Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sing Off

The Johnny Mann singers were the first a cappella group I really fell in love with. Their KHJ radio jingles from 1965 were fabulous. And then I learned there were groups who sang a cappella songs that were actually longer than three seconds. Then I was really hooked.

When I heard that NBC was airing a show called THE SING OFF I was very excited. I was also surprised to learn this was the second season. Guess all their promos last year were on the LENO SHOW.

When I finally did learn of the show I thought, this will have limited appeal. A cappella singers are probably trending below Hootenanny groups and Polka bands on the list of hot musical acts. And yet THE SING OFF is a hit.

Why? Two main reasons in my opinion.

First - the shows are entertaining. All of the groups are terrific and the hour (or two) is filled with performances, not a barrage of QUEEN FOR A DAY feature pieces on the contestants’ miserable lives, not seeing their high schools and trailer parks, and not subjecting us to endless scenes of emo-crying (like some shows I won’t mention – AMERICAN IDOL). There are no Sanjayas. There are no members of Sarah Palin’s shameless family. We are just treated to talented musicians showing off a unique skill.

Reason number two: Ben Folds. What a revelation this guy is. I knew of him as a successful artist but had no idea how charming, funny, and knowledgeable this Rick Moranis clone is. As opposed to a buffoon like Randy Jackson, who has a smaller vocabulary than the Talking Dora Surprise doll, Ben Fold really knows his music and can articulate his insightful points. Regardless of who ultimately wins the competition, he’s emerging as the star.

As for the rest of the judges, Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men offers intelligent comments while presenting a likeable quality, and Nicole Scherzinger – how can I best describe her ability as a judge? She has great hair.

But the big surprise is Nick Lachey.  As the host, he's, well... he's, uh...good.  I’m used to seeing him in that appalling reality show where he was married to Jessica Simpson and had to explain to her that “Chicken of the Sea” tuna did not contain chickens.  But Nick can read a teleprompter.  Well played, sir.

Four groups remain heading into tonight’s finale. And America gets to vote. So Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town, veteran middle-aged doo wop singers, have no shot. But any of the other three groups would be worthy winners. I’m sure the final determination will be which group has the cutest guys and the hottest girls?

I don’t know what they’re going to sing on the finale, but if I may make a suggestion, I’d love to hear how they all handle the KHJ jingle package.


Rose said...

Ken, I LOVE this show! I'm so excited to see such talented people singing a cappella. It's wonderful! And I agree: Ben Folds is a great judge. He is witty and obviously a serious musician who can speak intelligently about this competition. I enjoy Shawn, and Nicole is tolerable, but Ben is brilliant.

I personally am rooting for the Nashville boys, Streetcorner Symphony. I really like their style, and their lead singer has a great voice. I'm not a fan of Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town. I honestly don't think they have the vocal range or flair that the other groups have.

Can't wait to see the finale tonight! :-)

danrydell said...

Ben Folds is great. I've loved his music for a long time. If you ever get a chance to download his iTunes Originals, it's great listening with great commentary from him.

Tony said...

Ben has been blogging about the show too:

Brian Phillips said...

Friday question:

In Sid Caesar's autobiography, "Where Have I Been?", he discusses his long career and he mentions working on "Pink Lady and Jeff" (he played Mei and Kei's father blessing them out in mock-Japanese), a show that was doomed to failure because two of the leads didn't speak English, and he also states getting a call from some producers about a show revolving around a bar, which he thought would be too limiting.

Did Sid Caesar turn down "Cheers"?

te said...

Ben Folds got into college a cappella groups a couple of years ago, and has released at least one compilation of several groups -- which explains why he's there (no, that explains why he's qualified. Lord knows why he's there -- the regular reality show producers must have been occupied finding new cities with real housewives).

I'm sure that the success of "Glee" has a lot to do with The Sing-Off

And Jerry Lawson was (is?) lead singer of The Persuasions, one of the great a cappella groups of all time, with a number of major and minor label albums to their credit (the first for one of Frank Zappa's companies!).

wv: "copet" -- a trainee policeman

jackscribe said...

Thanks, Ken, for the heads up. I don't watch much network TV but stumbled onto Sing Off a couple of weeks ago. I'm certainly going to watch tonight!

YEKIMI said...

Never seen it. Since the big OTA digital switch of TV stations I can only get a local ABC station and a PBS station. I'm too much of a cheap bastard to pay the outrageous prices that cable & the satellite demons want.

BigTed said...

I thought I'd be bored by this show, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

As a writer-singer-pianist who's run his own bands, it's not surprising that Ben Folds really knows music. (A lot of his songs are bright indie-pop, but "Brick" is literally the saddest song I've ever heard.)

Mary Stella said...

I've loved this show both seasons.

They just announced the winner and even though my personal favorite didn't take the top prize, they were all so good, I can't really complain.

Now that's a program!

emily said...

I thought the runners-up won, but what do I know...

l.a.guy said...

I'm in the middle-- I really enjoyed some of the performances (the Beatles medley), others were so so (Lady Gaga medley). I agree about Ben Folds, it's amazing what some intelligent commentary can add to a show.

We'll see how long the ratings last. I think one challenge is that the performances are more confined to a particular style than a solo vocalist is. So, at least to me, it's starts to wear thin after a while.

I would have thought we were already near the saturation point for talent contests.

Southey Blanton said...

My wife and I both attended UNC-Chapel Hill, and Ben Folds is a legend in that town. He made his first hits after forming Ben Folds Five in Chapel Hill, and seeing him live at a venue like Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC is truly an amazing experience.

He is brilliant as a judge, as he actually knows music, knows all the technical in's and out's of singing and can actually thoughtfully critique a group without just saying "Yo, you were kinda pitchy dawg."

The funniest thing about watching this show is that my wife is a long time Jessica Simpson fan, and I can still see and hear the deep seeded hatred for Nick Lachey when she talks about him, but I have to give him props for not being terrible.

Coming from a college with a long history of a Capella groups I've always been a fan, and this show is actually enjoyable, I'll take this over another Real Housewives anyday.

rhl said...

I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled on the show. All the groups are clearly talented and the lack of hype (for TV) is refreshing. It's kind of the anti-American Idol in so many ways, and the short cycle (3 weeks?) is another plus.

Randy said...

This was a really great show, right up till the last installment which was a throwaway. They should have let Neil Diamond sing with the kids and announced the winner then closed up shop after a half hour.

Side note: Neil Diamond is almost 70... and the dude still has "it" and most of his original face. Glad he didn't jump on the, "Give me Kenny Rogers' face", bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Randy that the finale was a mess but the show was awesome. They have all the performances on itunes, Ken and I have bought many.

I want a Groove for Thought holiday album NOW.

J S Swanson said...

I've watched both seasons & usually end up in tears @ least once during each episode because the talent is soooooo Good. I was disappointed in the finale. Not because of who won - they were fine, not my choice but fine nonetheless. More because these reveal the winer shows in general just seem to be a lot of padding. If you haven't yet checked it out, do so. Hulu is your Friend...