Sing-Off – Hip Hop Night

I’ve been thinking a lot about last week’s eviction of North Shore, the groovy doo-wop group that had captured a lot of attention on “The Sing-Off.” My initial reaction was shock when it was announced that they were being booted off the show. Their performances had been consistently good, they had a lot of experience, and their front-man guy had a ton of personality. So why were they gone and seemingly lesser groups left on the show?

In hindsight, I applaud the judges’ decision. While North Shore had been swooning the crowd with their songs, the judges rightly pointed out that the group weren’t straying far from the originals in their arrangements and delivery, especially in their renditions of “Unchained Melody” and “Power of Love.” Was their great take on “The Lazy Song” an anomaly? The judges thought so, and they were probably right. And while the group’s personality was winning, their potential for growth (an important criteria for the judges) was limited. In short, this group wasn’t going to show us anything new. And if there was any area where that shortcoming would be exposed, it would on tonight’s Hip-Hop night.Β The other group worthy of expulsion last week, Delilah, still has room to grow. So in hindsight, this was the right decision, and shows that the judges will not cave to sentimentality in choosing the right groups to move on. God bless the judges’ hardened little hearts!

So who’s going to shine tonight? Obviously, the theme is right in the wheelhouse of Urban Method, the only group with a rapper. That means they’ll need to exceed expectations, which won’t be easy. I expect the college boy groups will have fun with this one, almost assuring their advancement. Also, Pentatonix’ electronic/club sound should rock the stage tonight. The groups that I expect will struggle will be Afro Blue (can they move from their jazzy foundations to a more street sound), Delilah (this all-girl group has fallen far from their stellar “Grenade” opening. Have we seen their best already?) and The Collective (this group is really starting to blend nicely, but for a group dominated by amazing female vocals, hip-hop seems pretty far out of their comfort zone). We’ll see what happens tonight. As usual, I’ll be commenting in real-time (or at least as close to real as I can get around bedtimes, dishes, etc.).

Opening – “Nothing on You” – Great choice for an opening! Combines vocals and rap and gives a lot of people a chance to shine. I’m glad rapper Mike wasn’t feature, but that we got to hear rapping from a lot of the groups. Encourages me to think that tonight won’t be a major flop for the rap-challenged groups.

Nick Lachey announced that tonight will feature an actual sing-off between the two bottom groups. That’s an interesting twist and I’m not sure I like it. I’d rather see the groups judged on their main vocal performance and not on this “Survivor”-type competition. I like that this show isn’t as cutthroat as other reality shows. I hope this twist doesn’t change that.

Dartmouth Aires – “Club Can’t Handle Me” – Man, I love Michael’s voice! He’s maybe my favorite individual singer on this whole show. I think this group suffers when he’s not in the lead, and having him handle the non-rap load was smart. It was obvious that rap was a stretch for this group and yet they made it work. The rap took a backseat to Michael’s vocals and they kept the flow going throughout the whole song. They really kicked it in at the break-down and finished strong.

Afro Blue – “Killing Me Softly” – This song feels like a bit of a stretch on Hip-Hop night. When I think of hip-hop I don’t think “Killing Me Softly.” Still, for what the song was, Afro Blue killed it. They have such a terrific blend of voices and the lead singer had a great voice for it. The few moments when they tried to make the song more street didn’t work for me, but those were minor bumps in an otherwise great performance, just like we’ve come to expect from them. Afro Blue consistently puts their own take on the songs and have established a unique identity.

The Collective – “Give Me Everything” – Loved the energy of the start! They really tackled this song with gusto. But at times it felt like there was just too much going on and not enough focus. They rocked the chorus but didn’t seemed too scattered during the verses. A valid criticism of a sermon is to say “You had three good sermons there.” They had three good songs in this one, but it lacked the synergy of their other works.

Vocal Point – “I’ll Be Missing You” – Very powerful! The backstory of loss within the group made this song incredibly moving. Good for them for taking this genre in a different direction than previous groups. Ben’s vocals weren’t as strongly articulated as others in the group, but even the hard-hearted judges had to be moved by this one. Vocal Point really delivered on this song. I can’t imagine how hard it was for Ben to sing the lead on this song.

First half is over. My pick to get sent to the final sing-off is The Collective. They just weren’t able to make the transition to hip-hop and even though they’ve been growing throughout this show, I don’t think it’s been fast enough. Did the judges agree? Yes!

Urban Method – “Airplanes” – Great choice to move from “California Love” to this one, which lends itself much better to a vocal-rap blend. I wasn’t in love with the vocals (hard to top Hayley Williams), but Mike absolutely killed the rap, and I like the interesting novelties (insect opening, metronome interlude). Overall, these elements made the song feel uneven.

Pentatonix – “Love Locked Down” – Man, these guys continue to kill it week after week. Their bass and beatbox provide such an incredibly strong foundation. If it’s possible, this group keeps getting better each week. They provide exactly what the judges are looking for in innovation, creativity and technical excellence. This group has yet to have a sub-par performance.

Delilah – “How to Love” – I like that they made this a Delilah song, but it was so far from hip-hop that I’m not sure they completed the assignment. I think that made the same mistake Sonos did a few weeks ago when they wrongly re-envisioned “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5. Tonight’s theme showcased Delilah’s shortcomings in their range and dexterity. The song was beautifully done, but I’m not sure it was signature enough to keep them moving forward.

Yellowjackets – “The Show Goes On” – Another great song choice, both in style and lyrics. Jamal’s rap was great, if a little fast. Loved the break-down and the building of the music behind it. I’ve loved this group from the beginning, but they are in a really tough bracket. Not sure they shone brighter than the other three.

Sounds like the Yellowjackets are going to the sing-off, even though I’m still disappointed in Delilah’s development. Did the judges send the Yellowjackets to the sing-off? Yup!

The Collective vs. Yellowjackets – “Just A Dream” – Liked the Collective’s version, but it didn’t do much to stand out. The Yellowjackets gave it their own spin, although Jamal’s rap wasn’t as strong as his previous one. Interestingly, neither group has the stand-out voice the judges seem to covet. I’m picking the Collective to sing their swan song this week. The judges agreed…just barely!

I really didn’t like the sing-off at the end. I feel strongly that the only head-to-head battle should happen at the very end. I hope this was a one-time thing. Although it’s ultimately a competitive show, I like the collaborative spirit of the groups. Let’s keep that going.

See ya next week! Can’t wait for the medleys…and a performance from Committed! Woo hoo!

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