It was “Hip-Hop Hits” this week on The Sing Off, and the theme for the evening was clear from the get-go: Hip-hop is not what we do (unless you’re in Urban Method, in which case that’s exactly what you do). With just eight groups left, it was a daunting challenge and the repeated mantra of “if we miss just one note, we’re done” rang truer than ever. Also, this week saw the introduction of “The Sing Off Battle,” a literal sing off to survive between the two lowest ranked groups at the end of the show. Oh, this was also the second week in a row to showcase the hilariously awkward rap stylings of Ben Folds.
It was smooth sailing for both the Dartmouth Aires and Howard University’s Afro-Blue. The Ivy Leaguers got off to a somewhat shaky start with Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me,” but quickly found their stride; and Shawn offered the Dartmouth boys one of the best possible compliments: “I’d hang out with you guys at a party.” With their choice, The Fugees’ classic, “Killing Me Softly,” Afro-Blue paid tribute to fellow Howard alum, Roberta Flack, who recorded the original, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” – and the group made the song their own, eliciting an enthusiastic “flawless” from Sara.
It was Nashville’s The Collective and the pristine Mormon boys of Vocal Point who found themselves facing a possible spot in final battle. Despite being one of the judges’ favorites, The Collective drew criticism for their rendition of Pitbull’s recent smash, “Give Me Everything,” with Ben noting they “still have to overcome the science of being an a cappella group.” In the night’s most moving performance, Vocal Point took on Puff Daddy’s paean to the Notorious B.I.G., “I’ll Be Missing You,” led by Ben Murphy, who returned to the group last week after losing his father to leukemia. Though their heartstrings were effectively pulled, the judges did point out a few pitch issues, but chalked them up to the emotional weight of the piece. In the end, the judges decided The Collective were heading to the battle.
Urban Method kicked off the second half of the show with a rousing rendition of B.O.B.’s “Airplane” that featured a powerhouse performance from frontman Mykal Hudson, though both Shawn and Sara thought Liz Ager and Katie Turley could’ve been stronger on the Hayley Williams parts. Props were rightly given to Richard Steighner for his fantastic cricket noises.
Next up were Pentatonix who caused several (alright, let’s be honest: everyone’s) jaws to drop as they tackled Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown,” the perfect song to match their a-cappella-from-the-future style. And, man, did they nail it—everything was spot on from Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola’s guttural vocal percussion to Scott Hoying’s transfixing lead vocals to Mitch Grassi and Kristin Maldonado’s chilling back-up work. “I’m still a performer, so you best believe all the things I hear, I’m like this on the low-low,” said Shawn as he scribbled down notes.
After two straight weeks of nearly facing the chopping block, all-girl Sing Off super group Delilah reminded the judges why they were early favorites using their recent frustration, as Ben put it, to give strong rendition of Lil Wayne’s “How To Love.” The University of Rochester’s YellowJackets closed out the night with Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On,” a song with a message that played nicely with the group’s kinda gimmicky charity work in Kenya. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough for the YellowJackets, with Ben remarking that the massive group “didn’t quite have a face yet,” and Sara stating, “it felt a little fast.” And with that, the YellowJackets found themselves going head to head with The Collective in the unprecedented, heart-stopping – as Nick Lachey constantly reminded us – “Sing Off Battle.”
So here’s how it works: During the week each group has to prepare not only their regular song, but also an arrangement of the battle song, in this case Nelly’s “Just A Dream”; after the two lowest ranking groups perform the judges deliberate and cast their votes. And with that the YellowJackets and The Collective tried to prove to the judges why they should stay with an interpretation that lasts approximately a minute. Shawn and Ben both picked the group they felt was the most cohesive: The YellowJackets and The Collective respectively. With the tie-breaking vote, Sara went with the group that she felt “took the most risks,” sending the YellowJackets into the next round, and left the all-soloist group saying farewell with the Bob Dylan classic, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” A somewhat surprising decision considering the group’s former favorite status, but certainly nowhere near as devastating as losing North Shore. Nope, still not over it.
Last Episode: Groups Reveal Their ‘Guilty Pleasures’