"Never Say Never" by Justin Bieber
Completely entertaining and solid performance! They didn't take it too awfully seriously, but they kept it tight. The choreography is fun, and they didn't lose it musically in the challenging moments. I think Keith's voice translates really well, although I'm not sure he's found his Voice. It takes a while sometimes when a singer is technically talented - it's easy to imitate. Frankly, Keith sounds a bit like Weird Al Yankovic in his higher register on this performance! And that IS a compliment because Al sings his butt off! I've always thought that Al's singing style has also influenced modern commercial punk band singers (although these singers probably aren't aware or wouldn't agree with my theory). McKay is a little closer to being himself but doesn't quite have the large sound that Keith does. So I'm still interested in how they evolve into a group that means something beyond the live performance.
"Whataya Want From Me" by Adam Lambert
Damn! This was good. Hannah seems to be in charge of the arrangement tempered with a dedicated group and yay for that! I loved the repetition of the title passed around their leads. It made the song mean more than the original for me. It was going through seasons. They work so hard... but they have to. That's just the way it is for an all-female group. They're beating their range limitations with emotionally compelling and quite involved arrangements. The beginning, adding a voice at a time. Shawn was right. Kendall took her time and started this thing with such maturity and control. But with the schedule of new material raining down on them each week, they're going to have quite a challenge ahead. They have to reinvent a cappella arrangement once a week now. They may just pull it off!
"Just Can't Get Enough" by The Black Eyed Peas
Troy! Beautiful lead. The lead singers keep coming out of the woodwork for some of these groups. Liz seemed well placed. The transition to the West African groove at the end allowed Myke to drive it to the finish line. These guys and girls are serious. In some ways, their warmth as people isn't always obvious. It's there! It's just that some groups are easy to take for granted. Their first performance of "Love The Way You Lie" was outstanding! But I didn't hear as much buzz about them. I'm puzzled but, hey, I'm not a marketing guy. I'm a musician. I'd buy their record.
"American Boy" by Estelle
Danielle! Shawn's not kidding. He speaks the truth. A beautiful voice. Christie's scat at the top. I love seeing Shawn get worked up, and he had every right to be. This was my favorite performance of the show, though I do realize that it's threatening to go over some people's heads. They do a great service to this show by breaking the curve. It puts the other acts on their game and gives us something to shoot for musically. And we officially have two star female leads now! I love that they're bringing this kind of music to a prime time singing show. I'm grateful for that and to them for not being too snobby to hang out with the popsters around here!
"Dynamite" by Taio Cruz
Straight up fun. Jamal really came out strong and then showed some legit operatic training... in the middle of Taio Cruz - haha. This is what a bunch of guys should be doing at college - keeps them from doing keg stands and beer bongs! There's no reason to think about eliminating a group like this immediately. They're putting a smile on everyone's face. They'd better tighten up and focus like a recording artist down the line, but for now - wow! So much fun and talent. And they all go to the same school. Crazy!
"Price Tag" by Jessie J
This song is great. And they delivered it well enough with some great moments. Still some seams showing - and they're such good singers. They know it. They're just trying to catch up to this a cappella game because they're soloists with little experience sans accompaniment. Part of the issue seems to be literal tonal focus. Tone that cuts through the mix carries a focus that separates itself enough to stand out. It doesn't necessarily blend. So it's a growth issue. Can they grow quickly enough to stay in? Yes, this was better than last week! We love some improvement.
"(Love is Like a) Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas
If there is a group that's setting this show on fire this season, it's Delilah. It's cruel irony that this one smoldered a bit. Honestly, I wasn't quite sure what to say. It was all there in many ways. They said it best - a bar has been set, and they have to keep moving it higher. They didn't. And if you look at the other groups' performances in this segment, this one wasn't as engaging. Playing the straight and narrow in an arrangement is risky for these girls. They're so effective when they're going all out. Still, they'd have to SUUUUUCK big time for me to even consider letting them go. They're too special, and that's not just because they're the only chicks. It's because they've got such talent, style, passion, depth on the bend. And they've got Ingrid, and she plays the hell out of the drums. (That has nothing to do with it, but I like to mention it.)
"Dance to the Music" by Sly and the Family Stone
What a pleasure to hear this group in the room. Floor shaking excitement. I didn't mention that it started out with a few pitch problems because I actually didn't remember to mention it. I was so entertained and impressed. And the start was so crazy that it threw us all off, in a good way. They really made this unique and still kept the '60s party. (I actually remember those... or I remember trolling the room in my diapers while my parents slept in Saturday morning after a party once - I took a sip out of a beer can and about choked on some cigarette ashes. Yes, that is a memory from the '60s, kids.)
"The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra
Jake crooned the crap out of this. The transitions were not just seamless, they were energizing to the music. Wow, what these guys may not have in star vocal timbre, they've got in their ensemble, their personalities, their dedication. I am gaining more and more respect for these Mormons by the minute! What a great group of guys and musicians. Tanner is a fantastic drummer who makes tasteful and artful choices. He sounds just like an old Rhythm Ace or Wurlitzer Organ drum machine from the '70s!
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye
Like Delilah, we're seeing some cracks in the armor of one of my favorite groups. Yes, it's smooth, and yes, it's well done, but why the choice to cut the groove in half for the chorus? That is not what we call "taking it to the people," people! It also slowed a bit here and there, adding to the introverted nature of the arrangement. I don't want to see these charismatic musicians take their ball and play by themselves in a circle at the back of the room. I want them to share their chops, their jazz and discipline with the audience. I doubt we're going to catch them messing up too much. But just being smooth and accomplished, kicking out jazz subs, time and groove changes at will, does not sell a song. They've got the personalities on stage to take this all the way even with half the skill. Will the skill throw them off?
"Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli
Okay, you can't kick out a group when they kiss your judge friend's hand! Anyway, they sold this song. Period. Aaron again was in his element for the most part. His voice is gorgeous, but at times, you don't hear a lot of character. Big college groups tend to keep us entertained and survive longer, but have yet to actually take the prize. It's going to be about finding that style and voice - the character.
"Let It Be" by The Beatles
Okay - I'm ready for a full inbox of hate mail after these guys just got kicked off. I know, I know! Damn. And why'd they have to knock this one out of the park? The truth is they were behind from before they performed this. Damn damn damn. Moi just convinced me to start a record label and sign him first. Well... wait. I don't want to run a label - haha. Screw that. But if I did, he's signed. But the group? I love them too; but they had competition, and they just weren't ready. We pored over the list - who to go, who to go... Who should have gone? This is one of those times I won't be settled about for a while. Yes, Delilah's performance in the '60s segment was weak. But they have four rock stars at least and haven't slipped yet until now. Afro-Blue's performance was less in this segment too. But they're unique, shoulders above the other groups in terms of technique, and raise the musical bar for us all. They can't go. Damn! I hate this part. I love the characters in this group individually - they just started to cook too late. Please all of you, keep this up! Oh, the performance was brilliant - so the good news is they went out on a high.