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'The Sing-Off' recap: One Night with Nick Lachey and his blazers

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The Sing Off 02
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Well, here we are, at the most wonderful time of the year: The Sing-Off is back, and you can never really know for how long, so cherish every minute, even when they all come on the same night. In its fifth season of dodging the eviction notice NBC keeps hiding in Shawn Stockman’s dressing room, The Sing-Off returned as a one-night, two-hour holiday special. And even at just two hours—half the length of a typical singing show’s weekly allotment—I stand by this being the best happiest show on television.

Hyperbolic? Sure. But what is a cappella for, if not to be a little dramatic. And, of course, for the blazers. There were just So. Many. Blazers, each more beautiful than the next. Always leave them more, except when it comes to lapels: The Sing-Off story.

I was pretty disheartened when I found out that my favorite holiday programming was being trimmed down to the equivalent of only two Nick Lachey outfit changes, but it was nice to know who won by the end of the night—less time to decide every single group is a magical shining star and all deserve to win (which they all are, and all do). No, tonight, we got to see two totally different performances from the Top 3, and if they truly deserved the crown, those two performances should have been all they really needed.

And damn, did those Melodores deserve it. I’ve seen many an all-male collegiate a cappella group perform, including from the front row of my own college’s group performances every chance I got (what’s up Bell Tower Boys, how you doin’?), but that was just some heart and soul I was not expecting. Let’s take a look at the night to find out how the boys from Nashville took the title…

Blazer Watch, Coaches Edition: I’m sure any average person reading this thinks I’m feigning the joy that Nick Lachey brings me, but any fan knows he is the heart of this little show, and at the heart of Nick Lachey is a jewel-toned shirt—and now featuring a matching jewel-toned suit! Coincidentally, Shawn was sporting the Liberace version of that sapphire suit. The man has never met a sparkle he didn’t like. Jewel was sporting a red number that showed off… her excellent work in Pilates, and new judge Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy did his best to endear himself to us by being extremely complimentary of Ben Folds and deprecating of himself: “They got the only other nerdy rock star they could find.” Oh Patrick, come back anytime (and bring Ben with you).

After the judges, came the rules for how an entire competition for a Sony Music record deal and $50,000 might take place in one night: The six groups would perform a signature song, and then the judges would narrow it down to three teams, choosing one more song for each of those three teams to perform.

The Top 6

Timothy’s Gift: “Ghost” by Ella Henderson

BlazerWatch: The lovely ladies had kind of an ethereal Dixie Chicks meets mom-fashion-blogger thing going on, which would normally be fine, but with not a sequin in sight, it did not bode well for their Sing-Off chances.

By the Notes: Timothy’s Gift all met at church where Melissa is the pastor and began singing together and performing at maximum security prisons. I cannot say enough about what a great song choice “Ghost” was (and if you don’t know about Ella Henderson’s own singing show journey, I recommend you schedule some YouTube blackhole time this holiday season), and once TG gets going, their pure voices are a great fit for the eery tune, with gorgeous harmonies. They manage to keep the power of the song with hardly any bass or percussion, unfortunately the slower tempo of the tune suffers a bit because of that. Shawn thought Abby’s flipped high note in the middle was beautiful, and Jewel loved the warm feel to their harmonies.

It’s worth noting that Nick is very uncomfortable with addressing them as “Timothy’s Gift.”

a.squared: “Pompeii” by Bastille

BlazerWatch: In keeping with their “modern spin on tradition” theme, the young men of a.squared were wearing classic slacks and jackets… that were anywhere from 50-100 percent leather.

By the Notes: a.squared—in addition to being an auto-correct nightmare—is trying to bring something different to the a cappella world: their mixer, Jacob, records them live and loops the vocals back through to create harmonies. Patrick said the technique was probably more challenging than we realized, and I certainly believe that, but just because a backing track is recorded live, doesn’t make it any less of a backing track. It’s an incredibly innovative and intelligent play on a cappella performing, but it doesn’t seem entirely fair in a competition where everyone else is only armed with a mic and a world renowned beatboxer. I’ll be tuning in on YouTube, though.

Nick: “Fellas, that was crazy.”

Traces: “River Deep Mountain High” by Tina Turner

BlazerWatch: My notes about Traces’ wardrobe just say, “yeeeeeeeeessssssss.” Sequins, leather, glitter, gold, blazers, and Tina legs? YEEEEEESSSSS.

By the Notes: What a great song choice! This song clearly embodied Traces’ love of R&B with a gospel sound, and it also meant getting to show off a few moves, and especially their two star players: soloist Keesha, and bass, Tamika. Keesha is an incredibly engaging performer with a great emotional grit to her voice, and Tamika holds it down better than any female bass I’ve ever heard. Wow. Shawn says Keesha could wake up a dead person with her voice, and all of the judges agree, that a few small mistakes are nothing if it means being that entertained.

The Exchange: “Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic

BlazerWatch: Tailored suits and vests in varying shades of violet and maroon: They’ve already been here and bought the blazer.

By the Notes: Three of these fellas are former Sing-Off performers, and I remember all of them, especially Richard, the killer beatboxer from Urban Method. These five are now a lean, mean, professional a cappella machine. Their arrangement was flawless with a steady foundation of bass and percussion, and three unique soloists—what more could you want? Shawn says they fulfilled their promise of making the performance a true “exchange” with the audience, and pretty much every guy got a shout-out for their important contribution to the makeup of the song.

SanFran6: “Break Free” by Ariana Grande ft. Zedd

BlazerWatch: Definitely from the Shawn/Lachey blue blazer family

By the Notes: That beatboxer, though. Danny stole the show a little bit with his amazing talent for “making weird sounds with his mouth,” but I’d say the main challenge with SanFran6’s performance was that there was a lot of talent on the stage, but it wasn’t all being featured to its full potential, and therefore the sound was a little sparse. Cherilyn had a great pop voice that Jewel really liked, but it never got a break from carrying the melody. I’d blame song choice here—Ariana is kind of a one-woman show, while SanFran6 has six stars (and Kevin’s rockstar dad).

Melodores: “Trumpets” by Jason Derulo

BlazerWatch: In the blazer department, collegiate boys become men. Full tartan. Leather lapels. Studs.

By the Notes: Charming soloists with CW faces and playful staging, I did expect; a Jason Derulo number and high kicks, I did not. The a cappella singers from Vanderbilt University brought all the fun (and all the high notes) to this performance, taking it from jazzy to R&B and back again. Jewel thought William and his insane falsetto was “cuter than kittens on YouTube,” and Shawn loved how they kept it entertaining the whole way through. Patrick was impressed that all 12 of them were able to stay on the same beat, but Shawn also pointed out that with that many bros, they could have been slightly stronger in the bass department.

Judges’ Choice: After a pitch-perfect Christmas medley where Pentatonix showed the little ones how it was done (those are the five most vocally versatile people in the world, I swear), the judges announced their top three picks: Traces, The Exchanges, and Melodores. It would have been nice to see SanFran6 give it one more go, but if The Exchanges are proof of anything, we could be seeing them again in a few years when The Sing-Off is airing in one-minute increments for 100 days in a row, or something.

Traces: For the five powerful women, the judges choose Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman,” and they give it every ounce of girl power they’ve got. Their arrangements are very pure, and in that way, maybe a little too straightforward. Shawn calls Keesha’s voice as sultry as honey, but Patrick makes sure to note how she doesn’t overpower the other four.

The Exchanges: The judges pick “Sing” by Ed Sheeran for The Exchanges because I guess they figure if these guys are getting a second go at the show, they better earn it. Surprisingly, they absolutely nail the rapping section with a genius three-part harmony, but I agree with Patrick that it seemed a bit like they were biding their time until they got to the showstopper. Still, they once again brought the audience right into their performance by cutting out the percussion at one point to use the audiences clapping as the melody.

Melodores: This song. This performance. The judges surely gave us this little nugget of pain/joy just to make me wish it was already Christmas 2015. The judges gave the Melodores Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” which I thought was teetering dangerously close to being overdone, but then again, I had never seen the Melodores’ “littlest guy with the biggest voice” give it a whirl. Supported by his 11 closest singing pals, Dan took his moment in the spotlight, and as Shawn would say, left it all on the stage. I don’t know who’s done what to him, but he poured every bit of emotion he had into a performance I would describe as both heart wrenching and inspiring.

And the Winner is: THE VANDERBILT MELODORES!!!

With only one performance to show their stuff, any one of these six teams could have ended up in the Judges round, but it was the second performance that sealed the deal for the Melodores, not just because Dan took us to church, but because they showed their versatility as singers and performers. And young men with truly aspirational fashion sense.

What do you think? Were the Melodores the right collegiate team to finally take home The Sing-Off title? Were you as won over by that final performance as I was? Have you created a wall-sized Advent-style calendar to count down the days until the (fingers crossed) sixth season? Oh, just me? Well then, thanks for reading along, and leave your thoughts on tonight’s a cappella extravaganza in the comments!

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