The Sing-Off Finale

It’s here! After a great season with a lot of memorable performances (and a few forgettable ones), the Sing-Off will crown it’s champion tonight. The three groups left all bring a different style to the show. Urban Method is rap-a-pella with a blossoming female lead. Dartmouth Aires is powerhouse college group with a standout male lead. And Pentatonix is…will, I’m not sure how to explain what they are, other than just friggin’ awesome. But who will win?

To answer that, you have to know what the judges are looking for. After three seasons of this show, it’s become pretty clear that there’s a formula for success. Remember, they’re not necessarily looking for the most talented group, but the one that has the best chance to make a hit record. Here’s what works and what doesn’t:

Strong lead – the judges constantly praise strong leads and groups with identifiable voices. All three of these groups have that. The best is Michael from Dartmouth Aires, the best lead on the whole show. Urban Method has Myke’s rapping and Katie’s breakthrough growth spurt into a legit lead. Pentatonix has Scott’s vocal gymnastics, but their true signature is Avi and Kevin’s bass and rhythm section. Need proof of this? Guess who led the Michael Jackson number which opened the show – Michael, Scott and Katie.

Connection – The judges want to hear the group truly own the song and make it their own without demolishing the integrity of the original. The judges want to know the groups truly understand the essence of the song but aren’t afraid to take risks in their interpretation of it. The biggest risk-takers – by far – have been Pentatonix.

Stage Presence – The judges are wary of how the groups will translate to a recording, but they always reward groups that can embody the song and add some electricity to their performance. Dartmouth Aires have owned this category with some fun, inventive choreography.

Technical expertise – It helps if the groups can actually sing. The judges know what they are talking about, so the groups couldn’t overwhelm with style to cover up a lack of substance. The judges have called out groups who’ve missed notes or had weak sections. The groups can’t just skate through on personality.

Improvement – Some of the first groups to go were ones that had nowhere to go (Cat’s Pajamas, Fannin Family). They were either already polished or limited in their scope. The judges kept groups

Since it was up to America to pick the winner, tonight’s show isn’t really part of the competition, but a chance for the final three groups to show off one more time. Need another reason to love this show? Each of the three finalists give some time to a local charity or cause. Awesome!

Pentatonix – “Without You” – I love how this song showcased all three singers, each of whom are so strong on their own. Avi and Kevin didn’t dominate, and in fact didn’t even have their own moment. Instead, they just backed up the vocals. This group really knows how to shine the spotlight and when to step back. They show great maturity and incredible courage.

Urban Method – “Stereo Hearts” – Myke always bring such passion to his delivery, he can carry an otherwise average performance (see their version of “Airplanes”). Katie’s emergence as a great lead has been so much fun to watch, and it’s been infectious for the other women in the group. This group’s other singers haven’t gotten much attention, but their solid performances have allowed the others to shine.

Dartmouth Aires – “Paridise by the Dashboard Lights” – These guys have such an incredibly infectious stage presence, and Michael is a genuine star. He can do so much with his voice, and he basically put this group on his back and carried them through last week’s sing-off. They back up their theatricality with a big sound, and this song showed off all that is great about the Aires – plus they brought in Amy, my favorite Delilah!

Now that the top 3 have performed and we move on to more of the filler (but still awesome!) performances, I thought I would list my top performances of this season. In no particular order…

1 – “Grenade” – Delilah
2 – “Every Little Step” – Vocal Point
3 – “Britney Spears Medley” – Pentatonix
4 – “Wavin’ Flag” – Yellowjackets
5 – “Lazy Song” – North Shore
6 – “Sing” – all the groups
7 – “Love Lockdown” – Pentatonix
8 – “Love the Way You Lie” – Urban Method
9 – “Queen Medley” – Dartmouth Aires
10 – “F**kin’ Perfect” – all the groups

A note on Ben Folds’ performance of “Not the Same”: In case you don’t know, Ben has a whole album of college a cappella groups covering his songs, and “Not the Same” is the first song on that album. It’s a great disc, but this performance tonight was even better. Loved that!

I have to admit I thought the gender-exclusive performances was a bit gimmicky, but dang, the girls and the guys just killed it! Both of those songs were incredible.

So which group is the first to go? I’m going with Urban Method. They’ve made an incredible run, but they lack the star power of the other two groups. My final two are Pentatonix and Darmouth Aires. And America agreed with me. We all know Pentatonix is going to win, but second place could have gone either way. The first group to leave could have easily been the Aires, because both of those groups have been amazing. I hope Urban Method is able to get some traction from this boost and keep up their great work.

The retrospectives for the two groups only proved how great Pentatonix has been for this show. They were simply doing something that not other group could touch, and they have the potential to take a cappella to new territory. The Aires can do amazing things, but Pentatonix can do truly new things. They have earned this victory and all the accolades that go with it.

Congratulations Pentatonix! I can’t wait to hear what you do next. Thanks for a great season, Sing-Off!

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