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.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sing-Off Sound-Off: S4E5 "Movie Night"

Ah, film music--a particular passion of mine, as you're all probably aware.  Sadly The Sing-Off's tribute to songs of the silver screen doesn't get me into the mood right away, as "(I've Had) The Time of My Life"...has never appealed to me. (Seriously, I don't get the whole Dirty Dancing love in general.  I saw the movie once, it was okay, but why it became a cultural touchstone I will never fully understand and I've probably completely alienated my already small audience so I'll shut up now.)  Tim from Home Free and Honey from Voice Play sound odd singing together--something about his full bass and her distinctly husky tone don't gel.  I hope the rest of the night is better than this.

For the second episode in a row, Home Free leads off and have selected "Pretty Woman," proving that this is less "songs written in films" and "songs featured in films in some capacity or another."  Way to keep the concept nice and vague there, guys.  Jewel is mentoring tonight; she encourages the country boys to take the song someplace interesting to keep it from being just a toe-tapper.  And they do, shifting through an interesting progression of rhythm and tone changes that manage to come together in an interesting whole.  Austin has some odd things going on in his flirt-solo to Jewel, but the harmonies are tight and clean and it's good fun overall so I like it.  The judges do too.

Vocal Rush's pick for the night is "Against All Odds," a nice change after the driving "I Need a Hero" and upbeat "Gonna Make You Sweat."  Vocal percussionist Kyana is stepping out of her comfort zone to take the solo and...it's wonderful.  She projects a captivating vulnerability in the song's opening (she may be nervous, but she knows how to use it) before slipping back into her accustomed role without missing a beat (pun semi-intended).  The build of the song is simply gorgeous--some of these kids have bright professional careers ahead of them, I just know it.

After kind of impressing me with "Amazed," The AcoUstiKats are back to making me roll my eyes with their bachelor-party antic and being more interested in praising Jewel's looks than her musical know-how.  Shove off, already.  "Old Time Rock & Roll" is always a fun get-up-and-dance song, but the tempo changes don't serve the 'Kats as well as they did Home Free--it messes up the drive of the song.  In the end the judges have more to say about the strip show than the vocal performance, which doesn't bode well for the Kentucky kids.

Oooh, The Filharmonic are doing "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," a song I guiltily love in all its cheesy power-ballad glory.  After being a little too cheery for "One More Night," the group is wistful and heartfelt here in a way that leaves the big, beautiful-voiced Joe in sensitive boy-band tears afterward.  It doesn't go quite as over-the-top as it needs too, but it's still an overall step forward from last week.  Also, bow ties should totally become part of the military uniform.

Voice Play is up next with "Don't You Forget About Me," and even though they're rocking the Breakfast Club style with their 80s high school duds, but musically...I'm just not feeling it tonight. Maybe it's the fact that Honey's distinctive voice just isn't a good fit for this song.  Maybe it's because the counterpoint section feels more muddled than interesting (though it does come together for the final chorus).

And finally, Ten...I owe you guys an apology.  I underestimated you, big time.  I thought your lack of experience as a group would keep you from reaching the potential that, as experienced professionals, I knew you had.  But you left them all in the dust tonight with a gorgeous, soulful rendition of "Skyfall."  It was perfect from the quietly intense pulse of the opening to the furious gospel-belt chorus.  I fell in love with you tonight.  I want you to do the theme for the next Bond movie, seriously.

The Ultimate Sing-Off is actually a three-round battle tonight, because it's a two-hour show and there's still forty minutes to fill.  Actually "battle" is a misnomer, since for all the trash-talking in the pre-song packages, these groups are clearly collaborating on their songs and quite happy to do so.  This may be the friendliest reality show on television.

The "Kats and Voice Play lead off with "Eye of the Tiger."  They're having fun with it, obviously, with lots of workout moves and pretend punches thrown.  But it's just not clicking for me.  Maybe this song has just been so overused as a pump-you-up piece that it's lost some of its oomph for me.

Things pick up a bit with Ten and Vocal Rush teaming up for "Fame."  The fact that Vocal Rush is able to go toe-to-toe with a group of people who have sung alongside industry giants and hold their own proves how damn good they are.  They make the song feel fresh, and I'm prepared to think this will be the best Sing-Off of the evening.

....And then Home Free and Filharmonic do "I'm Alright" and I stand corrected.  More than the other pairings, these two groups used the song to show off their unique styles and personalities.  More than that, though, it is so much fun.  They hold down a sweet bass groove (Tim gets to rock the "dit-dit-dit-dit" part).  They trade lead singers.  They pit their vocal percussionists against each other.  Rob does the gopher dance.  Even Nick Lachey's increasingly cheesy litany of golf puns can't wipe the smile off my face.

A prelude of the final showdown?  Before this episode, I would have said absolutely.  Home Free is still a solid bet, but The Filharmonic have been last safe for two rounds in a row now and Ten or even Vocal Rush could end up eclipsing them for the top spots if they don't clean up their act in the next episode.

For now though, it's so long, farewell to the AcoUstiKats and Voice Play.  Voice Play, I really enjoyed what you brought to the show and wish you the best.  'Kats...don't let the door hit you on the way out, you fraternity prats.

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