Six groups, three judges, and $50k in prize money make for adequate holiday entertainment.
The Sing-Off returned, minus Ben Folds and the recording contract prize, for a winner-takes-all season premiere and finale rolled into one. Six groups were tapped to an epic two-round battle, with the prize being $50k and the title of Probably The Last Sing-Off Champion Ever. Determining the winner (and speaking for no-more-than-two-sentences-each-please-we-have-a-lot-to-accomplish-in-90-minutes-of-airtime) was newcomer Patrick Stump, lead singer of Fall Out Boy, along with returning judges Jewel and Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men. Pulling it all together was returning host Nick “I Don’t Have Anything Else To Do” Lachey.
To start things off, each group was given 90 seconds to perform their “signature song” for the judges:
Timothy’s Gift: six white women from Nashville (the city, not the show) who sing primarily to inmates in maximum security prisons. Signature tune: Ghost, by Ella Henderson. Jewel, on not having bass or vocal percussion: “It’s sorta like showing up to a baseball game with no bat … except it worked.” Otherwise, faint praise from the judges. I found them a little bit yelly.
A. Squared: five white men from Yale who use live looping and modulation effects. Signature tune: Pompeii, by Bastille. Shawn’s take: “You’re, like, the Steve Jobs of acapella [but] you can’t just be cool with the technology, you have to be entertaining.” My take: Imogen Heap does it better. Way better.
Traces: five Black women from NYC who got started singing gospel at church. Signature song: River Deep, Mountain High by Tina Turner. Jewel, to the bass singer: “TAMEKA! I have never heard … you are the lowest female bass I think we’ve ever had on this show. How low can you go?” Great singers both individually and as a group, and hey! They can actually move! And in heels!
The Exchange: three Black men and two white men from Myrtle Beach, three of whom have competed against each other on a previous season of The Sing-Off and one of whom has operatic training. Signature tune: Love Runs Out by One Republic. Shawn felt the love: “This is a bromance.” An incredibly talented, smooth, and balanced group.1
SanFran6: an all-star group of four brown men, one brown woman, and one white woman formed a month ago specifically for this competition. Signature tune: Break Free by Ariana Grande. Patrick was the most positive about the group: “The most important thing that any of us do is entertain, and I was entertained the entire time.” Solid, with amazing beat-boxing, but thin-sounding compared to some of the other groups.
Melodores: ten white guys and two Black guys who perform as an existing acapella group at Vanderbilt University. Signature tune: Trumpets by Jason Derulo. From Jewel: “You were cuter than kittens on YouTube. Cute overload!” Too saccharine and patchwork-y, stylewise, for my taste.
Act Break The First
As if to remind us of The Sing-Off’s better days, the act break featured Season 3 champs Pentatonix singing a medley of holiday songs. They are just so great, but must have been on the stage for three minutes, max, before they were made to skedaddle.
Second and Final Round
There were a couple of groups2 that pretty clearly didn’t belong in the final round of competition. My top three ended up being The Exchange, Traces, and SanFran6. The judges’ list differed slightly, placing the collegiate group Melodores into the final instead of SanFran6.
This time, groups had 90 seconds to present a song chosen for them by the judges:
Traces: I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan. Patrick on avoiding pitfalls: “There’s a danger of overpowering, and you didn’t. It’s so incredible.” Great song for their voices, but a little sloppy lyrically, and they didn’t use the stage as well as the first round.
The Exchange: Sing by Ed Sheeran. Shawn on versatility: “What’s fun is, you guys showed range in a matter of two songs.” This group is just so good, except for that one white guy who can’t dance and also can’t help himself.
The Melodores: Take Me to Church by Hozier. Shawn was impressed: “That, ladies and gentlemen, is storytelling.” Dan the very short lead can sing with emotion, but I found it hard to get past the contrasting dorkiness of the supporting cast.
Act Break The Second
Before announcing the champion, we have one more competition: which judge can out-vogue the others during Stand By Me, while last season’s winners Home Free provide the musical backdrop? Patrick puts all of his face into the effort and Jewel is great as always, but Shawn wins by virtue of packing the most notes into the shortest period of time.
The Exchange totally deserved to win, if only for their holiday-themed YouTube single, Yo Ass Ain’t Gettin’ a Gift. Instead, the Melodores are the first collegiate group to win The Sing-Off. Meh.3 They definitely improved from the first round to the second, but on the whole were not the best group on the stage.
Between the reduced airtime, marketing,4 and prize money, it seems like this may be the last time we see The Sing-Off. It’s unclear whether that’s due to a lack of viewership, a lack of quality talent, or something else altogether. In any case, thanks for the memories!5
- Not surprising, given The Exchange provided tour support for the Backstreet Boys during their recent 30-show swing through Europe. ↵
- Looking at you, A. Squared and Timothy’s Gift ↵
- Am I a terrible person for appreciating the fact that they have to split the pot, like, 50 ways? ↵
- I signed up to do the recap for this show and then forgot it was even happening until like a week after it aired. Even other friends who had followed the show closely in previous seasons had no idea it was happening until I told them. ↵
- Aaaaand mostly for Pentatonix. ↵