'The Sing-Off': The best little a cappella show returns

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Street Corner Renaissance
Notable names (and blazers): Charles “Sonny” Banks and Maurice Kitchen; this is what we call an a cappella classic, ladies and gentlemen: jeans and blazers with bright fuchsia dress shirts and fedoras.
By the notes: The gentlemen of SCR are taking their turn at following their dreams by competing in The Sing-Off and they had a grand ole time putting a doo-wop twist on One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” which EW premiered a few weeks ago. Shawn says, “y’all talk about swag, this is swag,” while Jewel tells them they were great because they weren’t worried about being perfect, they were just “testifying.” Preach.

Ten
Notable names: Peaches, Sydnii “Jazz” Raymore, Emoni Wikins, DeeDee Yancey-Macky, John “Jontez” Montes: back-up singers are a gold mine.
By the notes: Collectively, these 10 singers have backed up the likes of Justin Timberlake, Nicki Minaj and Florence and the Machine, but they’ve never actually performed together in front of an audience. That might be why Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good” technically sounds great, but somehow doesn’t leave much of an impression (except for their hair game, which is unrivaled). The judges all agree that Ten brought sounds to the stage they hadn’t heard yet, but Ben thought they needed to work on telling a story with the song.

Element
Notable names (nope, just blazers): Even though I liked their eclectic city-boho-chic look in their interview package more, I appreciate the head-to-toe sequins they brought to the stage. A cappella is glamorous, don’t you forget it.
By the notes: All of the women of Element come from strong musical backgrounds, but I wish they had pushed their creativity a little further on Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” — a promising start never quite went where I thought it could with the two soloists. Jewel loved Rachel’s electronic drum loop, but felt the ladies rushed the pocket of the song.

Tidbits with Nick: “Let’s check in with our periodic table of judges.” Nick, what are you talking about?

Voice Play
Notable names (and blazers): You know the one: Honey LaRochelle. The gentlemen opted out of blazers and went for that other a cappella staple: vests.
By the notes: The five men of Voice Play are all performers at Universal Studios and brought in Honey to spice up their group (I’m dying to know where she works). The first half of “Feel This Moment” by Pitbull is your average great-sounding number, and then they start changing their sound about every line in the second half and things get both weird and interesting. Shawn thinks it took them a while to get into the groove and Ben says the harmonies were there but the mid-range was lacking.

The Filharmonic
Notable names (and blazers): Their group’s name is hands down the best; hoodie vests, varsity jackets, blazers and hipster glasses…Filipino boy band, indeed.
By the notes: The Filharmonic unabashedly say they’re inspired by ’90s boy bands and they get out there and tear into “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, a great modern song that showcases a more nostalgic sound. The judges find VJ’s lead (and smile), Jules’ suave solo, and the bass to be particularly impressive.

Tidbits with Nick: Nick takes a special trip up to The Filharmonic box to mention that while he is not Filipino, his wife is half. That’s it.

acoUstiKats
Notable names (and blazers): Banks Mattingly and Patrick “Young Fonty” Banks (seriously); all of the Kats’ navy blazers with cream piping are of note.
By the notes: Interesting that they lined up these cute, fun guys right next to the last cute, fun guys, but the men from University of Kentucky held their own and then some. I cringed at all the aca-terminology thrown around in their intro package (acoustic-frat, yeesh), but an acousti-crush is a very real thing. I’ve had one, I have one and I’ll have them again. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was both a risky and predictable choice, but Acoustikats weren’t afraid to get weird with it: dancing, flirting and, frankly, gyrating all over the damn place. Ben says it was technique-fueled “responsible fun.” Everyone points out Ron’s octave-defying lead work, but I was equally impressed with the other soloist.

Tidbits with Nick:
Jewel: I need an acousti-shower after that.
Nick: Whoa, gonna have to take an acoustic-commercial here in a minute!

An update to this post-Pitch Perfect season is the “Ultimate Sing-Off” where the two groups in the bottom face off to an a cappella death by elimination. The Princeton Footnotes and Voice Play are selected by the judges as the bottom two and after going 10 times harder on N’Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” than either did in their original, Voice Play comes out of the first Ultimate Sing-Off victorious. My only objection to this new format is – no more swan songs? That means no more last shot for the groups to prove us wrong and for that, I cannot forgive “the producers of The Voice.”

The next episode of The Sing-Off airs Wednesday, December 11th at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.

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