"Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf
I'm not detecting the rushing issues they had early on. They're being inventive despite the few times that taking risks didn't quite pay off earlier, so they're not detracted easily. Kirstie was sick as a dog, and you'd never have known. Honestly, all of these things are important ingredients for a successful band! It's all part of the package - the ability to work through stress, schedule, sleep deprivation while being battered by the waves of constant input. They seem to be flourishing in this atmosphere. "Born to Be Wild" wasn't my favorite performance by Pentatonix, but it was certainly more than good enough to make the cut.
"Stuck Like Glue" by Sugarland
I'm sorry I never have much to say about these guys, but they're just nailing it, making it fun, making an impression, entertaining, innovating. Everything. What can be said? They respected the song and took it somewhere else. This picked no fights and yet they went pretty far off the page. It's also accessible and smart.
"We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister
These guys are smart, and they're developing their strengths while considering their weaknesses. This wasn't a song that needed the quality that bass we talked about so the weak low end/groove wasn't a deal breaker, but I still want to see them beat that issue. Justin kept up really well with Michael. Depth on the bench. They completely commit each time out. The theatrical side is more realized each performance. I know, they're not always in tune, but in my opinion, it's not an issue unless it's getting in the way. It's not usually. The bridge, yeah, didn't quite feel right. All in all, who wouldn't pay to see that?
"Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy" by Big & Rich
So funny. The low end was still a little loose, but again, when it's this entertaining and full of personality, it's not quite getting in the way. I note it because when they're up against a group in the future that nails the entertainment AND the music, they might be in trouble. I don't want them to be in trouble, so I keep mentioning it hoping they can fix it. Still, I smiled the whole time and couldn't help a rebel yell and some good ole fashioned shootin' up the studio - haha. Good thing Michael has such a strong voice because all those tenors behind him would certainly drown him out. I'm not giving these guys free passes on their technical shortcomings. I'm just acknowledging that they're entertaining us all and gettting the important stuff right. And, they have a star. Let's get that other stuff going fellers!
"American Girl" by Tom Petty
I'm going to say it over and over. I love this group. But they're like a dual personality on this show. Believe me, we understand they're trying to take our criticism on board, yet somehow it's as if one arrangement represents a thesis paper while the next is a high school essay. The judges have discussed them quite a bit - how to keep their personality and their musicality, focusing to communicate the point while not underestimating their listeners and themselves and how do we relay this to them with 40 seconds on television. It's tough. We expect a lot out of them - but look! They're a jazz group! It's a miracle they're doing this on national network TV, prime time. I'm proud of them. They're competing with groups who translate to the mainstream naturally. Some groups are struggling to stay in tune and time but are driving it home creatively and personally. Afro-Blue just needs to summon their potential appeal while not losing a tad of their musical personality. I'd buy a record by Afro-Blue, but I'd certainly skip this song.
"Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum
Okay, well they took the note about lyrics. They completely tapped in. They bridged the gap between their style and country music. That's not a small feat. It's done. But not often. Not that they'll be making country albums, but they pulled off something important here. They stopped singing vowel sounds and got to the point of a simple song without underestimating their audience or the song. And they felt it. They've been working so hard, like the rest of the groups, and they're vulnerable emotionally. That probably helped. I'm really happy for them - they had a "light coming on" moment. If they can hold on to that, whether the song is light or heavy, they'll go far. I hope they can now start to add some of those sick chord voicings back and keep the message. I know it's asking a lot, but I only ask because I feel they can do it!
"Dream On" by Aerosmith
Delilah makes you pay attention. They all sing like birds. I thought this was a respectable rock performance - not the kind of rock that's my cup of tea - but they handled it well. I couldn't stop laughing when Amy stepped into that fan. I hope her eyes aren't still dried out from that - haha. These girls can sometimes go one step too far into drama, which they nearly did. But... well, I'm no judge of drama rock, so maybe that was appropriate. I thought they basically jumped through the hoop.
"If I Die Young" by The Band Perry
In case some of you were scratching your heads about this one. This is one of those cases where the mix of what is happening live, versus the mix that you hear in broadcast causes a slight gap of experiences between both worlds. I go with what I'm hearing off the stage because that's where I am at the moment they perform. All groups perform once; there are no edits - it's real time. The difference is in the balance, the mix of the voices. Some groups benefit more from the television balance than others. This was the case with this song. NONE of these groups are always in tune. No a cappella act can possibly be. The pitch center drifts, and there's the whole issue of perceived tuning of some intervals. That's because of the way we deal with the tuning of a piano in modern western music. It's called "even tempered" tuning, and it's not perfect. It's just standard. Horn players, singers, strings, etc. They all tune to each other, not to a theoretical keyboard tuning. Basically what that means is that they're degrees of wrong at all times. If the balance is kind, these degrees of wrong aren't an issue. Often, if the performance and blend are pleasing enough, your ear never kicks in to tell you it's out of tune. That happens with me a lot. If I'm moved, I don't bother to bust the vibe by kicking into analysis. I enjoy the song.
So with the help of some balance, for instance, turning down a third in some cases, or simply deemphasizing a voice that's not sounding right, you can really make a performance more palatable. We want all groups to sound as good as they possibly can on television, and they are all given the benefit of good balance. In this case, the balance made things more okay. Live, it was obvious they had tuning and blend problems on this song. It truly fell apart every time they landed on certain chords. They knew it, and we discussed that after the show. I'm sorry if that wasn't as obvious on TV, but that's the way it works. You can still hear it; it's just not something your ear goes to. And these girls are great, so they make it look easy.
I believe Delilah can and will make records. The only issue I see is time. If I were a label guy, I'd keep my eye on them, and I'd let them develop. They have very little time to develop, and they have to be able to summon at any moment the greatness that we've seen already. So I understand why they have fans. I'm one! But they're up against groups who are doing what they do at the drop of a hat. It hurt me to make the decision after their second song, but they've swung and missed too many times. We expect a lot of our favorite groups, and I'd rather see these young ladies have their career on a realistic time line and not go out and be fed to the wolves at the end of this season. I give 'em a year before they're making us all sorry that we kicked their butts off the island.
"Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake
The first thing you'll notice is Tony's growling Moog-like filter in his throat. How does he do that without having a coughing fit?!! That's some sick bass. Out of the blue, they took the song waaaaay into left field and played their strengths on an otherwise predictable rock song. Ballsy risk and it worked. I realize that they're not getting as big a fan club as some of the other groups, but these guys are heavies. They're seriously good. Myke spit it out and his interpretation of the song respectfully disagreed with the original while staying true to the lyric. Katie was nailing the soprano stuff. I was disappointed when my Twitter didn't blow up after their performance, but I'll stick by my guns here. That was amazing.
"Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood
Katie drove the point of the song home. They never lost their identity. They showed they can be vocalists once again, despite their reputation as a "rap-a-pella" sensation! I'm glad we're seeing confidence in some of the female vocals. They passed just fine. I enjoyed that one.
"You Really Got Me" by The Kinks
Great performers each time. I'm not sure I really bought this, as dynamic and exciting as it was. It's a taste thing, and I have to be honest. It put me in Vegas a bit too much. The lead seemed a bit forced to me; and I really try to forget how cool Ray Davies' performance was, but I can't. I don't want to tell anyone to copy the original. That's not the point at all. But when you know what a song can be and someone does a party version of it... you know. I love Vocal Point, and I see that they could connect. Some of that means tapping into who you are and just being that and not putting on the act. I can't fault them for the performance for the most part, but I also have to remember that we booted Cat's Pajamas for a musically better performance simply because they were too Vegas. I have always hoped to see Vocal Point highlight their personalities more than their personas, to come around to what will sell the song and ultimately their records. They're usually pretty damn on - they were more or less on this time. In my opinion, they really should come around as potential recording artists because that quality is coming more natural to some of the other groups.
"Life Is a Highway" by Rascal Flatts
Yes, to reply to a few tweeters, we know that song was by someone else. I remember hearing it all the time on the radio. It's still a very big country hit these days. Vocal Point proved to be the most legitimate country a cappella act on this show! I think they've grown up with it more than the other acts. Keith's vocal was the closest I've heard to a recordable country vocal. He had that sound, and it seemed sincere. The whole group pulled it off and again. Wow, these boys are good.