Sing-Off – Country Songs and Anthems night

Getting ready to watch tonight’s episode of the Sing-Off. After further reflection on last week, I think the judges made their first misstep of the season. Despite my concern about having too many college a cappella groups left in the competition, the Yellowjackets didn’t deserve to go home. The group that should have been sent packing – as hard as it is for me to say – was Urban Method. I love rapper Mike, but their females simply aren’t strong enough to carry their parts. Great voices, but they don’t stand out against the competition. We’ll see how they hold up tonight. And can Pentatonix, the clear favorite, keep up their innovative, other-worldly performances? And can they do it with a country song? Tonight will be a challenge for several of the groups. On with the show!

Opening Song – “Wake Up” – The song itself had an anthemic quality to it, and it really game room for the singers belt it out. Love featuring Scott from Pentatonix at the beginning of the opening number. That dude can sing! And you follow that up with Amy from Delilah? The producers are really playing to the strengths of the remaining groups. Of course you knew Michael from the Aires was going to get his turn. There are some REALLY strong singers left, and almost every group has a defining voice to lead it. I don’t envy the judges!

Pentatonix – “Born to the Wild” – Tonight will be a stretch for this group. If any challenge could show their weak spots, this is it. Man, can this group do anything wrong? Their bass and rhythm section is so strong that it more than makes up for their lack of numbers. Scott sang his butt off in the lead. The drew from their own strengths instead of following the blueprint of the original. They are separating themselves from the rest of the groups.

Dartmouth Aires – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – I love that this is the song they chose! It’s over-the-top style fits them well. Great energy throughout the song, and I liked the complementing lead voices. The choir-boy interlude was a bit much for me, but they didn’t drag it out and kicked right back into gear. This performance was impossible not to like. As Ben said, they out-ridiculoused this song.

Afro Blue – “American Girl” – Definitely a stretch for them. They were able to add their distinctive Afro Blue sound while staying true to the original. I really enjoyed Danielle’s lead. It’s interesting to contrast the theatrics of the previous song with how Afro Blue arranged this one. As Ben said, it didn’t work this time around. These challenges that force Afro Blue to move beyond their jazzy comfort zone are really making them struggle. The country round should be very interesting for them.

Delilah – “Dream On” – Yes! This is a chance for this group to really belt it out. Glad Amy is being featured as the lead. She’s one of my favorites on the show. The middle tones didn’t kick inf or me until the chorus, but they really kicked it up at that point. This whole performance was worth of an arena and fit the song incredibly well. Amy completely sold it and carried the song through. For a group that I thought was going to leave early, Delilah continues to hang in there.

Urban Method – “Here I Go Again” – Wow, that was a really cool opening, and I especially liked Tony’s bass. Not sure rapping was the right choice for this song, but they didn’t really have any other choice. Still, it took it too far from the original. After some powerhouse performances by Mike, his rap just didn’t work for me this time. On the bright side, the girls did a lot better and they were present without being featured.

Vocal Point – “You Really Got Me” – This group’s versatility may also be a weakness, in that they don’t have an identifiable lead. That also makes it hard to name a signature sound for them. As each group continues to establish its identity, vocal point is having trouble keeping up. They do a great job with every song, but there’s not a thread that has tied their performances together (e.g., Afro Blue’s jazzy sound). On a positive note, they really are natural performers and every time they take the stage it’s enjoyable.

Half-time. Favorite performance: Pentatonix and Darmouth Aires. Least favorite: Urban Method.

Darmouth Aires – “Save A Horse” – First of all, since this is about the only country song that has rap in it, how did Urban Method not snag this one? The Aires are such great performances and each of their songs are total experiences (still love the human pinball machine in “Pinball Wizard”). I love the Wild West opening and the square-dancing interlude, and they pulled off the dual lead very well. What may end up dooming the group is this: the Aires are contending for a record contact, yet this group is very visual. At what point do we discount the theatrics in favor of the vocal sound (in which the judges continue to find flaws)?

Afro Blue – “Need You Now” – While I really liked the leads, I didn’t feel the passion for the song that Afro Blue is so good at conveying. They didn’t go jazz on this song, and it brought them back to the level of human (instead of the super-human singing freaks they usually are). When I saw the emotion after the performance, it highlights for me the difference between a live performance and watching it on TV. I want to watch this one again to see if I can tap into what the judges saw and felt. Just watched it again. I get more of the power and emotion, but still think that doesn’t translate from a live performance. I would have loved to be there in person for that one.

Urban Method – “Before He Cheats” – Uh-oh. Another song that puts the ladies up front. They started off incredibly strong, which set the bar high from the rest of the song. Surprisingly, they pulled it off. They guys hung way in the back on this one, which was really a risk, considering the criticism they’ve received in the past. I wasn’t sure how Urban Method was going to pull this performance off, but I feel like they did more than just skate by.

Delilah – “If I Die Young” – I like how the built this song, much like they did with “Waddaya Want From Me” a few shows ago. This song relied heavily on harmonies. I’m no expert on those, but if the judges are going to find any faults, that’s where it will be, because the lead was really strong. The bass continues to be a non-issue for this group. It was a beautiful performance, but Afro Blue was a tough act to follow. Still, Delilah held their own.

Vocal Point – “Life Is A Highway” – Another great song choice for this group, but it felt rushed at first, and the lead singer seemed to have trouble keeping up. They grooved the most during the choruses and captured the essence of the song. It’s interesting that the separate Vocal Point and the Darmouth Aires. If these groups performed back-to-back, I think the strengths of the Aires would be more apparent.

Pentatonix – “Stuck Like Glue” – Wow, Kevin may be the best beatbox I’ve ever heard. He sets such an amazing foundation. Once again, Pentatonix took a big risk with the reggae bridge, which just shows how much Scott can do with his voice. That showed they can make the song their own while still honoring the original. While this wasn’t my favorite performance of theirs, they still had fun with it.

OK, so who goes? A really tough choice this week. For me, it’s down to Urban Method and Delilah. Both have had their difficult performances, and tonight both were less than their best. Ultimately, I think Delilah goes. Urban Method weathered this challenge better. The resiliency they showed this week should score them some points and buy them another chance. For Delilah, when they are on, they are amazing (“Grenade,” anyone?). But when they’re off, it’s more noticeable. And this week, they just didn’t come together. If it were up to me, I’d send them home. My darkhorse pick would be Vocal Point, because the college groups can’t all make the finals.

It’s down to Afro Blue and Delilah. Afro Blue’s last performance was so moving and such a great response to their lackluster rock show that I can’t imagine the judges would send them home after that. Delilah’s had a great run, but I think it ends here. Did the judges agree? Indeed they did. Bye, Delilah! You all were awesome!

Next week: The Top Five are doing the top R&B songs, which is right back in the wheelhouse for several of the groups. Now that they’ve made it through the more challenging shows, next week should be crazy good. Can’t wait!

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