Located on a small expansion shelf about midway between the Third and Fourth Circles, Musical Hell is presided over by Diva, a minor demon charged with passing judgement on the worst musicals ever committed to film. (She still hasn't figured out if this is their punishment or hers.) Take a seat on the bench and have your earplugs ready, because court is now in session.

New videos posted on the first Monday of the month. Other viewpoints, news, and general ramblings posted when they crop up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sing-Off Sound-Off: S4E4 "My Generation"

So I'm still not thrilled with dividing the field into two brackets for these past two episodes--it makes it a little harder to track the groups and in this case has made for some uneven fields (Street Corner Renaissance, I still love you!).  But it is what it is, and yesterday was part two of the vaguely-themed "hits of yesterday and today" round.

The second set of four groups opens the evening with a medley of "My Generation/We Will Rock You/It's Time."  Nice way to set up the theme and a good showcase for the soloists, but I loved Thursday's "Your Eyes" better.  (It was the first dance song at our wedding reception; I'm biased.)  Ben Folds is the mentoring judge tonight--love ya, Shawn, but I think the groups you helped out last week kind of got the short end of the stick.

Home Free opens up the field with Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire"--about the most conventional song choice you can have for a country-western group.  Ben encourages the group to show their vulnerability.  I'm not quite convinced they managed that, but the arrangement does allow them to showcase bassist Tim, who is quickly becoming my Sing-Off crush for the season.  His venture into head voice isn't clean on the transition, but the tone is fine, and he slides down into a nice just-on-the-edge-of-human-hearing low F for a finish.  Not the group's strongest showing of the season, but their consistency and the judge's effusive praise still make them the team to beat this year.

Next, Voice Play tackles "Don't Speak"--talkin' bout my generation here.  Ben wants them to focus on the song and the story it tells, and this is a good song to highlight that, with its intense concoction of anger, desperation, and resigned sadness.  Honey does sell the essential anguish (although wandering around to sing to her male bandmates makes the song lose a little focus), and Eli adds a lovely grace note to her vocals.  It's Voice Play's best showing yet, and the judges love it.  I still like Home Free and Filharmoinc for the top two groups, but these guys could emerge as a dark horse.  (What the Hell are they wearing, though?)

Element goes back to girl group roots with the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (wait, the song isn't called "Set Me Free"?  Huh, learn something new every day).  I like the build of the intro, but once the full group is singing, it just kind of stays at the same level, and there's not enough attitude and style to really sell the inherent fury and resentment behind the lyrics.  It's the same problem Element has had from the start, and not being able to take the judges' notes is death for groups in this competition.

Finally, Vocal Rush takes on "Holdin' Out for a Hero," getting themselves all dolled up eighties-style while remarking that none of them were even born when this song came out.  God, I feel old.  Ben encourages the group to focus on technique in order to remain competitive with the groups that have more age and experience than they do.  The song starts of great with incredible intensity, with quietly intense percussion gorgeous harmonies building under the melody line, before moving through an engaging progression of soloists and modes.  Even if the kids have trouble sustaining the beat (and their breath) through the whole thing, it's fun to watch.

The judges comments make it perfectly clear who's going to be facing off for elimination tonight, but Nick tries to create of air of suspense before announcing Element and Vocal Rush for the Ultimate Sing-Off round.  The ensuing rendition of "Survivor" is probably the best battle since the first episode, and Element finally brings some genuine intensity to their performance.  But Vocal Rush nails it, and earns the right to advance farther than any Sing-Off group in their age bracket has managed.  That alone is something to be proud of.

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