You’ve got to hand it to Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles, and Shawn Stockman: Where most reality-show judges wouldn’t be able to resist the backstory potential of a group of Liberian refugees living in Minnesota or a high-school glee club from small town Oregon, The Sing-Off‘s panelists always put talent first in their decision-making process. And thus, in Week 2 of competition — featuring the eight a capella acts in Group 2 — we lost Messiah’s Men and Soul’d Out, heartwarming tales of overcoming the obstacles be damned.
That said, while Messiah’s Men were the obvious choice for eviction among the evening’s first four acts, I thought Soul’d Out was marginally less of a mess than Nashville’s The Collective when it came to the second set of four groups. Shawn praised the “quivering alto” of the latter act’s lead singer as rich, thick, and full of depth, but I’d have gone with tremulous, unsteady, and borderline unpleasant — and the cacophony of voices behind her never once gelled on “Rolling in the Deep,” a song that may need a vacation from the world of televised singing competitions. Luckily for The Collective, though, they landed in what was easily the weakest of the four Season 3 brackets: Really, did the Deltones’ nervous “Feels Like Home” or North Shore’s perfectly fine “Runaround Sue” make you feel like you were hearing from the show’s eventual champ?
Nope, for me, the episode’s strength came from the opening hour. Sonos’ “Wicked Game” was perhaps more interesting than excellent, but you can’t fault ‘em for lack of originality. (Anyone wish they’d thrown in a line from “Toxic,” which they sang in their pre-performance package, during their live performance? “No I don’t wanna fall in love…don’t you know that you’re toxic?“) And the clearly commercial Pentatonix did the impossible by stopping me from hitting the mute button for Katy Perry’s loathsome “E.T.”
Still, for me, no one was quite able to top the evening’s opening act, the Dartmouth Aires (pictured), whose scorching cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” featured a gravely good lead vocal, winning dynamics on the bridge, and a sense of rhythm that pulsated from beginning to end. As Sara noted, the Ivy League fellas displayed a “wonderful marriage of physicality and breath control.” I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re among the last acts standing.
What do you think? Take our poll and tell us which of Week 2′s remaining acts was your fave, then hit the comments to justify your vote. And for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!