Listen, I’ve seen a lot of magical things in my short time at the EW offices; it’s a cool place. David Blaine straight up proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a sorcerer by making a deck of cards disappear from my bare hands a few months ago. And I don’t want to get anyone worked up, but maybe the most magical thing I’ll ever see here, I saw today: Pentatonix came to our office and sang, amongst other things, their Beyoncé medley. I laughed; I cried; I wouldn’t blame them if they took one look at my face mid-performance and got a restraining order going.
Is there another Pentatonix on season 4 of The Sing-Off? Probably not. Those people are freaks. But there have to be the really good Jordin Sparks amongst the unforgettable Clarksons and the Underwoods. Sparks is super good, you guys. She might not make me sweat while I briefly speak to her beside the EW vending machines because I’m so in awe of her talent (this story based on real-life Pentatonix events), but I get totally amped when “Battlefield” comes on. Similarly, I found myself quite amped on tonight’s “Movie Night” performances from the six remaining groups.
That’s right, the groups are singing songs from movies, and not just, like, “Fix You” from the iconic film, You, Me and Dupree or some copout (I see you, X Factor season one). The show actually followed its theme tonight, starting off with a rousing group performance of “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing that was one of those great reminders that they’re doing it all with just their voices. Nick Lachey informs us that after individual performances tonight, there will be “not one, not two, but three” rounds of The Ultimate Sing-Off, showing either a lack of understanding or a complete disregard for the words “ultimate” and “the.”
But who cares about vocabulary when Nick is in pinstripes? Jewel, the Pythia to The Sing-Off’s Delphi stage, is advising tonight. Let’s go!
Home Free: “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison (from Pretty Woman)
Blazer Watch: The brothers Rupp are individually wearing a sparkle blazer and leather blazer, but everyone else is looking a little too “classically handsome” and “well-tailored” for my a cappella tastes. And I think that Austin is personally trolling me with that intro package headband now…
How’d They Do? The guys make a lot of vocal twists and melodic turns in this upbeat performance and they’re moving more naturally than ever. Jewel agrees, completely embarrassing the show’s bass darling, Tim, by pointing out his bangin’ moves from the group number. Shawn thought they mastered the tight harmonies and kept their unique arrangement impressively clean.
Vocal Rush: “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins (from Against All Odds)
Blazer Watch: Tonight, Vocal Rush is all about the girls and the girls are all about using their own hair as braided headbands. Sydney and Sarah’s sequin-lapel tuxedo jackets are signature Blazer Watch material. Carry on!
How’d They Do? My girl, Kyana – I mean, damn! I thought I was a successful 16-year-old when I was learning to parallel park (a skill I then immediately unlearned). I definitely was not holding down both the percussions and an extremely vulnerable solo on a Phil Collins classic for the judging eyes of millions. Jewel suggested they make this vocal performance 3-dimensional and they did, with Jordan’s controlled lead and intricate soaring harmonies. Ben says there were little technical things they could work on, but Jewel doesn’t care for perfection, she found the heart she needed from the performance.
AcoUstiKats: “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger (from Risky Business)
Blazer Watch: Varsity blazers: necessary. Pants: optional.
How’d They Do? The UK gentlemen covered about four different genres of music in their energetic performance of a song about rock and roll. Shawn liked that they’re always pushing themselves and, though Ben thought they technically handled the transitions well, he wasn’t so sure about the thematic decision to include so many musical styles. Jewel said that Ross, Jeremy and Ron’s mothers could be proud of their soloist sons as they stood in their Risky Business boxers (sliding shorts?) in front of millions. Nick visibly cringed that he didn’t think of that line first.
The Filharmonic: “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith (from Armageddon)
Blazer Watch: The Filharmonic are displaying my absolute favorite Sing-Off wardrobe motif tonight: wearing elaborately themed clothing that has nothing to do with the song performed. Glamorized army fatigues for a song about Bruce Willis, space martyr? I don’t see why not.
How’s They Do? Jewel advises that such a bold song choice requires a real emotional connection and the boys go all in on a heartfelt performance. Unfortunately, their technique flags a bit with the newly discovered emotional factor and both Shawn and Ben agreed that their harmonies fell apart at times. But everyone seemed equally moved by Joe’s soulful performance and seriously sweet cry face.
VoicePlay: “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds (from The Breakfast Club)
Blazer Watch: Excellent Breakfast Club-themed high school clique costumes, but not nearly enough camera time for Tony’s goth chokers and – do my eyes deceive me? – leather mesh tank top.
How’d They Do? Jewel and I are in agreement that last week Honey affected angst fairly convincingly without fully baring her soul to the audience in their “Don’t Speak” performance. The vocals are good, but I almost can’t fully tune into what’s happening until they start stripping off their high school signifiers and things get a little more interesting. Shawn and Jewel loved the deconstructed arrangement, but Ben thought Eli stepping out as an impressive soloist, caused the groove to suffer.
Ten: “Skyfall” by Adele (from Skyfall)
Blazer Watch: I never thought I would love a simple suit so much, but Ten owned it with just the addition of chandelier earring and statement lips for the ladies. And I don’t want to get too specific but Deonis makes for a pretty, um, accurate Bond. I’m not blushing, you’re blushing!
How’d They Do? Oh man, something really lit a fire under Ten a while back, or maybe it’s just that they’ve known each other for more than a few days now. Deedee has such an easy richness to her voice and Emoni completely steps out of the background with her closing wails. Jewel appreciated their sophisticated 10-part harmonies and, interestingly, Ben said their choral is so amazing, it makes him want to hear them with a band. I’ve seen people beheaded for less than such talk in Sing-Offland. Heard from season one judge Nicole Scherzinger lately, Ben?
The three Ultimate Sing-Off matchups are just an excuse to pair the teams up and fill out the second hour. And it’s not that I don’t want another hour of gloriously instrument-less television, but let’s just call a staccato a staccato, OK? They’re not even “battling” most of the time! If I were to rank the matchups:
3. AcoUstiKats vs. VoicePlay (“Eye of the Tiger by Survivor)
2. Ten vs. Vocal Rush (“Fame” by Irene Cara)
1. Home Free vs. The Filharmonic (I’m Alright by Kenny Loggins)
Alas, the eliminated teams have nothing to do with who actually opposed each other in the “Ultimate” Sing-Offs because AcoUstiKats and VoicePlay are both chosen to head back to Kentucky and Universal Studios, respectively. We’re down to the best of the best with just two episodes left. Surely, a sign of great performances (and more jewel tones) to come!
Tidbits with Nick & Co.
– Nick introduces Ben, Jewel and Shawn as the “brain,” “beauty,” and “vocal muscle” of The Sing-Off. And you Nick, are our heart. And also, our embarrassing dad.
– The only person Shawn has a bigger crush on than Ben Folds is Austin from Home Free: “The boy’s got chops, the boy can blow. He ain’t your typical white boy!” Keep your pants on, Stockman.
– Speaking of, when the boys of AcoUstiKats rip their pants off to reveal boxers, Ben jokes that he’s going commando and Nick responds, “’Tis the season to be jolly, eh?” I think Nick Lachey is playing a drinking game with himself with these lines.
– Emani from Ten and her amazing hair as Blofeld/Dr. Evil is like nothing I could have ever dreamed… because I don’t know how to dream of the most perfect things in the world.
– “Yeah, I like the number ten because I have ten fingers and I’m gon’ be waving ten goodbye when they go home” is just the sweetest trash talk you ever did hear from De’Zhanice Kirtdoll about Ten.
– Tonight’s tidbits with Nick could be entirely compiled of the flowing fount of wisdom that was Jewel’s mentoring, but I’ll just curate a few more life-changing quotes: “A lot of times we start thinking that we’re competing against someone else, and really…we’re trying to find greatness in ourselves.” “Give me your heart and I promise people will give it back to you.” “Your realness is your thumbprint. It’s what makes you uniquely you” Damn Jewel, anything else? “Whatever hurt you have, we’re going to take it and receive it and it will be transformed.” Alright, alright, we’re weeping unexplained tears already, knock it off!
for the record, i actually said 'america's first beat off' and we cleaned it—
benjamin folds (@BenFolds) December 19, 2013
Let’s give this a shot: The next episode of The Sing-Off airs Thursday, December 19th at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.