By Grady Smith
Updated December 09, 2010 at 11:08 AM EST
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Have you been feeling a little flat about the lack of a cappella puns in your life ever since Monday’s season premiere of The Sing Off? Well, don’t sweater it — the competition was on again last night, and just as cheesy and wonderful as before! Seriously, The Sing Off really is hitting all the right notes. (Last one, I swear.) Not only is it showcasing some truly talented groups, but it’s briskly paced, well-produced, fairly judged, and highlights singing over drippy backstories. And above all else, IT’S FUN! Basically, I’m in love, and given the strong ratings for the show’s premiere, it looks like I’m not the only aca-holic tune-ing in. (You really thought I’d stop?) Enough rambling, though — let’s jump right in to last night’s episode!

The eight remaining groups kicked off the night by performing Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” and naturally, they sounded incredible — especially the girl wearing a gray sweater and a blue skirt. Her voice had me transfixed. The assignment for the night was to put an “electrifying spin” on a hit song from the last five years (Idol, take note!), and just like last time, two groups would meet their end. Here’s how the performances went down:

On The Rocks — “Live Your Life” by T.I. and Rihanna

It’s great that these University of Oregon guys are self-aware enough to laugh at themselves about “spitting game,” because, let’s be honest, you probably shouldn’t be rapping in a Polo hoodie and a cardigan sweater. But this is a cappella — it’s supposed to be goofy and over-the-top, and On the Rocks gets that. The group worked the stage handily, and their vocals were on point. Peter, who sang Rihanna’s part, was the first of many singers to nail his falsetto notes last night, and the judges were impressed, though Ben Folds admitted that he wanted to see a bit more artistry in the future. A-

Street Corner Symphony — “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train

Judge Shawn Stockman was so right when he praised lead singer Jeremy: “I love your voice. It has a purity to it. It’s melodic. It’s easy on the ears. Everyone blends in.” Indeed, the “sweet, Southern, laid-back guys” (as judge Nicole Scherzinger thankfully reminded us they are) offered up some joyously rich harmonies, ornamented with exciting doo-woppy vocal flourishes in their upper registers. Add in a soloist switch, great percussion, and much better styling, and you have one great performance. A-

Eleventh Hour – “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Gray sweater girl is back! Her name is Kendall, and she is apparently the only member of her group that matters. Unfortunately, her vocals weren’t as sweet as her personality last night. The start of the song exposed a weaker lower register, and the accompanying long tones lacked energy and dynamics, but things picked up in the latter half of the song. The judges criticized their lack of blend while padding their comments with words like “sweetness” and “purity,” just in case anyone forgot how young they are. C+

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town — “Mercy” by Duffy

Jerry was all weepy after last week’s performance, and he explained, “Seeing a cappella evolved to this level… it’s just too much.” Awww, I love these guys! The old pros, donning some fly Creamsicle-orange shirts, gave a classy performance that started off somewhat stiff, but got way more fun as it went. Jerry’s voice sounded gravelly and strong, but it was his dancing that really got Nicole going. She remarked, “I don’t know what’s going on down there, but we were feeling it…. You guys are just yummy.” B+

The Backbeats — “Breakeven” by The Script

This was a definite step in the right direction. Though they were still WAY too serious for my liking, The Backbeats mixed their very cool arrangement with pained facial expressions, dramatic fists, and passionate vocals from more than one soloist — that was another welcome change. The judges loved their melancholy tones, but can’t these college kids just have some FUN?! The performance did provide the cheesiest/best line of the night, though, courtesy of Ben Folds: “I was worried that it might fall to pieces…. It was getting close to the breaking point.” A- for singing, but B for militant somberness.

Committed — “Apologize” by One Republic

Nick Lachey (PUNMSTR?) told us that these gospel singers would be “shining their light” on their song, and, for the most part, they did! I agree with Ben that their bell-tone effects were impressive, and I loved hearing a solid baritone voice holding the arrangement together. Their last note was a touch flat, but that was probably just fate’s way of punishing them for putting more vests than sweaters on stage, thereby breaking the golden rule of Sing Off fashion. Still, Shawn was genuinely dumbfounded at their talent, shouting, “That’s what it’s about, man!” A-

Groove for Thought — “Cooler Than Me” by Mike Posner

Looking and sounding way better than they did last episode, Groove for Thought came out fighting with a COOL song and a COOL performance, and the judges thought they sounded COOL. In fact, they used the word COOL about 500 times, but I didn’t mind — they were cool! With swinging hips, snapping hands, and a sweet imaginary bass guitar, the jazz singers put out a classic 1940s sound. Soloist Peter was smooth and COOL, but Amanda’s soprano harmonies made the performance. Plus, the song choice was inspired — a music teacher’s anthem! A

The Whiffenpoofs — “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Bublé

My mom and I were recently watching a marching band when she told me, “Grady, the older you get, the more you love pageantry,” and if she had watched The Sing Off last night, I’m sure The Whiffenpoofs would have been her favorite. After all, they’re about as edgy as a banana. The group sounded strong, and they were definitely committed to their beatbox-less, cabaret shtick (which led Nicole to awkwardly wonder whether they were singing to her or the male judges), but the fact that they chose a Michael Bublé song to prove that they could “do something current” was ridiculous. Still, they did well. A- but B for being out of touch

Once again, the judges did the right thing by sending home the two acts that had the weakest performances, and Eleventh Hour and The Whiffenpoofs were asked to sing their swan songs and leave the stage. These eliminations (following the eliminations of Pitch-Slapped and Men of Note) have me wondering whether a student group could ever win The Sing Off. Or whether they’d really even want to — I mean, winning a major recording contract sort of necessitates a full-time career in music, right? I’m just not sure that every a cappella-singing student wants to drop their other career goals. What do you all think?

Before we part, let’s quickly judge the judges. I think they’re working well, together. There seems to be a genuine rapport between them, and they each have a distinct personality. Ben is knowledgeable and rational, Shawn is lighthearted and focused, and Nicole, though she attempts heartfelt sincerity, is really just fun for her awkwardly forward/sexual comments.

And let’s not forget about host, Nick Lachey! I don’t care if you all say he’s boring — he gets points for being a former-vocal group member, and he gets his job done while uttering some of the very best lines on TV! Check some of them out:

PunWatch with Nick Lachey!

“Hold that note” (Encouraging viewers not to change the channel)

“Let’s see how On The Rocks plans to stir it up…”

“We’ll find out later tonight if you guys get the chance to keep rocking on the next show” (Addressing On The Rocks)

“Looking to break hearts with ‘Breakeven’ by The Script, here are The Backbeats”

“These guys are more versed in singing hymns…but let’s see how Committed plans to get into the spirit with a hit track” (Get it? They’re Christians!)

“These jazz cats are playing it cool…” (introducing Groove for Thought singing “Cooler Than Me”)

Are you all loving this season of The Sing Off as much as I am? Who are you rooting for? And are you pumped for guilty pleasures next week? Sound off in the comments!

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