The Sing-Off Recap: Episode #2 Takes Me By Surprise

Well, mostly because I didn't realize it was going to be on twice a week! Having not realized it until halfway through the episode, I had to watch the first half via Hulu later...and thank goodness for both Hulu and iTunes. I'm beginning to wonder if I need to watch TV via the TV at all!

The second episode kicked off with another group number, where all eight remaining groups sang Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" together. These big group numbers are perhaps the most impressive of the show. Getting that many people, with that many disparate styles and so little time to rehearse, to sing (and remain in synch) together without a backing band to keep them on track is *not* easy. It sounded great, and the soloists were well-chosen.

As per the first week, the remaining contenders were broken into two brackets, and one group from each bracket would go home by the end of the night.

Bracket One Singers:

1. On the Rocks, from Oregon, sang TI and Rhianna's "Live Your Life"

OK, a capella rap. Hmm. It wasn't quite as embarrassing as I was honestly anticipating, but I'm not going to say the lead rapper truly had the funk. It was that self-aware meta-white-boy rapping that is serviceable, but not authentic. However, the guy who took on the Rhianna hooks was pretty awesome. Nice clear falsetto. The backing vocals, when we got to hear some passing harmonies, sounded good, as did the rhythm section, which achieved a kind of supporting foundation that made you forget it was all vocals. Nice strong job, on a song that was a bit of a risk.

2. Street Corner Symphony, from Nashville, sang Train's "Hey Soul Sister"

Having *just* seen this on Glee, I was wondering how their approach would be different and erase that cute Warblers version from my head. I am actually also a Train fan (they're Bay Area local), and I particularly like Pat Monahan's effortless vocals and laid-back performance style. Street Corner Symphony successfully wiped the Warblers out of my head with an arrangement that did far more to make the song their own and bring both layers and dynamics to it -- and they brought out the best of Monahan and Train's easy, laid-back, sit back, have a beer and relax style. It was nice to feature a different soloist during the bridge, and the group blend was terrific. Street Corner Symphony is one of the ones to beat in this competition, and I agree with Ben Folds that I'd like to see something that brings out more than melancholy form the lead singer.

3. Eleventh Hour, from Ohio, sang "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars

Also just on Glee a few weeks ago, this song gave me deja vu all over again. Unfortunately the verse was simply too low for the lead singer. And their harmonies were off. Their intricate intro and closing harmonies sounded good, but the full-on, wall of noise chords were not tight.

4. Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town sang Duffy's "Mercy"

As you know, I thought they went easy on this group in Episode #1. This performance was a marked improvement on the premier performance, and the second half of the song really heated up. Jerry himself turned on his vocals halfway in. He's not the most facially expressive singer; it's all in the voice, so it really kicked in when he started incorporating more growls and shouts into his attack on the song. They did cheat the challenge a little this week, singing a modern-day hit that is a total throwback to an older era. But that works fine for me. Their pitch was much more spot-on this performance. I agree they bring a different tone and feel to the show than any other group, so they may still stick around a while.

After the first bracket performed, the first elimination happened. I don't think it was any surprise that the scrappy high schoolers had gone as far as they could go, and Eleventh Hour was out of the competition.

Bracket Two Singers:

5. The Backbeats, from Los Angeles, sang The Script's "Breakeven"

Really nice song choice, and a creative arrangement, but along the same emotional, heartbroken lines as "If I Were a Boy" from last week. This performance seemed shakier than episode #1. The second female soloist is definitely not as strong as Joanna, last week's soloist. They still had great emotion and dynamics, but there were many rough spots, pitch-wise. They could stand to do something a little more upbeat next week.

6. Committed, from Huntsville, sang One Republic's "Apologize"

There was lots of intricacy in this arrangement, and they pulled every note of it off. I will say they are better at the moving chords than they are when each singer has his own instrument line. I did hear the occasional slight moment of off-ness, but this is being nitpicky. They sounded awesome.

7. Groove for Thought, from Seattle, sang Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me"

Another group with a consistent style that they adapt their song choices to, as opposed to adapting as a group to sing a song in its original style. Actually, I'm not really that familiar with this song, so I'm not sure how creative the arrangement was, but I'm guessing pretty creative :) They were tighter this week than last, and they nailed their sound and their style, but I'm just not sure they will bring enough variety each week to excite people. They need to bring some variety next week, I think.

8. The Whiffenpoofs, from Yale University, sang Michael Buble's "I Just Haven't Met You Yet"

Well, you know I wasn't a huge fan of their episode #1 performance, and this didn't do much to win me over. It was cheesy, plain and simple. I don't like the song to begin with, which didn't help them. And their bassist bugs me. Let me tell you how I really feel.

Bracket #2's elimination also seemed obvious to me: The Whiffenpoofs were out, and they deserved to be. Groove for Thought was the other weak performance from this bracket, so they're on notice to step it up a notch.

Another week of great singing and creative arrangements on The Sing-Off. This is my sleeper hit of the winter!

 

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