The Sing-Off Season 4 Premiere Recap: For Whom the A Cappella Tolls

The Sing Off - Season 4 JewelEgg nog. Yankee Swap. Not dialing 911 when “out on the lawn there arises a clatter.”

Some traditions are perfectly tailored for the holiday season, and as The Sing-Off returned to NBC tonight for the first time since its inauspicious Fall 2011 outing, I was reminded that the jaunty a capella singing contest definitely belongs on the list of things that are best situated in that high-caloric-intake period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

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Ben Folds hung his big words by the chimney with care. Shawn Stockman was back, too, wearing a jacket that looked a little like a candy cane. And Jewel took over the final seat at the table from Sara Bareilles, not suffering — gladly or otherwise — foolish remarks from Nick Lachey about how it was nice to have an attractive person on the panel. “Well, your dimples are working hard for a living, too,” she grinned, with a possible subtext of “Let’s not reduce me to just my looks, OK, pretty boy?”

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Since I’m also on recapping duty for The Voice tonight, I’m gonna keep things short — offering my letter grades of every performance, and keeping my reviews to 10 words or less. (You can just call me Pithy Succinct-ski.) With that in mind…let’s hop to it!

Vocal Rush: Delta Rae’s “Bottom of the River” — Grade: A+ | So! Much! Depth! of! Feeling! The steppin’ was tight, too.
Home Free: Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” — Grade: B- | A little more cheese than I like on my country.
Princeton Footnotes: Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” — Grade: B | Good, but Alex & Sierra made it more exciting on X Factor, TBH.
Calle Sol: Rihanna’s “Pon de Replay” — Grade: B+ | Judges sounded lukewarm, but the percussion breakdown & dancing were amazing.
Street Corner Renaissance: One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” — Grade: A- | Terrific reimagining of a current pop hit…lots of fun.

Put up for possible elimination (aka “Ultimate Sing-Off”) by the judges: Princeton Footnotes

TEN: Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good” — Grade: A- | The arrangement was a tad Peaches-centric, but so many powerhouses! Dayum!
Element: Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” — Grade: B- | The lead duo’s voices got chicken-broth thin in spots. Not bad though.
VoicePlay: Pitbull (featuring Xtina)’s “Feel This Moment” — Grade C+ | Arrangement started pretty dull; not sure if Honey’s tone is my cup of honey.
The Filharmonic: Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” — Grade: B+ | Cute one’s cute. Burly one’s voice is magic! Charisma: 10; Vocals: 7.
acoUstiKats: Robin Thicke (featuring Pharrell Williams)’ “Blurred Lines” – Grade: A- | I didn’t wanna love it, but great rhythm, dynamics and booty-shaking won me over.

Put up for possible elimination (aka “Ultimate Sing-Off”) by the judges: VoicePlay

Ultimate Sing-Off: I loved the playful physical taunts tossed back and forth between the acts, but while Princeton Footnotes started a little stronger, they didn’t really do much to keep the momentum going. VoicePlay took more chances with their arrangement and tempo changes, and rightly won over the judges.

Eliminated: Princeton Footnotes

(Ahhh…Mark Burnett knows how to keep the “feel bad” vibes to a minimum: Eliminate the kids with an Ivy League education on which to fall back. I kid! I kid! Sort of.)

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of The Sing-Off Season 4 premiere? Who’s your early fave? Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!


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