HomeNo Back-Up: 'The Sing-Off'

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2009 HAS BEEN A BIG YEAR for a cappella music: Ben Folds enlisted collegiate groups to cover his songs, the vocal sextet Sonos came out with a major-label album and Anoop Desai, alumnus of UNC's Clef Hangers, placed sixth on American Idol. (Express has also highlighted a cappella groups covering the songs of U2, Tori Amos, and Coldplay.)

But even bigger than all of that is "The Sing-Off," a new NBC reality show that pits eights a cappella groups against one another in an "American Idol"-style showdown. The first three episodes (the first of which airs Dec. 14) are pre-taped, with the live finale airing Dec. 21.

The comparison to "American Idol" is apt as the shows are structured similarly: Just like "AI," "The Sing-Off" features a dreamy host (Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees) and a trio of judges (Ben Folds, Boys II Men's Shawn Stockman and the Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger). Groups will be eliminated throughout each show, with America voting for the final winner.

Any a cappella enthusiasts who were worried about the style being misrepresented by the mainstream can breathe a collective sigh of relief: NBC has brought on powerhouse singer/arranger Deke Sharon of vocal band the House Jacks to coach and assist the groups behind the scenes. But the warm-and-fuzzies end there: this is still a competition, and the eight selected groups are vying for a $100,000 prize and an Epic Records/Sony recording contract.

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