Playback: 'The Sing Off' Ends Second Season on High Note

Neil Diamond, Sheryl Crow, Sara Bareilles join finalists on stage

Season two winners, Commited. Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

After two weeks and five episodes, Committed won The Sing Off's second season, beating out Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town, Street Corner Symphony and the Backbeats for $100,000 and a Sony Music recording contract. The a capella reality show debuted last December on NBC with host Nick Lachey and judges Ben Folds, Nicole Scherzinger and Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman. Whether or not renewed a cappella fever from Glee's enormous sucess is to thank (Sing Off's arrangements feel more akin to the musical dramedy than American Idol), Sing Off's second season received such high ratings that producers expanded last night's live finale to a full two hours.

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The final episode was more of a celebration, rather than a highlight reel or a suspense-building results show. The first half of the show was front-loaded with pop music talent, with each a cappella group performing with an established artist. L.A. group the Backbeats helped former UCLA a capella star Sara Bareilles on a charming "King of Anything," but the rest of the performances were blasts from the past: Alabama church boys Committed kept their R&B sound prominent when backing up Boyz II Men on "Motownphilly"; while Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town paired with their biggest fan, Nicole Scherzinger, for a classic take on "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"; and Street Corner Symphony fleshed out Ben Folds' 2001 hit "Gone."

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Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town and the Backbeats took the stage with Sheryl Crow for an inspired "Long Road Home." Then — after an amusing pre-taped Neil Diamond medley featuring all four finalists, plus all three judges and host Lachey — the recently announced Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee took the stage for a haunting version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" (from his new covers album) with help from Committed and Street Corner Symphony.

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Nick Lachey reminded people that he, too, was once part of a singing group, performing "What Christmas Means to Me," before the groups sang their last songs and got final words from the judges. Each was inspired by recent outings to L.A.-area charities: the Backbeats' version of Katy Perry's "Firework" earned them praise for their emotional connection. Committed, who seemed to be the judges' favorites going into last night, brought Scherzinger to tears (she was the Paula Abdul of this series) by singing Akon's duet with Michael Jackson, "Hold My hand." Elder statesmen Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town brought down the house with "Love Train" and Street Corner Symphony ended things on a haunting note with Coldplay's "Fix You."

Then each group sang themselves off with a tune of their choosing as they were eliminated: Fourth-placers Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town exited to "Hit the Road Jack," the Backbeats sang "Goodbye to You" after they were named third, and Street Corner Symphony went for Kid Rock's "Drift Away" with their second place finish. Committed, meanwhile, brought an end to The Sing Off's second season with a triumphant "We Are the Champions."

The Sing Off worked — the groups simply couldn't fake their performances. But it was also a bite-sized portion: with only five episodes, the show can't afford to waste time on filler, so it skips the embarrassing auditions and most of the stiff pretaped packages to get straight to the performances. One has to wonder if the show would be as great if it were given a full set of episodes, but we'll see what NBC does with an expanded singing show when The Voice of America launches this spring.