that there will be a total of 15 losers (the glass is only 1/16th full)
by the end of this, so although going "bye-bye" on the first show
hurts, the groups that go home will have more company each week. As we
become familiar with these bands, I feel we can be more critical. For
now, I want to hear them do their best next week, so I'm concentrating
on what I liked, rather than what I didn't like. That, tempered with the
occasional concise constructive suggestion, will hopefully help get the
best results. It's all about the music for us judges. We're not actors
and we're not in the drama business - we're musicians and we only want
the best for our performers.
DARTMOUTH AIRES "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder
There's a little more to this group than with your average enthusiastic group of college male a cappella singers. Firstly, they have at least one fantastic front man in Michael. He's got a timeless voice and gives it a hundred percent (or more if that's possible). There's also chemistry in the group as a whole. The arrangement could have been more dynamic and inventive. It stayed on ten the whole time, and there are always more ways to make a song more engaging without leaning too much on the lead singer. The low end was blurry at times. (Speaking of low end, I will see how many times I can say "ass" over this season... or not.) The bridge arrangement was promising, so more of that please? I'm very interested in seeing how they develop.
PENTATONIX "E.T." by Katy Perry
Wow! What low end these guys have! And although they have the club novelty going for them, there is some really good harmony going on here too. Scott is a strong singer with a distinct voice. They sounded as though the excitement and nerves drove the tempo ahead too much, and I'd like to have seen them more in control of the groove. At least their rushing was together! They're listening and were on the same page, and they're being very inventive. Avi is a serious bassist! Kevin has some amazing beatbox tone and style - just gotta keep that groove in the pocket! If we see them mature over the series and keep cultivating the creativity of the arrangements, I think we'll have a formidable musical act on our hands.
MESSIAH'S MEN "People Get Ready" by Curtis Mayfield
This was a tough one to judge. I felt it, but the harmonies felt... odd in the room - like there was some sort of Doppler effect going on! Hard to put my finger on during the performance - it was probably just not solid tuning. I wasn't able to keep my ear on a cohesive harmony. What WAS working was their BIG sound and heart. I would have loved to have kept them on the show because what they do have would certainly rub off on the other groups. It's all relative though, and the other groups had an obvious front singer and promise to be able to tackle a diverse set of challenges ahead. There's nothing wrong with standing and delivering like these guys did, but looking at the competition, I didn't feel that the static earnest delivery was going to compete long-term. I'm glad these guys found their way onto prime time for a night though! They are an absolute success story - best of luck fellas!
SONOS "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak
Ben is a fantastic beatboxer. I liked his choice of tones and how nimble he made those 16th notes sound! (I am going to see how many times I can say "THE FUTURE" with that stupid sound effect over this series.) There was something missing though. They even told us what it was: the pedals they usually use to fill in their sound. For the non-musicians, these are foot pedals, which provide loops and effects. They can sing into these pedals, sample and play it back on the spot to create more singers. They can also make their voices sound different with their pedals to harmonize, distort, etc. It was really as if they had to do this performance with missing members. But them's the rules - no electronics. So I gave them a pass because it seemed like if they could surmount that challenge quickly, there might be something there - like a rock/pop band in a cappella world. But they'll have to straighten up quickly because their sound wasn't as big as the other groups.
THE COLLECTIVE "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
I loved Ruby. She held this performance together. Great moments here and there because they're solid singers and musicians. They have all the pro stuff together - their confidence, tempo, etc. The Collective is another example of a group that came together specifically to compete on The Sing-Off. They don't quite know how to make this a cappella thing work yet though. I like seeing great musicians trying to get their heads around this musical form. It shows us that it's not as damn easy as some of these groups make it look. We want to know this group is not in need of a backup band, and soon, because the competition is too tight and groups go every week. I think they have great potential if they're a quick study!
SOUL'D OUT "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by The 5th Dimension
What a great job for a young group of kids. The beginning felt really good, but many an a cappella group has gone down in flames over an extended out chorus. You know, the kind of "nah nah nah" Hey Jude stuff that goes on and on. You have to be able to build intensity with voices without falling apart (rushing, tuning, tone that thins as you choke up for loud notes). They really did fall apart, and that was how they ended the piece. Funny to hear kiddies do a tune that their parents weren't even around for (though I was - haha). Nice work, guy and girls! Keep it up, and I hope to see some of you come back in seasons to come!
NORTH SHORE "Runaround Sue" by Dion
You can't find anything wrong about this one musically, although it wasn't ambitious or notably expressive; yet there's something there with these guys, and I'm hoping we see them expand. Yes, last week we kicked off a professional group (The Cat's Pajamas) for a similar kind of performance, but there was something honest and relaxed with North Shore that was missing from aforementioned group - I saw real people coming through. The performance was warming and generous. They mustn't play softball the whole series though. The other groups promise to develop and innovate, and it will get increasingly hard to justify their staying on the show if they don't keep up. That said, I'm hoping they do because we need that kind of confident and relaxed experienced performing on our show!
DELTONES "Feels Like Home" by Randy Newman
Jessica sounded lovely - the tone shimmered in the room, and I completely bought it. There was an honesty to the delivery that made it all work. Her band backed up her up well, although there was not a lot of personality in the sound of the group. The key to the success of that performance was the teamwork, but they'll need to give it more personality as they develop. There's a place for an honest-sounding, unassuming group on a show like this. Their niche could likely be assured simply because most of the other groups have a gimmick. People like to hear a story from people who remind them of themselves, but they'll need to focus themselves musically, give us a little more of a professional touch and deliver a few surprises. They'll also want to spread their sound out over the keyboard with a little more thought, so it's full and even. These are all things within their reach. Let's hope they develop.