The Sing-Off

I enjoy The Sing-Off, which is a little odd — given how much I adore a cappella, it would make more sense if I also loved The Sing-Off. I think, however, that The Sing-Off isn’t the kind of a cappella to which I am especially attached: there’s just something about college a cappella that I particularly like. I also tend to place value on inventive choreography and smart arrangements, as well as great singing voices. And perc — that’s important, too. I also don’t necessarily agree with the judges’ decisions.

Take Season 2, for example — On The Rocks was fantastic. They have fun choreography, energy to spare, and great vocals. “Bad Romance”? Outstanding. They totally commit to the song. They lasted longer than five groups, but they still didn’t make it to the final episode, and four groups beat them.

If I’d been watching The Sing-Off during Season 1, I would’ve been cheering for the Beelzebubs, who came in second. The Beelzebubs are, by the way, the group whose arrangement and background vocals are used for the Warblers on Glee (the Warblers being the group that Darren Criss’s character was in during Season 2). One of their performances on The Sing-Off:

Perhaps what makes The Sing-Off difficult to judge is that there are so many different types of a cappella. It’s hard to judge between people who have very minimal choreography and those who have particularly involved choreography. To me, in this kind of televised competition, choreography is important. It’s about the whole performance, not just about sounding good.

Actually, I just noticed that both of the winning groups (Nota and Committed) were small groups of guys who weren’t a college a cappella group. Not what I personally typically think of when I think a cappella. They also don’t have choreography that is anywhere near as involved as the Boca-type groups (Best of College A cappella).

I haven’t watched beyond the first episode of this season of The Sing-Off. After that episode, I decided on a favorite, the University of Rochester’s YellowJackets. I discovered through Wikipedia, however, that they were eliminated after lasting longer than roughly two-thirds of the other groups. Their Billy Joel medley:

If I start watching again, I may cheer for the Dartmouth Aires — a friend posted a link on Facebook to their Queen medley, and it’s amazing . . . and they fit that college a cappella group thing I like so much.

3 responses to “The Sing-Off

  1. One of the things I’ve noticed (I watch this every week and I’m trying to get my students to, as well) is that I can’t hear the WHOLE arrangement because of the mix that the producers are using. I can only hear the solos, which is ok, but the REST of the arrangement is important, too. The Dartmouth Aires are great! (I still have to watch the Halloween episode), but I DO love the Pentatonix. With only 5 voices, they are incredible!
    I wonder if we were at a taping if we’d have a different feel for each group because we were hearing them live.

  2. While I understand where you’re coming from, Ryan, and to some extent I agree with you (collegiate a cappella is a ton of fun), I think part of why you may feel that way is that you’ve only really experienced the collegiate a cappella world. I think the beauty of the show is that it’s bringing out the genre of a cappella and introducing it to America as this beautiful thing that has so many facets and touches so many different sorts of people’s lives in so many different ways. The ultimate prize for winning the show (besides a ton of money) is a sony recording contract. Honestly, if I was a judge I’d shy away from choosing a collegiate group to win the ultimate prize because while individual members in the group may wish to enter the professional music world, for many of them, a cappella is just a fun extracurricular while they’re in college, like it was for us (although i’m sure they dedicate a lot more of their time to it than we did because, let’s be honest, all the groups on the show are really freaking good). Therefore, the group as a whole would not be able to hold any longevity in the music industry, something I’m sure record companys are looking for. BOCA and ICCA exist to give bragging rights and such to super awesome collegiate groups, but the Sing Off has a larger cause and a larger audience. I really like what they’re doing. One thing I’ve noticed this season is that there are several groups who formed just to compete on the Sing Off. What I like the most is that many of those groups have suffered because of it. Either they don’t have the emotional bond that pre-existing groups have that is very important for singing a cappella, or, in the case of the Collective, they’re all solo artists and they haven’t figured out how to support each other with their voices. They actually lost last week after facing the Yellowjackets in a one on one sing off, so I think that decision the judges made really highlighted what the show is all about. A cappella is an art form that isn’t nearly as easy as it looks and it goes beyond musical talent. I’ve been really impressed with all of the groups so far this season and while I’ve actually agreed with (and even predicted correctly) all of the judges decisions so far this season, it’s been really sad to see each and every group go.

    • Hmm. Actually, I didn’t know that the prize involved a recording contract with Sony, and I think that hugely changes the dynamics of it. A college a cappella group, no matter how talented, would maybe make sense less for that — and awesome choreography wouldn’t matter if we can’t see it.

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