'The Sing Off' Recap: Judges Get Brutal - Rolling Stone
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‘The Sing Off’ Recap: Judges Get Brutal

Groups put through the wringer in most critical episode yet

northshore lazy sing off nbc

The Northshore's perform their 'Lazy Song' last night on NBC's 'The Sing Off.'

Lewis Jacobs/NBC

It’s gotten to the point where even the judges have probably realized that these groups are gonna need a little more feedback than “great job” to actually compete on this show – and to hold the attention of even the most dedicated fan for two long hours. As a result, last night’s Sing Off saw a lot more technical criticism than the previous three episodes, with everything from pitch issues to a disappointing arrangement getting called out. In other words, no one is safe anymore. 

We revisited the top-40 hit/Sixties classic format this week for the second round of groups. Where Afro-Blue had the upper hand last week with their jazz specialty, North Shore owned the stage “because they actually remembered the 1960s.” With an adorable cover of Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song” (Dads singing about Snuggies? And “teach me how to dougie”? No contest. None. If North Shore does not win, it will be a modern tragedy) – and their chill-worthy classic, Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” (judges’ only advice was to stray from the identical note-by-note arrangement next time) – North Shore was obviously one of the first safe groups again this week.

The other group totally in the clear last night was the all-male ivy leaguers the Dartmouth Aires, even despite soloist Michael Odokara-Okigbo’s absence at several rehearsals due to his mother’s illness. The judges commended the group’s compensation for any minor harmonic mishaps with their superhuman energy (and an explosion of extreme pant/vest combos) on Neon Trees’ “Animal” and, later, the Who’s “Pinball Wizard.” Got to hand it to them – they earned their safety with that impressively choreographed reenactment of a giant pinball machine.

Two groups, Pentatonix and the Collective, claimed soloist sickness, but both seemed rather fishy: the Pentatonix whipped out a formidable electronic arrangement of Ke$ha’s “Your Love is My Drug” (here, Sara Bareilles kept the awkward alive with the terrified declaration, “Ke$ha ain’t gentle…she’s scary”) and a knockout, reggae-infused revamp of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” (complete with flugelhorn/trumpet solo). Both earned acclaim from the judges, who lauded their original, risky arrangements but warned against over-thinking. The Collective landed two not-quite-perfect yet vastly improved performances of “Rocketeer” by Far East Movement and “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave, the notes for which makes us suspect the Collective will stay on for a while as the judges’ pet project. Both groups’ soloists charged through without a hint of rasp or range shortage – a likely story, ladies.

University of Delaware’s Deltones took on the frightening challenge of singing a Lady Gaga song, the semi-recent single “Edge of Glory” – frightening because no one wants to know what it’s like to piss off those rabid “little monsters” watching at home with a botched job. Luckily, judges liked the performance, despite a lack of energy. The group’s second song, however, was a sight rougher – their interpretation of “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes was no doubt sunshiney (bolstered by an all-cast, all-yellow wardrobe), but the arrangement fell totally flat for judges, who were left wanting more creativity and better cohesion and pitch quality. (Though, as a consolation for sucking so bad, Sara did remind them that they’re all really good looking.) So disappointing was their reaction to “Can’t Hurry Love” that it was shocking to find that Deltones were actually safe this round – bigger (worse) fish to fry, it seemed.

At the end, though, it was Sonos and the Collective at the stocks. While the judges said the soloists of the Collective still had a ways to go with their blend, they decided to give them room to grow, since they improved by leaps and bounds from their first performance. Not so for Sonos – it seemed they just couldn’t get by without their effects pedals. They made their way onto judges’ shit list with a pitchy rendition of the already-daunting “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay and a painfully off-the-mark reimagining of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” (no one wanted to see a sultry, minor version, it seemed – we didn’t think it was that bad), so they were sent packing, to the tune of Boyz II Men’s “Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Yes, Shawn did avert his eyes – it wasn’t as hard for us to say goodbye.

Last Episode: Competitors Cram for History Test


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