, a much fuller sound and I particularly like the guitar flange in “We Will Rock You” and the expanding backs there right before it transitions into “It’s Time.,” which has some nice layering as well. I think that was one of the best opening numbers, in terms of effective transitions between songs and also within the individual songs. Bravo to Messrs. Sharon, Bram, Dietz, and Girard.

Home Free kicks things off with “Ring of Fire,” a good tune but hardly one that I would consider to be pivotal to a particular generation. The group continues to keep their intro packages entertaining and funny, which is smart and helps set the table for the listener.  The slow intro is fine, the chords are pretty stark and simple, the lead almost sags but he gets some air into it and pulls it together. The bass (Tim) is really solid on those low notes, and then the perc kicks in and the shuffle loses me a little bit. Nice job giving the bass the solo on this one, it’s a good vehicle for his voice and it makes sense considering Johnny Cash’s baritone voice.

LOVE that “high” on the crunchy chord, one of the best moments this season, and then the bass ends on a ridiculously low note (low G? somewhere around there?). A fun, professional performance.

Next up is another professional, fun group- VoicePlay. The package is another example of them talking about how they are trying something different, which makes me nervous. I think the winner’s gotta be a group that doesn’t view things that way, just goes out and does its thing, regardless of the song’s relationship to the group’s comfort zone. The intro perc is reminiscent (derivative? Rip-off?) of Rockapella’s version of Ellie My Love, but 99% of the audience won’t know or care. I don’t really care either. The drum beat is totally different once it actually comes in, and it’s got a nice groove to it. Incidentally, I hear this song approximately 6.3 million times on the radio and MTV in my teenage years and I still dig it. The arrangement has a couple of interesting wrinkles (“who we are”) and I particularly like Eli’s solo run. It’s a solid cover, has a nice groove, I think a few of the harmonies were a hair off but it’s still really, really good. 

So, now it’s time for Element, who I like but I have my concerns about their safety. Frankly, I think they are the weakest of the 4 groups tonight, so they’re gonna have to really impress to avoid elimination. (nice bumper/bed of The House Jacks’ “Red Dress” under the Element package- love that song). The intro of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” is nice, but once the beat kicks in, things are just not settling in right. The group is rushing a bit, and the tonal center is just moving around too much for me to feel comfortable with the sound. The modulation works, the perc is nice right there, but then things sag (pitchwise) afterwards. I maintain that there’s unrealized potential with this group, but I don’t see how they survive unless Vocal Rush really cllapses.

Vocal Rush has been assigned an ’80’s tune, “Holding Out For a Hero,” and I like their focus on high hair- my memory banks are overloading right now. Frankly, I think the group is too smart to be thrown off just because a song was released before they were born. I just don’t see it being an issue.

They start nice and sultry, which worked for them in Episode 1. I love the fullness of their sound throughout the verse, but things thin out too much at the chorus. Of course they have tons of energy and are fun to watch, the rap works just fine, they lose things a little bit at the second chorus also. I think it’s a solid performance, very much consistent with their prior ones, I just didn’t love the texture of the arrangement at the choruses. I think they might be bottom two, but doubt they’re leaving tonight.

Ok, bottom two are Element and Vocal Rush, which sounds about right to me. Curious to see how the battle works out with a song (Destiny’s Child) that might favor the ladies of Element.

Nope, I was wrong. As with Episode 3, you just hear a big difference in texture when the groups trade off. Element still haven’t figured out how to get a full and rich sound, even though they only have 2 less guys than Vocal Rush. Once again, I have to admit that I really enjoy these battles and am very impressed with how much the groups much have rehearsed these farewell songs in order for them to do this somewhat seamless battle with interchanging parts.

Vocal Rush (I keep typing “kids” and then decide they deserve the respect to avoid such a moniker; but they are adorable and I have to admit I really love what they’re doing on the show). I do like the percussion from Element on this battle, nice job Rachel Chaloub with the buzzy beat, but the overall effect from Vocal Rush is just on a different level. Honestly, if they weren’t a group of high school kids, I would think they have a legitimate chance to win it all. Energy, charisma, talent, and musical intelligence- they have the full package.

We shall see. So long to Element, who may well go on to do other great things if they can stay together after this experience.

What did you all think? Looking forward to another full 2-hr show for episode 5.

What do you think?