So, this week our intrepid a capella singers will be tackling songs spanning the generations, which I think means they can sing anything they want. Actually, probably anything they want from a short list provided by the show of songs they can get clearances for, so it's not like they can go nuts or anything. This is NBC, after all.
Nick Lachey, who is a perfectly charming host, walks us through the ridiculously vague challenge, introduces our judges, and then, it's on to singing. This show is only an hour (which is by no means a given for reality TV competitions), so there's not a lot of time for chit chat.
Home Free, "Ring of Fire"
The Background: They really miss their RV, but they treat their hotel room like a gross frat house, so it's okay. They can turn anyplace into a dump!
The Performance: Okay, I will admit it -- I feel that adding a human beat box to a Johnny Cash classic is fundamentally wrong. Still, the intro was truly beautiful. The rest of it... it's skillfull, yes, but really? It got a little goofy for me, a little Oak Ridge Boys (fun, but come on, "Ring of Fire"!). Still, Tim does nail his parts, and I think he's the biggest asset this group has, honestly.
The Judges: Well, they didn't have a problem with a Cash song getting a human beat box. They loved it. Ben thought they captured a range of emotions in the song (I couldn't agree less). Jewel talked about how June Carter wrote the song while she was cheating on her husband with Johnny, so… well, I guess it captured sinning? Really, though, she thought it was a cappella country reggae. Shawn thought it was great and loved that Travis' voice was highlighted.
The Verdict: Given the gusher of judge love, I suspect they're safe.
VoicePlay, "Don't Speak"
The Background: They remember the '90s. Well, that's a relief.
The Performance: I really want to love this (I, too, remember the '90s) But Honey keeps breaking into a smile, which I find jarring. You can almost see her struggling to remind herself, "This is poignant! Crap! Poignant!" Some of the guys seem to have a much clearer idea about what this song is about. The arrangement is very, very nice, though.
The Judges: Shawn thought it was amazing. He loved Eli's "Middle Eastern solo thing." Ben thinks they kicked the song's ass. Jewel thinks this week they showed their hearts.
The Verdict: Though they aren't as solid as Home Free, I think they'll be safe.
As an aside, Jewel really, really knows what she's talking about, which I guess comes from studying operatic voice in high school. She may actually be too articulate for this gig. Hold on to her, "The Sing-Off," before another show snaps her up.
Element, "You Keep Me Hanging On"
The Background: They work out together. Look, cute boxing exercises!
The Performance: This should be better than it is. I'm not sure why they're putting such dull performers front and center, but if you can't sell this song, get thee to the background. Some of this is pretty tuneless to boot. I really had high hopes for this one -- it's a fierce girl power anthem! Come on, sell it!
The Judges: Ben thinks there were tuning issues, and they were too nice. Jewel thinks they looked beautiful. Shawn thinks they looked pretty, too! Go, female empowerment! Does anyone realize telling them the looked nice is really, really ironic? Shawn thinks some of the harmonies were a little unglued. But he liked looking at them!
The Verdict: They'll be singing for their lives.
Vocal Rush, "Holding Out for A Hero"
The Background: They're high school students, so Ben tells them to be pros and hold steady. And they're going to do big hair. Okay, guys? Stop screwing with your hair and practice!
The Performance: This starts out really well and, except for some wobbles, is very strong. The rap segment actually works in this (I'm a little more comfortable with a creative tweaking of "Holding Out for A Hero" than a Johnny Cash song).
The Judges: Ben thinks the nailed the bass and drums this time. They landed the plane. Shawn thinks it's great that they're too dumb and young to be scared. But he thinks the double chorus fell apart a bit. Jewel loved the rap. She thinks their tones were warm and rich, but they get a little too excited and get ahead of the tempo.
The Verdict: They'll probably have to sing, but they're favored to win unless they really blow the Ultimate Sing-Off.
And, guess what? Element and Vocal Rush will be singing. Initially, Element seems to be giving it a lot more flair than their performance of The Supremes' song, which is great -- until Vocal Rush cuts in. It's night and day. Element tries to make "Survivor" a joke, a catty schoolyard fight, but Vocal Rush sells it completely. They aren't joking around. Even if the judges had wanted to keep Element, there's no way they could after this performance.
The judges save…Vocal Rush. Element didn't have the fire or the raw talent, unfortunately. I think they may want to reconsider who they're giving leads to (really, tonight's performances were weak, weak, weak) and hey, maybe they don't need so many elements at all.
The Sing-Off continues on Wednesday night with a double elimination. Can you stand it?
Do you think it was time for Element to go? Are you surprised Vocal Rush is still in the competition? Which group is your pick to win?