'The Sing-Off' Recap: Yesterday and Today's R&B - Rolling Stone
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‘The Sing-Off’ Recap: Yesterday and Today’s R&B

The top five take on rhythm and blues’ most notable

sing off pentatonixsing off pentatonix

Pentatonix performs on NBC's 'The Sing-Off.'

Lewis Jacobs/NBC

This week’s episode of The Sing-Off saw the five remaining groups needing to prove themselves through the sexy sounds of R&B. The theme kicked off nicely with the opening group number containing a medley with James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” and Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love.” The judges loved the performance (seemingly inspired look-wise by Bruno Mars’ tribute to Amy Winehouse at the 2011 VMAs with the matching colored suits) giving a standing ovation, or as Nick Lachey would say, it “shook our souls.” Episode nine, he still remains the worst part of the show.

But this isn’t about Lachey and his awkward commentary (“do you feel me ladies?!”) but instead our a cappella groups. As made clear last episode with Urban Method (finally) showcasing their female vocalists, versatility catches the judges’ eyes. Dartmouth Aires picked up on this, realizing that if they wanted to do a true contemporary R&B tune, they were going to have to get sexy. Who do you go to when you want sexy R&B? R. Kelly of course! Their “Ignition (Remix)” performance included choreographed hip-thrusts yet stayed true to their collegiate charm as the Aires  showcased new soloist Xavier (who may or may not have been chosen simply because of the line “Runnin’ her hands through my fro,” since he has one). The group also nailed a gospel-like rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, in that same Bruno Mars style mentioned before. Totally, totally safe.

Urban Method realized the stakes were high for them, especially shining soloist Katie. Donned in seemingly vampire-inspired black and red leather ensembles, the group took Keri Hilson and Kanye West’s “Knock You Down” and turned it into a melancholy ballad, the best part featuring Katie belting the high notes. Despite rapper Myke calling it “My moment in hip-hop,” (which makes you wonder is he really there for his a cappella GROUP), Method shined via its female vocalists on The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.” With some belting that rivaled this year’s Aretha Franklin tribute at The Grammys, the girls slayed the track, which admittedly got awkward when Myke began incoherently rapping above his group. The judges still called them pioneers with Ben Folds applauding the fact they could excel on a song that is only two repeated chords (which also reminds us just how legitimate these judges really are). Safe definitely, but one must wonder if rapper Myke’s ego may ultimately do his group in.

In true Pentatonix fashion, the group took a seemingly minimal song (Usher and will.i.am’s “OMG”) and created a flourishing arrangement. It was clear the group was moving on when Shawn Carter told them “I can’t say anything bad.” And he most certainly wouldn’t after their interpretation of Marvin Gaye’s baby-making classic “Let’s Get It On,” which became possibly more sensual than the original due to the male and female blend. The performance earned a standing ovation from the judges leading Sara Bareilles to reveal “When I’m at a loss of words, I throw out a curse word.” So she did and was bleeped. Eh, it was a good try at a controversial moment, Sara B.

The struggles of the night came from everyone’s favorite Mormons Vocal Point and last week’s Bottom Two contender Afro-Blue. The struggles come all the more curious when you realize Afro-Blue should shine with their jazzy/pop style lending itself well to R&B. Their cover of Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together,” may have been boring for the audience (the tempo seemed slower than the original), but earned judges’ praise for the group making improvements. One would think when you’re one of the final five groups of a nationally televised singing competition, you’d have already worked out the things you needed to improve on, but maybe that’s being harsh. Their classic also fell short with a “Showgirls”-esque performance of The Emotions’ “Best Of My Love.” Main soloist Danielle excelled, but when it came to the group chorus there were obvious holes as Folds pointed out, making their two performances fall flat.

Vocal Point found themselves in an uncomfortable position like the Aires did with the sexiness that is necessary for contemporary R&B. Choosing Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” (which I didn’t realize was still considered contemporary), including choreography. Mormons plus Dancing? This should be fun, right? The judges thought so, with Shawn giving the boy band-esque performance, that showcased the bass and beatboxer well, a standing ovation. Yet it must have been the disjointed performance, despite awesome dynamics, on The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” that did them in when they were announced in the bottom two along with Afro-Blue.

Citing that the group played it safe, it was ultimately the BYU crew Vocal Point who were sent home – seemingly to the shock of Afro-Blue. They sang an appropriate swan song, Michael Buble‘s “Home,” that I’m sure had their wives and girlfriends swooning.

The Sing-Off moves to live voting next week as The Final Four prepare to vocally duke it out for America’s hearts. So, if you’ve been screaming at Ben, Sara, Shawn, and Nick at their choices this season, you’ll finally have the power to make those decisions yourself. Well, except for Nick’s. That’s a whole bag of Bobby Brown-esque mess in and of itself.

Last Episode: A Little Bit of Country, A Little Bit of Rock & Roll


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