Sing-Off – Down to the Final Three

The Final Four perform tonight, giving us their version of mash-ups and singing my favorite, the Judges’ Choice. Going into tonight, my rankings are pretty well set. Pentatonix is the clear number one and, barring a major collapse, will definitely win. Ben Folds pretty much said that in his blog last week. The Dartmouth Aires are a solid number two. The last spot is between Afro Blue and Urban Method. While both have had their high points and their missteps, I like Afro Blue to move on. They’ve shown more versatility and flair in their performances. That means I believe Urban Method will be going home. On to the show!

Opening – Didn’t care for the Katy Perry song, but liked the others. Michael from the Aires and Scott from Pentatonix are vocal beasts. There’s not a female voice that stands out for me like them (although several of the Afro Blue females are outstanding). With such talent to work with, this opening felt a bit flat to me. Not sure what I’m going to think of the mastermixes section. It could either be really great…or not.

Pentatonix – “Forget You” and “Since You’ve Been Gone” – So excited to hear what they do with this performance. So far, they’ve amazed with each song, but this is a really tough assignment. This was probably their most theatrical showing and I like how they incorporated some playfulness into the songs. The level of mashup was so intricate; the really blended the songs completely together while still keeping each song identifiable. I can’t imagine how much work it takes to do that while not violating the integrity of each individual song. A couple of average voices would sound great over Kevin and Avi’s bass and rhythm section. The fact that they have three awesome voices to go with it is just incredible.

Urban Method – “Hot in Here” and “Fever” – I really liked the feel to this whole song. It smoldered all the way through. Liz wasn’t a strong lead, but it fit her voice well and Myke more than compensated with his rap. I enjoyed the jazzy interlude of “Fever” and the way they slid back into “Hot in Here.” They showed a lot more versatility in this song than I’d heard from them before. That was a much better performance than I expected from them.

Afro Blue – “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Fly” – Great songs for this group! I don’t know pitch from shinola, but something sounded off during the first 30 seconds. I could be totally wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time. The mashup felt like it had too many seams, especially compared to the previous two performances. This group has such incredible talent and some of my favorite individual voices, but they lack some of the engaging components of the other groups.

Dartmouth Aires – “Born This Way’ and “Sympathy for the Devil” – This is probably the most ambitious of the mashups. I can’t believe the Aires considered not having Michael as one of the leads. That would have been a huge mistake! Michael always delivers and is a safe choice. I love the theatrics these guys bring to their songs. They really embody the songs they sing. This was a great mashup of the two songs; I can’t believe how well they fit them together. Awesome! That was a truly great performance.

Pentatonix – “Dog Days Are Over” – Wow! There was a lot going on in that performance. I love Mitch’s beautiful interlude; what a wonderful break to the complex noise they created in the rest of the song. This may have been Scott’s strongest lead, and that’s saying a lot, considering what he’s done. The judges said they were worried that Pentatonix will run out of tricks. It didn’t happen here. If it’s possible for them to move even further ahead, they did it again.

Urban Method – “All of the Lights” – This group has probably grown the most during this season, which has been really fun to watch. The provide amazing background for the leads that sound like tracks, not voices. This song brought out all of their strengths and gave every member a chance to shine. Their performances tonight have been the most impressive and I may have to chance my rankings to reflect Urban Method’s progress. I’ve underestimated them.

Afro Blue – “A Change Is Gonna Come” – This group has been very responsive to the judges’ feedback, and their emotional quotient has steadily grown through the season. This performance combined that emotion with their bread and butter, which is their traditional jazzy sound. They’ve done everything the judges have asked and have still remained true to their essence. This was more of sermon than a song and really captured just how good this group is.

Dartmouth Aires – “Shout” – Man, Michael’s vocal was just killer, so much so that he left the rest of his group a bit behind. The judges have been critical of the low end, and every time Michael cuts loose that deficiency becomes apparent. Still, they had as much fun with this song as I think the judges intended. It was energetic, raucous and even participatory! How could you not love that? Would it translate to a record? Actually, yes, I think it would. They continue to stand out above other college a cappella groups.

Man, this is an incredibly tough choice. Pentatonix is still a clear top choice. After tonight, Afro Blue definitely doesn’t go home. Urban Method really rose to the occasion tonight and the Darmouth Aires kept up their energy and intensity. From what the judges had to say, I believe they may actually send the Aires home. But I’m sticking with my rankings and picking Urban Method to not make the finale.

Well, so far I’m wrong. Urban Method is the first group to move on, as does Pentatonix. Hold the phone, it’s another Sing-Off! Afro Blue reprised “American Boy,” which was just an incredible song. The Aires countered with part of their Queen medley, which showcased Michael but which was also their least theatrical song. What this head-to-head sudden death showed was that Afro Blue has more overall talent and cohesion, while the Aires rely heavily on Michael to carry the load. As much as I hate to see them go, I think the Aires are done.

So much for my predictions! I’m really shocked that Afro Blue is going home after three incredible performances tonight. I really appreciate that the judges keep the big picture in mind as they do their job. Ben said he chose the group that connected most, and I can’t help be remember the judges’ criticism of Afro Blue’s arrangement of “American Girl.” Still, I would love to have seen what Afro Blue would have done next week.

On to the live finale, or as I’ll call it, the Pentatonix Coronation!

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