NBC wanted a singing reality show too so the network dusted off Nick Lachey and decided to reinvent doo-wop and scatting by creating an a capella competition. This pale imitation of American Idol has a couple of good things going for it and some things positively cringe-worthy. You’re excused if you missed the flurry of three shows in 3 nights from the same network that brings you prime-time Jay Leno five nights a week. That’s actually one of the good things. Someone give me a backbeat and let’s talk about Sing-Off.
Great Stuff About Sing-Out
1. No reality show back stories. You sing, you mug a little for the camera, you get some judging criticism and you’re off the stage.
2. The lightning fast eliminations. The show started with 8 groups and began cutting mid-show immediately. That’s a fun concept. I love watching judges cut acts in mid-show.
3. Sing-Off is getting tons of song clearances with the winners promises a Sony/Epic contract. Mind you, no one said anything about promoting that record, but you get a studio, and probably a producer too.
4. A couple of the performances have been fun to watch. A capella isn’t for everyone. I don’t know if it’s for me, but that’s where the show’s lightning pace helps.
5. Watching Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men in the Simon Cowell role is a treat. Think some amateur a capella singer is going to argue with Stockman? And on last night’s show he rocked a bow tie and argyle sweater that still made him look like the coolest guy in the house.
Not So Great Stuff About Sing-Off
1. Ben Folds is my man. I love Ben Folds. I have everything — the rarities, the imports, the whole catalog. He has 100% musical credibility in my eyes. C’mon, he covered Snoop as a tender ballad! Unfortunately, he’s Randy Jackson on Sing-Off. I don’t know whether that makes me like Folds less or Jackson more. It’s just weird.
2. There are times that the show is trapped in a Glee casting session. Watching the SoCals do Journey last night was actually pretty darn good until they went straight into Don’t Stop Believin’. Between the Glee kids, the final episode of The Sopranos and now this, I don’t want to hear this song for another five years. Amazingly well-crafted song. Really good album. Stop playing the song, and Lord, please stop covering the 30 year old track.
3. The Beelzebubs are a hoot to watch. They did campy stuff in the Straight No Chaser vein until last night when they did a Who medley (catch it below) that has 3 songs I would pay to download.
Things I Hate About Sing-Off
1. Nicole Sherzinger, the Paula judge, makes Paula Abdul sound like a Rhodes Scholar lecturing on music theory. Like Paula, Nicole can sing, had a string of hits off an album (although Abdul had bigger hits over a longer period of time), but this is one boring judge. By the time she offered her opinion a third time, we were yelling at her through the television to shut up. Alas, she did not. Money Mike promised us Pussycat Dolls were no more, but I forgot to check if Nicole would continue talking. Perhaps that’s a New Year’s resolution.
2. No one expects Nick Lachey to be Seacrest or Dick Clark. Maybe next time we roll out Wayne Brady or someone who actually, you know, doesn’t sound like a young John Tesh.
Bonus Thing I Loved: Simon and Randy (I mean, Shawn Stockman and Ben Folds) arguing over a cover of Man in the Mirror. Stockman ripped into the group, told them they were technically sound and missed the emotion of the song, which he happily sang to them. Folds defended them, told them not to be afraid of the original, and Stockman leaped over the table and beat Folds with a chair calling him a “sissy cracker who makes fun of black people in songs”. Actually, I made that last up. What Stockman did was interrupt Folds and chastise the kids again. He made his point by Slapping. The. Desk. With. Each. Word. Got it? Good. Although I have a Franklin down on Stockman if he and Folds decide to throw hands in the finale.
The finals are Sunday on NBC. I do love that lightning fast get-em-outta-here aspect. Meanwhile, enjoy The Who as sung by a bunch of a capella geeks. I’m guessing Pete is smiling because it’s pretty darn good.