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Review: The Sing-Off

To steal a phrase from one of the judges, this show is “off the hook!”

I don’t like a lot of the “talent competitions” that are on TV. American Idol is little more than a chance to alternately berate people or contribute to creating a narcissistic personality. Yes, some of those people are very talented, but the show is really more about Simon Cowell and the other judges. America’s Got Talent I can tolerate a little more because of the variety on the show, but it still boils down to berating people until there are a few people left who have some talent.

The Sing-Off blew me away with the level of talent from the very first group. And as the first episode progressed I was just more and more impressed. Even the “bad” groups were very talented.

A Capella singing requires serious teamwork. It’s not a bunch of lead singers getting up and singing together. Listen to one of the group performances from American Idol, then listen to a group performance from The Sing-Off. There’s no comparison. The American Idol crew can be good at times and fun to listen to, but they should just sit down, shut up, and listen to the experts blend. No one is trying to out-sing (as in overpower) anybody else – the entire goal is cooperation and melding of voices to present a single sound. Ego must take a back seat for it to work at all. Even the lead singers in each group become almost invisible once they step back and let somebody else go to the front.

Committed, the eventual winners, debuted with this unbelievably good performance:

I came to the premiere late and only heard a couple of groups before this one, but when I heard that I almost fell off the couch. Just awesome. That song set the bar for that group (and others) at a high level. They stumbled a couple of times along the way, and honestly I’m a little surprised that they made it through some extremely stiff competition in the episodes where they missed the mark slightly, but even when they screwed up it was because they were too complex, not because they made any noticeable mistakes.

All the groups that made it to the finale just dripped talent. Some grew significantly during the season, and some just started out that way. Even in the semi-final round I’d have had a hard time dropping anyone (as did the judges, apparently). On The Rocks (who gained popularity on the internet with a viral video of a Lady Gaga song), for example, really showed significant improvement over the course of the show, moving from entertainers to solid performers.

Even some who left earlier blew me away. Music teachers Groove for Thought were an amazing jazz group. I’d buy their record in a heartbeat, and I’d be thrilled to hear them in person.

I could post one example of excellence from just about every group who took the stage. And I really want to – I won’t, but I want to… I love this stuff. If you get a chance to watch the watch the show, please do it. You can fast forward through all the contest and filler bits and just watch the songs – it takes significantly less time (though I actually thought that the judges comments were constructive and were presented positively (as opposed to the judges on some other shows) and worth listening to as well, for the most part – another reason I like this show better than others).

I’m gonna leave you with the semi-final performances of the three runners-up. The judges choose each of the songs to fit the group and have them show what they could do, and each of them truly delivered. One of them was supposed to be cut after this round, and the judges couldn’t do it. The whole thing just dripped with awesome.

Let’s kick it off with the awesome Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town performing “The House of the Rising Sun”

Just such a pure sound. I’m not a huge fan of that song, but they drove that one home and parked it. That’s the way to do it.

Next up, The Backbeats, one of the groups I didn’t think would make it this far, with a beautiful rendition of “Landslide”:

This is another song that I wasn’t a big fan of to begin with, but I love this arrangement. It just elevated the song for me.

Finally, the group that I really thought would capture the contest, Street Corner Symphony, doing CCR’s “Down on the Corner”:

I am a fan of this song, and they totally did it justice. I’m not a huge fan of working your group name into the songs, but I loved the way they did it here in the bridge, and I’ll let it slide because of the awesome work they’d done up to this point in the competition. I can put up with a little self-promotion if you deserve it.

Like I said, I could find a great performance from just about every group, but I think they made the right choices in getting to the final four.

One more thing: in some of those clips, you can see the other groups applauding their competition. I think that’s another thing that sets this show apart. Those people recognize the talent in their adversaries. They know how hard this is to do well, and I think they genuinely appreciated each other. I don’t think there was false humility on anyone’s face. They all love this and each other.

Get rid of the “dragging out the suspense” and tighten up some of the background stories and this would be the perfect talent competition. I’d even watch this entire season over again (and may). Great, great stuff.

Did you watch any of this? What did you think? Who should have won?

(okay, one more thing: I’d seen Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town before on a kid’s show. I just didn’t know their name. Their’s was my favorite performance on that show, too. They really seemed to have fun.)

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