'The Sing-Off' recap: 'Why does this have to be a competition?'

sing-offPeople are too hard on Nicole Scherzinger. Sure, she sometimes engages in ill-advised extended metaphors about music videos and candy shops. But other times she perfectly articulates the way I’m feeling, such as in her quote in the headline. Why does this have to be a competition? Of course I understand why a group needs to get eliminated each week — that’s how competition shows work — but when every group is delivering such impressive performances every single week, NBC could just air a season of Sing-Off concert specials and I’d still tune in.

Seriously, everyone was on their game last night. The groups sounded wonderful, the judges continued to give refreshingly non-clichéd criticism, and Nick Lachey seemed like he was finally able to relax and just host. (He only asked the judges, “Anything to add?” ONCE!) Plus, the puns were more creative than ever! All in all, it was a complete pleasure to watch, and it makes me sad that there is just one episode left in the season. Good thing season 3 is looking very likely!

The groups were each asked to perform two songs: First, a superstar medley, then a “Judges’ Request,” a song that the judges felt would make each group shine the best. Well, shine they did! Opting for sincerity over kitsch, the contestants offered up some of their best performances of the whole season, and although two groups were supposed to go home at the end of the night, only one did. Here’s how the mayhem went down:

On The Rocks — Elton John  (“The Bitch is Back,” “Benny and the Jets,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”)
These guys have never been afraid to embrace their campy side, so I was excited to see what they’d do with Elton John songs. Things were delightfully tacky in the beginning, and stunningly beautiful in the end. The middle section was where On The Rocks struggled, as Jonah’s voice cracked a few times. Ben told the group that after “Benny and the Jets,” they “landed the plane really nicely” for “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Don’t let the sun go down on PUNS! B+

Committed — Usher (“DJ’s Got Us Falling in Love,” “U Got It Bad,” “Love in This Club”)
Committed always sounds so good, but I wish they would live up to their name when it comes to performing. If you’re going to sing Usher songs, COMMIT to having swagger, COMMIT to dancing! These guys haven’t really given us a real slam dunk performance (and judging by their basketball skills, they haven’t made a real slam dunk, either) since the first episode. Still, I loved their funky “wow wow wow”s in the background of “Love in This Club,” even if the soloist was underwhelming. B+

Street Corner Symphony — The Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby,” “Help!” “Hey Jude”)
There was an exciting tension in the quiet beginning chords of “Eleanor Rigby,” which set up the performance for a massive build. “Help!” sounded pretty good and featured a solid new soloist, but without a loud bass sound, “Hey Jude” just never felt as anthemic as it should, which left the performance feeling sort of weak. Still, all the little homages to The Beatles — the left-handed bass, the John Lennon hat — were inspired. B

The Backbeats — Lady Gaga (“Poker Face,” “Paparazzi,” “Just Dance”)
I haven’t been the biggest fan of The Backbeats this season, but I’ve got to hand it to them — they came out swinging last night. Their arrangements were exciting, and their dancing was elaborate sharp. Perhaps they learned a thing or two from On The Rocks? I thought it was cool how the super-fast “Poker Face,” which featured a strong new soloist, transitioned into the super-slow “Paparazzi,” and how, in the end, all three Gaga tunes merged together. The Comebackbeats! A-

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town — Otis Redding (“Dock of the Bay,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “Respect”)
What I wouldn’t give to have Jerry Lawson and his boys come to my barber shop and sing with an enthusiastic old dancing lady at their side! These classy gents have completely won me over this season. Sure, their arrangements aren’t always super intricate, but every note they sing is just dripping with soul! Jerry’s howl (which he’s been using more and more) was as exciting as ever, and I completely agree with Shawn comparing them to “a cool, tall glass of lemonade when the sun is out.” A-

In the first elimination ceremony of the night, the judges dropped On The Rocks, and although I wasn’t totally shocked, I was still pretty bummed to see these endlessly fun characters go. On the bright side, On The Rocks left the stage with a hilarious rendition of “The Final Countdown,” as well as the most amazing display of pun-manship ever seen on The Sing-Off: “Well, Nick, throughout this competition, we’ve all really grown from Boyz II Men, and we’ve shown the nation that we’re not just a bunch of Pussycats anymore. I’m just really proud that we haven’t Ben Folding under the pressure, and I just wish the judges would give us one more night, Una Noche.” PUNMSTR could barely contain himself!

Next came the “Judges’ Request” round, and I have to give our panel credit for choosing an interesting set. It was so nice to not have to sit through another rendition of “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” and “Hallelujah.” Here’s what we got instead:

Committed — “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“When I saw the stools, I knew it was going to be my kind of choreography,” quipped Ben, and in this case, I agreed! The simple performance featured some majorly beautiful un-major chords, and the slow groove worked perfectly for them. The way the camera slowly followed the seamlessly shifting solos made it all feel so intimate. The judges loved their smooth vibe. A

Street Corner Symphony — “Down on the Corner” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Has Street Corner Symphony ever looked better than they did in their black and indigo ensembles than they did last night? Indeed, the soulful Southerners looked and sounded more professional than ever before during round 2. The background vocals modulated with real dynamism, Jeremy soared all over his range, and the funky falsetto breakdown energized everything. I chuckled when they inserted “Street Corner Symphony” into the lyrics, but I burst into a joyous laughter when they stomped their feet during their last few wailing chords. “Arena-pella” indeed! A+

The Backbeats — “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
This melancholy tune (The Backbeats’ specialty) was the definition of a slow build. After a remarkably sparse beginning that included Kinton’s “vocal cello,” and not much else, the number of voices singing slowly grew until the chorus, which crested with sound. Their show of restraint really was beautiful, but I wonder if it was perhaps too subdued to get people voting for them. Also, after a whole season of teary-eyed gazes at the camera, Courtney finally bit the bullet and actually cried. CONGRATS! A-

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town — “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals
“How did you turn that song into a gospel?” asked Shawn, dumbfounded, and I found myself wondering the very same thing. Their jazzy take on this creepy tune had me feeling like I was walking down the street in New Orleans at dawn, and I thought Ben’s reference to the Coen Brothers was inspired — this could be on one of their soundtracks. After reverent acclaim from all three judges, Jerry almost couldn’t bring himself to say how honored he was to be on The Sing-Off. A

During the second elimination ceremony, NO ONE got eliminated! Normally, this sort of reality-show gimmick feels like a cop-out, but in this case, I really didn’t mind. Every group legitimately brought it for their last performance. Now, I’m sure there will be people who claim that the judges “didn’t have the guts” to cut Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town, but I’ve never understood the hate — they sound incredible! Many people have argued that the elderly singers are “boring” or “not relevant,” but in a world where Susan Boyle can top the Billboard 200 for four weeks straight, I’m inclined to think that Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town have the most sales potential of anyone. If there was a group the judges were afraid to cut, I think it was more likely The Backbeats, as there would be no girls in the competition without them. But enough conspiracy theorizing — it’s time for…

PunWatch with Nick Lachey!

Shooting for stardom, with an Elton John medley…” (A brilliant “Rocket Man” reference!)

“Ben, did they take care of business?” (After Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town’s performance of “Respect”)

“One of you is in tune with the judges, the other is going home.” (During the elimination ceremony)

“Looking to pave the way to the championship…” (Introducing Street Corner Symphony singing “Down on the Corner”)

“After the break, The Backbeats try to turn their judges’ pick into a landslide victory.”

“Hoping to rise to the finals…” (Introducing Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town singing “House of the Rising Sun”)

Who are you pulling for in Monday’s finale? Do you think Committed has enough momentum from early in the season to win it all, or have Street Corner Symphony and The Backbeats grown enough to overtake them? Or will Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town take out all the younger competition? Leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments!

EW’s TV INSIDERS PODCAST: This week, Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, and Mandi Bierly debate the sexiest scene in Vampire Diaries‘ season finale, then call executive producers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec to break down the episode. Plus: Michael Slezak calls in from vacation for a look ahead to the final two episodes of Survivor: Nicaragua, and the Insiders reveal their secret shames — cheesy and horrible TV shows that are downright embarrassing to enjoy. To join in all the fun, just click on the audio player below. And in the best news of all, we‚re now on iTunes! You can subscribe for free right here and take the TV Insiders with you on the go. And to send a question to the TV Insiders or learn about upcoming editions, follow us on Twitter @TVInsiders!

[AUDIO http://www.ew.com/ew/static/podcast/2010/12/EW_TV_Insiders_12_10_10.mp3%5D


Comments (188 total) Add your comment
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  • Peggy

    I had gotten so tired of these types of competition that I had ignored this show until last night. I can’t believe I missed the earlier rounds. These people are great. I will be watching next week for sure.

    • Alina

      THE SING OFF is the best singing show out there, hands down. The contestants are ACTUALLY talented. no gimmicks, no back stories, just pure talent.

      People from AI or X factor are jokes compared to these guys.

    • amandajo

      I agree…I just saw the end of it last week and thought to myself, no here is talent without any synthesizers to help them out. Not sure why NBC doesn’t promote this show more…it’s a joy to watch!

    • adff

      Oh please. The Sing Off is not in the same league as American Idol.

      • Tarc

        Agreed. The Sing-off is a couple ranks higher in vocal quality. AI might look slick, but does that really matter?

      • RH

        You’re right, it’s so much better than AI, that it seems a shame to mention both in the same sentence!! Not one contestant on AI could audition for, and get into any of these groups.

      • oh please my b.

        agreed. AI used to be in a league, but now it’s just a shadow of its former self. i still don’t understand why the contestants sing the same old chestnuts and the producers insist on frank sinatra night on AI when on the sing-off they are singing songs that are on the radio right now, as well as classics. that in and of itself puts the sing-off in a league way, way higher than AI.

    • Karen

      Catch the earlier episodes on line at Hulu. That’s how I watch it. Stumbled on the show and really really love it.

  • Pam

    They are all so good. I have never enjoyed a show as much as I have this one.I HATE to see it end.I am pulling for Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town.It is nice to see America embrace the older generation.I think all the groups will end up with record deals if they don’t there is something wrong with the bosses.Good Luck to everyone.

    • FromChicago

      Love the show….all professional and they sing on key and with energy! They should cut a CD and go on tour. If AGT talent (questionable?) can do it, so can they.

      • Sol

        Fun show — but now sure I get the love for Committed — Let’s Stay Together was good, but the earlier stuff was painful.

      • Amandalynn

        Sol…I have to disagree, they are what’s missing from R&B that is why they are so popular. There aren’t many successful R&B boy bands out, so that’s why they will get the most love. Jerry Lawson and crew will be known as the comeback story. I only see the lead singer from the Backbeats going solo and being sucessful. I’m not a big Street Corner Symphony fan, but I was hurt too see On the Rocks go home.

      • adff

        I agree. They could be stars. The music world has a place for groups like Boys II Men and Jodeci . Why can’t the Committed be a part of this too?

      • Jenny

        You are right! It would be so fun to hear them tour in concert! I’m a Backbeats fan. Their song from last night “Landslide” hit the top of the I-Tunes charts!They showed how versatile they are with 1 fun song and one emotional, both AWESOME!

  • Donna

    Do I need to be watching this show??? This recap makes it sound like a real treat! I hate that I have missed this season!

    • kaci

      It’s definitely a treat. I’m sure you can catch all the episodes online. :)

    • Winona

      YES. Catch up at nbc.com/sing-off
      If you like great music, it’s for you!

    • Anna L

      Or if you have Comcast cable with On Demand, it’s on NBC’s On Demand. They’re a little behind on the episodes, but by Monday I’m sure all episodes will be on there.

    • neetsie

      Go to NBC.com. They have the full episodes there.

    • adff

      hulu.com

  • Caitie F

    I can’t believe they didn’t get rid of anyone. I am sure it was because they didn’t want to be the ones to get rid of the old guys. They were not that good yesterday – he should not be allowed on the show (but he isn’t even that good). I am hoping the Backbeats win, they showed last night that all of them have a lot of talent

    • Zakry

      You are out of your mind. If you don’t understand the pure *soul* Jerry/TOTT deliver almost effortlessly, you don’t deserve to listen to music. Ever again. I demand that you put cotton in your ears!

      • Kari

        Thank you Zakry. Jerry and the TOTT were absolutely wonderful. Gave me goosebumps all over.

      • Tarc

        Growing up (and living) in Detroit, I know all about R&B. Sorry, bub, but all that ‘soul’ needs better execution. I’d suggest pulling the cotton out of your ears, because this is a singing (and arranging) contest. Jerry & the Talk aren’t up to par.

      • FromChicago

        The problem is Jerry is a pro. He was part of the Persuasions for 40 years. TOTT is newby, but Jerry is a pro.

      • Peter

        Newbie? TotT as a group has been performing almost as long as Jerry.

    • neetsie

      You just don’t know what good music is. Go back to your Katy Perry autotune fluff and let the rest of us who like “actual music” enjoy.

    • Tarc

      I’m going to agree completely. Though Jerry and the Talk finally showed us why they were there in the first place last might, I would have sent them packing week one. I’m all for The Backbeats for the win.

      • IDK

        You like the Backbeats? Now I know that you need to get your ears checked. The group overall is not that bad but the leads are not as strong as the other groups.

      • Jenny

        Agreed! They show such power and diversity!Landslide was better than the original!!!

  • Scott

    I believe that for overall sales potential, Street Corner Symphony leads. As much as I hate to say it, the age of Talk of the Town is a handicap because Jerry’s health seems to be a problem and they could not handle a tour or years of sales. Committed should be picked up by a gospel label. I love them but think their style is more suited to their original muscial source. As for the Backbeats – they are just backup singers for Joanna.

    • Cosi

      Well put! Joanna would have a singing career and the rest, hopefully, have degrees they can work in after the show’s done.

      • Kari

        Are you kidding me! Joanna is the WORST thing about the Backbeats. She CAN’T SING! She’s horrible, horrible, horrible, with the same stank face on every song.

      • Paul

        There’s really no need to put other groups down; besides talent, the show’s above AI because everyone is accepting of the authentic talent spread.

        Personally, I think Joanna is super gorgeous and has the most incredible voice.

    • Peter

      At least they still act like a group. The Eleventh Hour lead singer thought it was all about her.

    • jones

      The Backbeats are backup singers for Joanna and loud beatboxers.

    • FromChicago

      Health problems? What health problems? He was lead for the Persuasions for 40 years….did you know the Temptations are still touring and they’ve been around for 50 years?

      • ericalina

        well jerry either didn’t want to stand up off his stool and congratulate everyone at the end, or he was unable to. i’d like to think he was unable to as he doesn’t strike me as a prima donna. but clearly he’s getting up there in age and those legs aren’t what they used to be.

    • Jenny

      Woa, so untrue. Have you heard Courtney beatbox? She has won many awards as they all have in the a cappella world.

  • Linda

    I was glad none of the Final Four were eliminated. They all deserve to be there, and I am anxious to see who America picks. Me, I’m voting for Committed. It just fees so cosy listening to them. But I would honestly be happy with any of them winning. This show has spoiled me for ever watching American Idol again – Sing Off is the real deal!

    • SaraS

      It would’ve been perfect if On the Rocks had been in the final four. I would take them over Jerry and the Backbeats any day.

    • adff

      Idol is returning in one month on January 19. Two new judges AND for the first time, the minimum age has been dropped and teenagers aged 15 may audition.

      • RH

        adff: and this is a good thing?

  • MLLASH

    The no one eliminated twist was AWESEOME and I am glad it happened!! I do feel On the Rocks should NOT have been eliminated earlier. I was wondering how they were ever going to let Jerry Lawson go after all the praise they’d heaped upon him, or how they would handle a female-less finale if they had eliminated the Backbeats.

    And of course, dropping Committed or Street Corner Symphony would have cost the ALL credibility.

    They did the right thing, I think. I cheered!

    Also I voted for SCS. Streets ahead!!!!

  • FromChicago

    Love Committed and Street Symphony. Hard to pick one, they’re all good.

    • Riley

      Agree! They’ve been my two favorite groups from the beginning. My love for the type of music Street Corner Symphony sings, and their layed back approach, has me leaning towards them as my fav!! LOVED “Down on the Corner”!! I’ve watched the YouTube of that performance a dozen times today!

      Jerry Lawson and TOTT have my utmost R-E-S-P-E-C-T. :)

      The Backbeats are great, I recognised several of their members from being in different groups last year. But, they don’t excite me like Street Corner Symphony or Committed.

  • Red

    I have been a big fan of Street Corner Symphony, and their “Down on the Corner” was AMAZING! As for Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town – they have really won me over. I thought they were just a sentimental favorite in the beginning, but their take on “Satisfaction” turned me into a huge fan. Loved, loved, loved their “House of the Rising Sun” – it gave me chills! Glad they didn’t eliminate anyone – can’t wait to hear more from all of them!

    • kaci

      “Satisfaction” is when I turned into a huge fan as well! At this point, I don’t care who really wins, but I voted for The Backbeats. I know not many people like them, but I absolutely loved their restrained version of “Landslide” last night.

    • Anna L

      Agree with all that you said.
      TOTT’s House of the Rising Sun was AMAZING, proving they have absolutely belonged in this competition.
      And Street Corner, I just can’t say enough good things about this group. Love them!

  • Elaine

    Yes, Donna you should be watching this show. It is the greatest SINGING competition on tv EVER, followed by the show Sunday Best. American Idol is just a search to find the “flavor of the month”, not true talent. All the groups are great and will do well but Committed has my vote.

  • AtoZ

    I’ve enjoyed this show so much – and never even heard of it from last season! I’m definitely all for Street Corner Symphony – they just blow me away with how rich and full they sound with only 6 voices!

  • Marge

    Jerry, Jerry

  • Jenna

    I really, really don’t understand the love for Committed. Their arrangement always fall flat to me, and you can’t put runs in *everything*

    • Sol

      I just replied above using almost the same words — didn’t see yours before I posted.

    • Amandalynn

      Really??? REALLY? I can’t make you a fan of them, but Committed is AWESOME! Their runs are in keeping with their genre, you have to be hardcore R&B fan to truly understand, not at all trying to be mean. But there are multi-million CD selling artists that can’t do those runs like they do. That is why Shawn is so amazed with them, until them, Boy II Men were the only male group out that could successfully do that.

      • Sol

        I understand the genre — I don’t think it require you to sing flat, does it?

      • Annie

        Exactly, Sol.

      • Tarc

        Beyond the fact that R7B is pretty much dead, the leads on several of Comitted last few songs have been weak, with some significant sections where the vocalist was flat. Way flat. Their backing vocals are oftne very impressive, but their leads are weak and often annoying.

      • Jenna

        Word, Sol. I understand R&B, but they’re just not that good.

      • Amandalynn

        Well it’s evident you don’t or you wouldn’t have gotten so offended by my statement. A true R&B fan knows that you don’t have to over-sing a song to get the true point across, it’s the arrangement that makes the song. The point that they are so good that the judges can’t really give them advise on how to make it better shows that. They are good BECAUSE they don’t overdue it. They harmonize and that isn’t flat. If you don’t believe me, go listen to a Boys II Men song (If you are hardcore, you would have at least one song) and do compare…then you’ll see what we are talking about when we say that they are AWESOME!!! They are an group of singers and that is what separates them from the rest. All the other groups have one outstanding singer and good backup singers, Committed can put anyone of them in lead vocals and still shine. I have to admit that The Police song wasn’t their best, but that was because they didn’t over-sing it like it should have been.

      • adff

        I also recommend Take 6.
        The Police song wasn’t their best. But then again, all the groups had problems with the rock theme.

      • Jenna

        lol Amanda what is all this “hardcore”? To be honest, I am a hardcore music fan, with hardcore knowledge in music theory and arrangement, and that’s how I know that Committed is often off-key. You are certainly entitled to your own opinion, but don’t tell us that we “don’t know what we’re talking about” just because we recognize the many flaws in their performances. Shawn loves them, because they are like BoyzIIMen (who, by the way, were painfully off-key when they performed at the finale last year. I really expected better from them). Just because he doesn’t give them criticism doesn’t mean they’re OMG AWESOME THEY HAVE NOTHING TO FIX !1!!111! What you are saying about over-singing and getting the point across, blahblahblah, is irrelevant to what we’re talking about. And their leads go flat often when they *are* oversinging (see: apologize).

  • Jenna

    Also, I hope Street Corner Symphony wins! They are by far the best.

    • suebrody

      I was sad about OTR–so much fun!–but the judges never really liked them. My favorite is Street Corner Symphony, too, Jenna, and Jeremy is sure to get a recording contract now! I voted for them several times on the phone, but I kept getting through, which probably isn’t a great sign…I have the feeling that Jerry Lawson is going to take it, and they are terrific, but not my favorite group (Committed is my second; not a huge Backbeats fan, but Landslide was really moving).

      • maggie

        I’m glad somebody else caught on to the fact that the judges were way harsh on OTR throughout the competition, it’s almost like they got criticized for having too much fun. I enjoy their version of bad romance much more than the backbeats medley last night. I think they’re super creative and they do much better what ben told committed last night that they did well, OTR takes their music seriously, but they don’t take themselves seriously. While the rest of the groups stayed pretty much within their wheelhouse (except for committed, which is why I’m rooting for them to win!), OTR experimented and took risks with the music they did, and they had fun!!! I’m a proud oregonian and a duck fan, and while I’m bummed they’re not going to win, I have no doubt that their success bc of this show will allow them to do big big things. Go OTR!!

      • adff

        The judges were extra critical on OTR. Although the performances were shorter to fit everything into a 2hr show, you could make the case that these were some of their best performances in years. OTR is well known in the college acapella scene and their performances are typical for the college genre. They are very similar to the Beezlebubs from Season 1.

    • adff

      I know many people don’t like them. But if there is a place for Susan Boyle in the music world, then ToTT should be able to find a place too.

      However, ToTT will not win. If its a popular vote which it is, the win will go to SCS

  • Wendy

    I’m thinking Street Corner Symphony will pull out a win. The Backbeats are great but JoAnna is their best asset – I’m calling it now that Backbeats will lose, BUT Joanna will show up in NBC’s new spring vocal competition Voice of America!

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