Where there were 16, now a mere six remain: this week's seventh installment of The Sing Off, which again saw only one dismissal, lacked most of the hard criticism the groups took last week – in part, perhaps, because this week's theme was so damned awesome. The superstar medley night saw near-perfect performances that paid interpretive homage to legendary pop artists in three-song melanges – but not before the entire cast performed a costumed, spoooooooky Halloween medley.
The top three slots of the night, judges ruled, belonged to Dartmouth Aires, Pentatonix and Vocal Point, who took on medleys by Queen, Britney Spears, and Elvis Presley, respectively.
Dartmouth Aires' ultra-challenging combo performance of "Killer Queen"/"Bohemian Rhapsody"/"Somebody to Love" brought a wave of praise from judges; Shawn Stockman described the experience as akin to "watching a Broadway play" and an almost-surprised Ben Folds called it a "perfect arrangement," while Sara Bareilles was at a loss, claiming that their presentation was so gripping that she forgot to write a single note (though, in a suspicious move, she continued to refer to her notebook anyway while weighing in).
Despite some disagreement during the arranging period, Pentatonix also hit the nail on the head, as usual, with their robo-breakdown of three Brit-Brit hits, "Oops! I Did It Again," "Toxic," and "Hold it Against Me." Decked out in purple and silver – with sole female member Kirstie Maldonado dressed in a shimmery Britney outfit – the quintet's seamless pentatonic (Get it? They're Pentatonix! See what they did there?!) harmonies wowed judges. Shawn's initial reaction: "This is a really good show." He and the others went on to commend their perfectionism and rhythm section, the power of which has been responsible for their huge sound despite their small numbers.
Vocal Point couldn't have surprised anyone with their choice of superstar: the Elvis Presley decision was a perfect match to their old-timey, gentlemanly vibe. Covering "Don't Be Cruel," "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" (for their ladies—the ones they definitely have), and "Jailhouse Rock," the BYU ensemble paid special attention to their pitch this week, thanks to the jaw-dropping note last week about their first-ever harmony trouble. The extra effort went a long way with judges: Stockman gave them a standing ovation, while Bareilles complimented their challenging arrangement (which included multiple modulations) and Folds lauded their medley-inside-a-medley during "Can't Help Falling," quipping, "You're back; that's good."
A highlight of the episode: a tragically unsuccessful effort from Nick Lachey, whose cringe-worthy commentary ("Delilah, stickin' their hearts out!" and, following Vocal Point's "Elvis has left the building!" exclamation at their finale, "Vocal Point has not left the building!"), upon a revisit, has been concluded to only bring additional joy and mirth to the competition. Oh, Nicholas, you funny guy, you.
Delilah and Afro-Blue were also safe this round; the latter with a Janet Jackson breakdown and the former with one by Alicia Keys. As Bareilles aptly noted, Delilah wielded a dangerous weapon by covering Keys' songs (most notably "Fallin'"), which often run the danger of being overplayed to disastrous results (see: every American Idol audition pool, oh, ever). Nevertheless, judges said, the girls exacted the song, along with "A Woman's Worth" and "If I Ain't Got You," with stunning success.
Afro-Blue's Janet medley came with two built-in secret weapons: those sweet military tassel jackets (inspired by Ms. Jackson's signature look) and some equally bad-ass dance-off opportunities. Throwing together "What Have You Done For Me Lately," "When I Think of You," and "Miss You Much," the ensemble managed to pull off an energetic arrangement that judges called – as they have before – a little too smart.
The Sing Off stylists made some interesting choices of their own this week: the usually hardcore Urban Method found themselves looking like they had just waltzed out of a Forever 21, in fuchsia, black and gold for their Rihanna medley. Still, judges commended their arrangement, which despite its lack of confidence at the beginning (said Bareilles) and mild "ungluing" (said Folds) in the middle, rectified the group's previous weak spot: showcasing its female vocalists. All three songs – "What's My Name," "Umbrella," and "Only Girl in the World" – featured vocals by the soulful ladies of the Denver, Colorado rap-appella ensemble.
Before the judges made their eliminations last night, both audience and contestants got another taste of what it's like to be a Sing Off champion from last season's winners, Committed, who returned for a quick check-in and performance. Since taking home both prize money and a recording deal, the all-male ensemble has met countless fans, made a handful of live television appearances, and just dropped their first album with Sony.
It wasn't a great night for Urban Method and YellowJackets, who both found themselves on the chopping block this week, despite praise from judges (what, we're back to this it's-all-good game again, guys? Come on). While the former's arrangement was solid at the beginning and end, it fell apart in the middle, judges said; the latter might as well have been accused of being singing, dancing robots, as their performance wanted for the emergence of "individual characters" amidst the unified group. (Another sidenote: how have the YellowJackets managed to get away with ripping off the name of celebrated jazz group the Yellowjackets for this long…?!)
A lack of personality has now failed yet another group: it was the YellowJackets who hit the road last night. Singing a hilariously choral intro to Chumbawumba's hit, "Tubthumping," they exited the stage – but not before plugging NBC with parody lyrics (Come on, guys. Did you really want that promo clip that badly?). The Sing Off has, at least for now, successfully kept you down, boys.