Hello, I am Zin, and I am sad this season is almost over! I have to say that tonight I forgot to feed my cat at 9:30 pm, I was so involved in the show! That is pretty rare! (My cat needs medications with her evening food so it is a little more involved than just throwing kibble in a bowl).
Tonight they will do two songs: a mashup and a judges choice.
They do a group mashup of Gwen Stefani, Kati Perry, and The Who (Teenage Wasteland; I do not know the other songs because I am an old fart!).
Pentatonix – Ceelo “Forget You” and Kelly Clarkson “Since You’ve Been Gone” – Kirstie says they are having trouble jumping from song to song.
Me: Great percussion! Not my favorite performance of theirs, but they are so good, it worked anyway!
Ben: seamless, non-sequiturs were entertaining. Again with the rhythm section. They are like a tight touring band that has been doing it for years. They always have a trick. They were out of tune at one point, for the first time in the series.
Sara: Sher loved that they were telling a story with motion on stage.
Shawn: Did not do the usual breakdowns and still enjoyed it. Fluid. Avi and Kevin are now named Meat and Potatoes. They made it work, stayed constant.
Urban Method – Nelly “Hot in Herre” and Peggy Lee “Fever.” Katie was going to do Fever but she did not think it was working in her voice so they switched to Liz. They have to combine sultry and sexy with fun and carefree. The trick is fusing the two moods. They want to make a statement.
Me: Great saxophone. Liz is very good on solo, best I have heard her! Good mix of the songs. I like them even if no one else does (hello elroberto!).
Sara: Sexy. Smart way to meld. Fever is restrained and seductive; Hot in Herre is the opposite. Successful. Sweet spot.
Shawn: loved it, Liz did a sexy lead, raspy alto. So much going on in a good way. Eye and ear candy. Best arrangement, showed so many characteristics in the group.
Ben: engaging arrangement, dynamically right. Right on to Richard and the saxophone. Last transition was really effective.
Afro-Blue – R Kelley “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Fly” by Nicki Minaj. They feel connected to the message. Mariah is not sure about rapping.
Me: I love the opening… That was terrific! The rap was not my favorite but it was good enough. Maybe because I like “I Believe I Can Fly.” This was so far my favorite of their performances!
Shawn: nice blend of Afro-Blue style and gospel. Mariah may not rap but fooled him! They have grown, shown some beauty tonight.
Ben: used complex harmonies, allowed two distinct melodies to flow back and forth. Mariah, good, don’t not hear many rappers that end with the way you sang that. Wished accompaniement behind the rap had held back or even dropped out. Nice job.
Sara: So much heart and courage, powerhouses. Liked the theme that came out of the combination, empowerment and believing in yourself.
Dartmouth Aires – Lady Gaga “Born This Way” and Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil.” Brendan is nervous about trying to pull off Mick. Originally Ethan was going to do lead on Born This Way but they went with the safer choice of Michael since he has been successful and they are comfy singing behind him. There is no room for error at this point. Ethan looks sad, and they keep patting his shoulder, which only emphasizes that he feels bad.
Me: I liked the arrangement. Really good! Loved the cheesy opening choreography with the feather fans!
Ben: a lot to take in, they split into two parts, two theaters going on, great concept, both gave it hell. Bass out of tune a little bit, but in those parts it was most entertaining. Jagger lead was not overly Jagger, Brendan was cool. Michael is always great.
Sara: agrees so much is happening. Fell off a little bit. They chose perfect leads. Passion and conviction.
Shawn: They have a flair for the dramatic. Enjoyable. Not his favorite performance but the mixing of the songs was good, he loved the battle between good and evil. Always entertaining.
Pentatonix – Sara says everyone in the group packs a punch; they could be competitive in the music industry, they are innovative, fusing pop and a capella into a cool thing. Shawn praises their risky arrangements like the skip in Radio Star; he hopes they do not get too far ahead of the original record. Sara explains the pick, for their innovative syle, to reimagine a song with a lot going on, a powerful lead and lots of percussion, Florence and the Machine, “Dog Days are Over.” I am only vaguely familiar with this song.
Me: I love Mitch’s solo! Wow! I think they got it exactly right! But I do not know the song. And I am biased.
Shawn: Audio drama. Mitch has a really pretty voice. So many elements, horse hooves, choo choo trains, breakdown to Mitch, ingenious to give Mitch his moment.
Sara: Riveting. They know how to use their instrument. Scott, Kirstie, and Mitch are all only nineteen. Fantastic.
Ben: They always give one or two surprises, this week was Mitch, not just his beautiful voice but how they set it up. So focused. Avi did not want to let go after song was done. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Nice work.
Urban Method – Shawn says they have a distinct style because of the hip hop element; Myk has swag but it is not a group based around Myk. Ben says they are taking things they know about the studio and applying it to live performance. Sara says they had a couple of bad weeks because the girls were not stepping up; they have vacillated between amazing and really good, so they have to be stellar with the competition they are up against. Shawn is glad they took the advice they were given. Shawn picked something to do their hip hop thing, Kanye West, “All of the Lights” featuring Rihanna.
Me: Love the thing with the mikes! Nice horns. Not sure about Katie rapping. Not my favorite but that may be because I do not know song at all.
Shawn: exciting. Standout in Katie, she came out of nowhere, evolved.
Ben: Great build, great arrangement, mature way of hanging on, keeping it exciting. Middle harmonies were shimmering. His favorite performance of theirs this season.
Sara: they have blossomed into another entity. They show confidence on stage, are exciting to watch. She liked the mike trick, has not seen that before, cool. She likes that it lingered, they are thinking about arrangement and making it stretch.
Afro-Blue – Sara says they are the cool kids of jazz, they make it accessible; they cracked code with Need You Now. Ben loved them from the second they took the stage, relates to them because they are students of music. Shawn, his favorite was American Boy; what stops them is themselves, they ovethink; they have to understand every song does not need a jazz chord, it just needs heart. Ben picks, they are masters of traditional jazz sound, Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Me: Love the gospel at end, and Kristie is terrific! Great string bass. Really really nice. Very moving. It is a song that brings its own emotional experience, and they lived up to it.
Ben: Really happy for them. Kristie killed it. They just made a record. They were in the zone.
Sara: she is emotional. Maybe the judges confused them along the way (yes, I think they did!). The backup was one voice, she is proud of them.
Shawn: Soul-stirring. Took us to church. Honest, melancholy, everything the Sam Cooke song originally was. He can hear it on radio or live or on video. Best performance they did in the series.
Dartmouth Aires – Ben says they are rooted in university a capella, with a theatrical edge; Michael was God-like when closing the Queen medley. Shawn says they are the most explosive of the groups; Queen was his most memorable; they have to show they are more than entertainers on stage, that they can be recording artists. Sara says they blend humor and high energy with emotional sensibility. Sara says they chose a song for theatricality and heart, to bring a party to stage: Isely Brothers, “Shout.” Wow, that is an on-stage performance song if there ever was one, not a recording artist song. But it is a happy song, too.
Me: Love the rhythm change! Michael is terrific! I love Clark in the background! Love the splits and rising from them. Love that he plays with the judges. Here is the question: could they have pulled that off without Michael?
Sara: Michael looks like he has been doing this for thirty five years, he walks on the stage like we have come to his home and it is his birthday. Pitch problems when they were jumping for the rafters.
Shawn: Instant Party, just add water. Michael is a superstar. A little flarp, but they were doing jumps and summersalts.
Ben: he grew up on these kinds of records, Michael is a classic singer, he has not heard a singer do this convincingly since he was a kid. Group is working together. Pitch train wrecks, when you have a group that big that is what happens.
I think it is between Urban Method and Dartmouth Aires, but Dartmouth Aires had the worst review in terms of technicality; they were so much fun, though.
Wow, Urban Method is safe first, interesting. But no one ever said they are called in rank order.
Pentatonix is in. Duh!
Afro-Blue definitely has more recording possibility thatn DA, but DA is more fun.
They have to do a sing-off, reprise their best song of the season. I assume everyone was prepared for this possibility. They do scaled-down versions:
Afro-Blue does American Boy.
Dartmouth Aires does Somebody To Love: wow, Michael stars off a little shaky. He holds that note forever, two backups break which is not a good thing. It is a Michael showcase song. And they use a director. I do not think they did it.
And the judges vote:
Sara: Dartmouth Aires. Always had an emotional reaction.
Shawn: Afro-Blue, though not always consistent, they can have a career.
Ben: Dartmouth Aires. They were connecting most consistently over the season. I am most surprised by that; I have always counted on Ben to be the cerebral one. He discusses his decision on his blog, though mostly he just praises Afro-Blue but never really says why he chose Dartmouth Aires over them! In fact he admits that the judges were wrong in telling Afro-Blue to “dumb it down” and that may have resulted in less than great performances along the way.
Wow. I am very surprised! And afraid! There are more students at Dartmouth than there are a capella fans in Austin. And viewers are left with a fresh impression of Michael with nothing from Pentatonix! I do not think I can bear another reality-show-gone-wrong right now, especially this one, which has always been so good. Poor Afro-Blue, that is what happens when you are too smart. I still think Dartmouth Aires is Michael and the back ups. But you can always sell jumping around and making people smile; it is very hard to sell making people think. And I have not particularly liked Afro-Blue all along; I just do not care for their jazz style, but I recognize how good they are at it!
Swan Song: “We’ve Only Just Begun” which is a pretty cool choice.
Next week the winner is announced! Judges will perform, and groups from the season will be back.