The theme of Monday night’s episode of The Sing-Off is its most impressively vague yet: “My Generation.” Anyone who has never watched this show might think that means the teams will sing songs that they were raised on, or maybe even from the decade they were born, but to those people I would scream, “You’re so wrong!” and “Why aren’t you watching The Sing-Off, do you hate good-natured fun?!” Nick Lachey explains the theme as “the songs of yesterday and today,” which he doesn’t seem to understand means ALL OF THE DAYS.
The songs that were originally sung on days such as yesterday, and then also, today, selected for the opening group medley are The Who’s “My Generation, Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time.” It’s a little all over the place and doesn’t leave much time to dwell on the nicer moments, like a brief harmony between Kiana from Vocal Rush and Honey Larochelle (from Honey Larochelle, what more do you need to know?), but it concludes nicely. Most importantly, I spot so many unbelievable Blazer Watch teases (leopard print suspenders!), I can hardly contain myself until the individual performances.
This evening Ben Folds will be mentoring Home Free, VoicePlay, Element and Vocal Rush on their performances, while the three teams that survived last Thursday rest easy in their Voice-sponsored skyboxes. Suspiciously, everyone is in the clothes they last performed in, except Nick Lachey, who has changed his suit. It’s the inverse of his amazing maroon number from last week, but it’s not nearly as shiny and the hem is about three inches too long. Step it up, Lachey. I want jewel tones or shimmer every episode, no exceptions.
Home Free: “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Blazer Watch: I can’t get to the performance blazers without first mentioning that in the intro package, Austin is wearing a checkered man-scarf and a stretchy headband. I also have a lustrous mane and cold-natured neck, so I get it, but boy, did that make for an abrupt change when the guys hit the stage in classic country gear. And of course, by classic, I mean enough glitter on their western shirts’ shoulders to land a plane. Just beautiful.
How’d They Do? Ben tells Home Free they need to show their vulnerable side (he says it “vun-erable”) and, hot damn, they listen. Tim and Austin start off with understated gospel-like solos before they get down on the melody. Ben said they encapsulated the sadness of the song and that Tim went “from an instrument to a singer” in his performance. Always keeping it real, Jewel reminds that June wrote this song for Johnny while she was still with her husband and Home Free aptly made it “feel like sinning.”
VoicePlay: “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt
Blazer Watch: I don’t exactly have a word limit on these recaps, but I do have just a human-sized brain, and there are not enough words or thoughts in the world to adequately explain what VoicePlay is wearing tonight. I’ll just eliminate all semblance of syntax and give you a list: striped blazer with tartan pantaloons; houndstooth shirt with double-breasted vest and plaid zipper pants; leopard print suspenders with short-sleeved dress shirt and studded belt; checkered leather vest, chain necklace and tartan tee; and, of course, Honey Larochelle looking fierce in a simple striped pant and platforms.
How’d They Do? The judges are very impressed with this performance and I will say that Eli’s “Middle Eastern solo thing,” as Shawn describes it, was a cool moment in the midst of Honey’s lead. But there’s a difference between passion and pain, and I just wasn’t getting all the angst I expect from my mid-’90s No Doubt. Jewel is the expert here, however, and she thought it was a poignant performance and loved the crescendo from pianissimo into fortissimo.
Element: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes
Blazer Watch: I always like Element’s style so much more in their intro packages than in their performances. I’m the first to go straight for the shiny when given the opportunity, but three weeks in a row of full-glamour dresses just doesn’t seem to fit the group’s personality and holds them back from letting loose on stage. If ever there’s a next time, might I suggest a sequin blazer?
How’d They Do? The beginning harmonies here are probably the best these women have ever sounded, but their arrangements and soloists just aren’t on the level of the other groups. Jewel was impressed with double-paralleled harmonies and Ben thought they had more focus this time, but the best thing Shawn has to say about the performance is that they looked beautiful, which is probably as frustrating for them to hear as it is for us.
Vocal Rush: “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler
Blazer Watch: Big Hair. Leather Jackets. Fingerless Gloves. Kiana’s giant earrings in the shape of Africa in the intro package. The gang’s all here.
How’d They Do? I became a Vocal Rush fan tonight. Sarah’s solo building into a four-part harmony in the beginning? Flawless. Jordan’s steely-eyed lead? Superstar. And I will surely never get over Kyana’s percussions while dancing. Ben said the bass and drums held it down like never before and Jewel and Shawn agreed that their fearlessness is unrivaled, but so much exuberance can sometimes lead to getting ahead of the tempo.
Nick announces Element and Vocal Rush as the bottom two teams competing in the Ultimate Sing-Off. They’re singing “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and I admit, as that is actually “my generation,” I’m naturally predisposed to get all riled up by this song, but I cannot explain to you enough how hard Vocal Rush slays it.
I know in my mind that Element was also there (because at some point they inexplicably hold their hair like Troll dolls, as you can see in the picture up top), but I only have eyes and ears for the Oakland kids. Sydney holds it down so Beyoncé-fierce on the lead, Isaac does some sort of screamo verse that changes my life and when they dropped to their knees and started the signature beach-crawl, I kid you not, I whooped out loud. I’m not sold on the Ultimate Sing-Off in place of the Swan Song (in fact, how much more intense would that have been as a Swan Song?), but I was all in on that. Or at least half of it.
Tidbits with Nick and Co.
– I think Rob from Home Free might be auditioning to be the Dunkleman to Lachey’s Seacrest: “Our version of “Ring of Fire’ is going to <shifty eyes> set the stage on fire <explosion hand motions>.”
– While Element is working out together Julie says that Beyoncé said “if you can sing while you’re running, you’re breathing properly,” which is an anecdote I recall almost weekly from Desinty’s Child’s VH1 “Driven” documentary, and I’m not even a singer. Don’t ask me to explain my mind.
– Ben says “conventional wisdom says that a group of high school kids is not going to make it to the end.” I’m wondering exactly what conventional wisdom about televised a cappella singing competitions he’s drawing upon.
– Element had a good spirit about them for sure, but what I’ll miss most are the science puns.
– Not a huge night for Nick Lachey, you guys, but he does keep saying things like, “…in the chase for The Sing-Off crown,” and I swear, if there’s an actual crown at the end of this thing, I’ll fund any Kickstarter they throw my way for a season 5.
If I can ever get this 100% correct: The next episode of The Sing-Off airs Wednesday, December 18th at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.