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.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Sing-Off: Season Four Thus Far

Yay, The Sing-Off is back! A capella goodness! Smart judges! Nick Lachey saying unbelievably dorky things!

Okay, not too thrilled about that last one. But this is the one reality program I can say I truly love. There is such energy and beauty to be found in a group of people singing with nothing but each other to support, and it’s wonderful to have a show that celebrates that. Plus, it brought Pentatonix to the world. Any series that introduces me to the wonderful basso profundo glory that is Avi Kaplan is okay in my book.

Three episodes into the two-week mini-series, and seven of the ten original groups remain. Of the eliminated three, the only one I wish could have remained was Street Corner Renaissance. Their classic doo-wop sound, cool-old-guy groove and effortless charm that can only come with years of experience made them a delight to watch every time. I wasn’t expecting them to win (their genre of choice is sadly not marketable to a wide audience), but I wanted them to hang around for longer.


(Speaking of things I miss: please, PLEASE bring back the Swan Song! I get that the whole “Ultimate Sing-Off Challenge” is supposed to add a sense of urgency to the final moments of each episode, but giving the eliminated groups that last parting shot was a wonderful way to say goodbye. It was sometimes tender, sometimes defiant, and always worth watching.)

The other two eliminations were good choices. Calle Sol had a fun Latin vibe and sweet dance moves but weren’t technically proficient enough to be competitive, and the Princeton Footnotes were completely unable to distinguish themselves from the sea of men’s collegiate groups out there.

That leaves seven groups to duke it out over the week to come. Based on nothing but my own instinct and skewed opinions, here’s my current power rankings:

7.) Element

I want to like these ladies, I really do. I can tell they have a lot of passion, and a fierce desire to prove themselves. But it’s not coming together as it should. Their arrangements need more power and dynamic build. Next Monday is do-or-die time for Element—if they can’t show some big improvements, they’re going home.


6.) The AcoUstiKats 

I dunno, maybe I’m burned out on goofy-fun men’s collegiate clubs. But these boys from the University of Kentucky aren’t doing anything for me, and their smarmy frat-boy attitude isn’t helping. Music needs an element of sincerity, but with the exception of Thursday’s elegantly simple rendition of “Amazed” the AcoUstiKats don’t have it—they’re more like the guys who joined choir in high school in order to meet girls. (Full Disclosure: Mr. Diva is a University of Louisville alum, so there may be some adopted prejudice/rivalry leaking through.)

5.) Ten 

There’s big talent (and hair, and earrings) in this group, but I fear their lack of experience singing together is going to hurt them in the long run. Each performance has been a step up from the last, but that might not be enough to catch up to the pack.


4.) Vocal Rush 

By far the best teen group to appear on The Sing-Off, Vocal Rush is holding their own now—but their youth and inexperience will become more of a liability as the field narrows down.


3.) Voice Play

You can tell these guys desperately want to be the next Pentatonix. They’re not there yet, but after a shaky start this sextet proved they have what it takes to go the distance with a fun, groovin’ take on “Play that Funky Music” that featured Honey’s soulful lead vocals and some seriously subwoofer-rattling bass.

2.) The Filharmonic

The self-proclaimed “Filipino boy band” has all the elements of previous Sing-Off finalists: technical proficiency, a unique personality, energetic arrangements, and loads of onstage charisma. Despite a misstep that had them facing off against Street Corner Renaissance in Thursday’s episode, these guys have everything it takes to make it to the final round of competition.

1.) Home Free

I’m kind of ambivalent when it comes to country music—on one hand, there’s the deep folk roots, heartfelt songs, and a sense of playful fun; on the other, it tends to breed a lot of off-putting redneck jingoistic posturing. But this quintet of good ol’ boys brings out all the best in the genre, and they’re my current pick to win. As with the Filharmonic they’re the perfect blend of skill and style, with adorably boyish lead singer Austin and mega-bass Tim being a particular delight to watch and hear.


(Hmmm, Tim and Avi singing a duet...that would probably cause the tectonic plates to shift.  And it would be awesome.)

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