The Sing-Off 2011 Episode 4: Radio Hits & 60s Classics, Part II

Sing! Sing! Sing!

Hello, I am Zin!

First: I found an interesting interview with one of the producers of the show, on an a capella site! It seems like it was done just before this episode.

And again we have the second bracket of six groups who will perform two songs each, just like the first bracket did last week!

They sings a very happy early-60s opening number with pastel colors and flowers and rainbows, “Rhythm of Love” by Plain White T. I have never heard it before (I had to look it up to figure out it was not by Play My Teat) and it is a little overly Andy Williams (if anyone remembers the Andy Williams show from the 60s). What I noticed most is that the beautiful girl from The Collective, Ruby, whose voice annoyed me so much last time, did not annoy me so much this time. But she did not get as much solo time. Or maybe they tweaked her in the mix. Or maybe I am just used to her now.

Nick announces Ben Folds has a brand new 3-cd retrospective album out (“The Best Imitation of Myself”). I do not usually cooperate with reality TV attempts to pimp goods, but I will make an exception for Ben Folds. I only have two of his songs myself, “Brick” and “Mr. Jones, Part II.” His genius is his work with up and coming artists, and with playing with music, and that is why this show is such a good place for him. But I do not know if that work will be on the album.

And by the way, Ben does a blog entry at the Sing-Off website! It seems to take a day or two to post, but it is worth the wait!

Deltones – They do “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga. Cortney, who has the lead for this number, has a cold (several of them are sick) so she is worried. Their intro, the drones and instrumental, is wonderful! Cortney sounds ok, her voice is pretty muted in lower registers but that may just be her voice. The performance is kind of lackluster. The choreography is very static, like they did not practice it at all because they were sick.
Shawn – great job, really solid; he was concerned because it is a powerful song and he knew Cortney was sick, but she did her job. Lou kept the drive moving, it was a solid performance.
Sara – Cortney killed the lead, but her main note is the physicality, it felt static (I swear I typed that in my notes before Sara spoke), as if they had lots of nerves, they need to shake it off and sing, really come across.
Ben – to him it took on country thing. He doesn’t know country music, would that make it the “outskirts of glory” (oooh, bad joke) It was a little weak at the start, and he was worried about the top, but it was solid.
They’re in trouble.

Pentatonix – “Your Love is My Drug” by Kesha. They say they are doing an arrangement completely different from the original, using voices for effects, to seem like a computer. That is interesting, for decades the music industry tried to take the machine quality out of voices and now we are at the point where we are putting it back! It is like what someone said about molecular gastronomy: “I spent years learning to cook by taking the chemicals out of my food and now it’s all about putting chemicals in the food.
Great percussion. Great effects. Lots of energy. I do not care for the song (I never heard it before) but I think they were terrific.
Ben – from the bridge out was killer, it was what they are really strong at. It was a risky arrangement and the decision to apply a melody to the top did not quite work. He applauds the risk they took with that, but where they are really strong is when they are freaking out, that is the future of music.
Shawn – found their niche, techno-groove, futuristic; Scott has a gift and curse: Kesha sing-talks, because Scott sings so well, he has to know when to not sing, but to have fun. Mitch, great voice, yin to yang Scott had, beautiful treble, a pleasant, sweet voice.
Sara, signature sound, Kevin and Avi are great with bass and drums. Interesting choice to come at it from a gentle perspective, Kesha is not gentle, but good job.

The Collective – They will do “Rocketeer” by Far East Movement. Rachel, the lead, has laryngitis. She does a very good interview on beliefnet.com about the show – there are musicians who help with the arrangements). They do much better than last week. Ruby, the girl whose voice I did not like, is not lead.
Sara – Rachel, powered through not feeling well. Voice has character and texture, transcends anything, great lead. Ruby, loves her style, a sleek comfy way about her, sets the tone. Jazzy approach to upbeat pop song. They lost the groove of the pocket once in a while and the bass got a little pitchy [oh no! Do not use that word! Evil word!] but they are honing in on a good sound.
Ben – Rachel pulled it off, blend is getting better. Open up a little more into the chest voice rather than focusing voice in the mask. [I love it when Ben talks like a voice teacher]
Shawn – the rhythm got lost once in a while but overall held it down. More cohesive, doing well, good job.

North Shore – They are stepping outside comfort zone. None of them listen to radio – hey me too! They never heard of Bruno Mars. Their biggest challenge is to do something new:”The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars.
Guy does a whistle in between his lead, which is incredibly hard, it requires reworking all the mouth muscles very quickly! I can not believe he does that over and over! The duet got a bit wonky at end. But it made me smile. Low key choreography but that’s what the song is, about laziness!
Sara – adorable. Great version. Fun to watch.
Shawn – His main concern was, can they make the song their own? They owned the song. Tommy held down bass. Guy, joy to watch, lead. He noticed the whistle too.
Ben – the groove in the lead vocal was awesome, Guy put the whistle in where most mere mortals would have to breathe, he just kept whistling. Can not find anything wrong with that performance.

Dartmouth Aires – Michael had to go home to be with mom who had stroke, so he missed rehearsals. Brendon will do lead. They do “Animal” by Neon Trees.
Note to Kara Saun or whoever is doing the wardrobe this season: Rethink plaid pants, especially those plaid pants, do not let singers squat in those pants. The chorus is overpowering the lead. But not bad at all, just needed more lead.
Shawn – did you draw straws on who wore pants and jackets? Youth, energy; Brendon, good job, energetic, lot of running, hard to hold a lead when running. Great performance.
Ben – Energy was over the top. Brendan, told story with his eyes. Bass was tight. Energy great, sounded pop, really good.
Sara – awesome. Energy, excitement, cohesive; Brendon was fantastic. Great upper register, verse might be a little low for voice, needed more power.

Sonos – They are worried because they have not yet learned how to be Sonos in this contest without their effects pedals. On this arrangement the bass is doing lead, so they do not have a bass and they do not have an octave pedal, so one of the women will do the bass. “Viva la Vita” by Coldplay.
Nice opening. Different voices are too loud at various times, blend is not good. I like the lead, very gentle.
Ben – big improvement, great. Arrangement was smart, used everything you had. When one male is drum and one is lead, that leaves the girls to tackle a wide range.
Sara- They exposed what they can be, going for it, stretched. Great fit vocally, wobbly at the start, got stronger. Moments when a voice is missing. Did as much as possible without voices they do not have.
Shawn – Ben, great drums. Concerned about three part girls, can sound tinny, but this sounded beautiful, pitchy parts, relied on strengths, great job.
I think they’re in trouble.

Sixties round:

Nick Lachey says he borrowed his suit from “The Playboy Club” – they probably should have cut that since that show has been cancelled and they now lead in to “Prime Suspect.”

Different singers talk about doing 60s songs. One says they did not have digital technology so they relied on voices. That makes me laugh! Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Janis, they all freaked the world out with what they had in the 60s because they were musicians! One group has never done a 60s song – shame on them! This is hilarious to those of us who remember that Elvis was once the devil!

Pentatonix – a jazz version of “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin.
This was painful! It is somewhere in the Bible, I think: thou shalt not mess with Janis. But they do. At one point the percussionist is doing Bronx cheers into the mic. But the horn is cool! Overall, it sounds like the Andy Williams version!
Shawn – he would never have thought to arrange song that way, give it up for Kevin on the flugel horn. Loved the reggae feel. [I did not recognize it as reggae so much as jazz, but since he said that, I very much want to hear a real reggae-calypso version! I am obsessed with this!]
Sara – great, did not expect the arrangement, it was a smart choice, “you made it your own” [NO-NO-NO they have to stop using these AI-isms!]. Kevin on trumpet or flugel horn killed it. Great blend, missing powerhouse of other arrangement, but great to know they are versatile. [I disagree – if they were versatile they would have done it for real, this was what they had to do because they could not do anything else]
Ben – his favorite groups take risks, they nailed it. Sometimes they want to rush, could have slowed down on come ons, waited to give downbeat; Avi did great bass. Did not stay precious to 60s version and it won for them that time. [I respectfully disagree, but I also wonder if I am being rigid. Still, there are some things that are sacred. I think I might go for a true reggae version, but it would have to be great, and this was not.]

Deltones – “Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes. The lead started weak. And again, sometimes a random background voice stands out. Lead does not have real power. Hated the ending.
Sara – Applaud for moving and shaking, Jessica has sass. Walter gave a wink. Pitch issues that come and go, some refinement that’s going to keep coming, enjoyable, very attractive group.
Ben – he is amazed so many good singers can go to one school. There were times when it fell apart, that comes with experience [and one of the problems with a college group is that they change frequently so experience is not really something they will get]. Their biggest challenge is to convince the judges they are the ones to make a record. But they are making everyone smile and are great singers.
Shawn – he was listening for the funky bass line. Great job, Avi. Jessica, beautiful lead, sassy, played with it. Great face, could have used more mid range, that is why it was pitchy [STOP THAT!]. Love outfits. [Very yellow]
Very in trouble, I think.

North Shore – “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers. I wish they would stop wearing bowling shirts.
Guy really goes for the high note but he is not totally in charge of the song throughout. He goes into falsetto at end, that works.
Ben – the original version is so emotional it is hard to live up to if you do a literal version. Some pitch issues for first time with them.
Shawn – Guy on lead is like silk. Some pitch problems, lost where they were, maybe because girls in the audience were screaming so loud. Guy on high note, dipped back, knew what he was doing, delivering the song how it should be delivered. Enjoyed it.
Sara – great performance, loved Guy as lead, he is a killer front man. She wishes she could hear Guy interpret it as if he had never heard it before. But stellar.

The Collective – “Hold On I’m Comin’” by Sam and Dave Ruby does duet as lead, it works ok, except for her last note, a very high note which sounds awful to me. One of the men does a fantastic held high note. But overall, no.
Ben waiting through first half for chorus, then it worked. Caleb at end, did great falsetto, end was a celebration, should have started with celebration then taken off into outer space. They have it in them but have to get to it in the beginning.
Shawn – Loves Ruby for her throwback style. They only have two and a half minutes, so they have to take us to church fast. Overall good performance. Wish it had more.
Sara – she is a big Ruby fan as well. Fun to see Isaac Step up as duet. Kicked up from second chorus out. They seem comfy on stage. We believe you, that you love what you do.
In trouble.

Sonos – “I want you back” by Jackson Five. Percussion is too loud. I love the additive at end. Odd, I do not think it worked. I think they are limited by their own genre. I do not understand why, if they have a career with the effects pedals, they would audition for this competition.
Ben – the reharmonization was interesting, not sure it was effective as a song. They were throwing everything they have got at it but not engaged in song. Pretty soon they will have to do a performance that does not make them worry.
Shawn – the danger of covering a classic is that it is a classic. He is not sure he would have done a totally different rendition. A little too ambitious.
Sara She sang in college with one of the members, and she liked the wardrobe updates [very red]. She liked that they switched the arrangement completely. But it would have been nice if that was a segment or at least they gave a throwback to the classic version. She wanted to hear Rachel pleading, it felt a little too comfy, different key maybe.

Dartmouth Aires – “Pinball Wizard” by The Who. I love the bass intro! I love the lead! Messed up pitch at very beginning of “How do you think he does it”. The human pinball machine was, well, silly. Like the finger-crown. I did not like the end, it had potential but did not quite work, seemed like “ok we have to do an ending everyone stand and sing chords.”
Sara – Awesome. Loved arrangement, lots of voices, wrangle them all really well. I-laughed-I-cried-it-was-better-than-cats.
Ben – Pete Townsend would be happy with that. Ending was silly, he loves silly like that, took it up to eleven. Transitions were great. Occasional pitch issues, pretty well matched. Fantastic energy, lead vocal inspiring, all good.
Shawn – Mike, the lead, is a rock star. He has his shirt open showing his chest and pectoral muscles, spitting, when you are singing and spit comes out that is when you know you are going for broke. Some pitch problems in arpeggio department, but ding dings, they are hard to nail. Fun, great energy , loved it.

Deliberations!

My Summary and speculation:

Deltones – Lady Gaga, in trouble; Can’t Hurry Love, very in trouble. In big trouble.
Pentatonix – Your Love is my Drug, ok. Piece of my Heart, weird but judges liked it. Safe.
The Collective – “Rocketeer” was ok. “Hold On I’m Coming” not good. Probably safe.
North Shore – “Lazy Song” very good. “Unchained Melody,” very good. Limited but Safe.
Dartmouth Aires – “Animal,” good. “Pinball Wizard,” very good, excellent in parts. Safe.
Sonos – “Viva la Vita,” in trouble. “I Want You Back,” jazz arrangement, in trouble. In big trouble.

I am guessing either Deltones or Sonos. I think Sonos is more likely to improve in the short time of this competition, but they are also more likely to go back to what they know as soon as competition is over.

And the judges pick:

North Shore and Dartmouth Aires are safe.
Pentatonix and Deltones are safe. I am surprised. Interesting.
Sonos and The Collective are bottom two – it has to be Sonos.

And it is. Sonos is out.

Their swan song, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye To Yesterday” by Boyz 2 Men is really really bad. What a shame, it is so hard to sing when you are feeling emotional, and with only five people, it is hard to disguise it like you can in a larger group. I think they are probably a very interesting group when they do their thing and they have their equipment. I hope they got some exposure from this. You can go to their Myspace website and wish good luck to them! And I think they have music available, the music they usually do, so you can hear them at their best! ETA: I just found an interview with them and they explain a little more about the pedals, and they also explain that they originally auditioned with the pedals and were told it would be ok to use them, but that was changed as the process went on.

Next week, all ten groups will perform (yay!) guilty pleasures from the 80s and 90s.

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