HomeThe Sing Off’s Big Question

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For those of you who haven’t heard, the Sing Off is an a cappella competition airing on NBC beginning tonight, December 14th at 8PM and continuing at 8PM on the 15th and 16th, with the finale happening on Dec. 21st. Looks like everybody votes for the winner on the night of the 16th. The Sing Off is the biggest deal in the a cappella world, well, basically ever. Why? Because all kinds of regular people - the school janitor, the babysitter, your mom - is going to have a cappella music shoved in their grill for 2 hours by one of the big four networks.

Simply put, The Sing Off is going to provide the best answer ever to the Big Question that, for anyone who’s ever loved a cappella, has always lurked in the back of your mind. If mainstream Americans get a taste of contemporary a cappella, will they think it’s as cool is we think it is? To put that another way, is lack of exposure the only reason a cappella hasn’t gotten huge, blown up, hit the big time, tipped , etc? One of the themes I (Joey) have repeated on this show over and over again is that A cappella has a good 12-18 months in it as a national fad. If that’s ever going to happen, I think it’s going to be in 2010.

Before I get into my speil on Sing Off, I’m goign to play some music for you

Now Acappella U is all about Collegiate A Cappella, and there are four collegiate groups in the competition, Bubs, VoCals, NoteWorthy, and Voices of Lee, who incidentally I’ve never heard of. so for us the follow up question to the Big Question is - how will the college groups do vs. the pros?? I’m probably one of the four or five biggest Collegiate a cappella apologists out there, and I’m going to say right upfront that, after watching all the preview stuff that’s available on NBC.com, I think it’s going to be tough for a college group to win - maybe the VoCals ERR, I mean, the SoCals.

That having been said, here’s my take on each of the college groups. The SoCals, an eight member recent-alumni version of the SoCal VoCals, have the best chance on paper. Why? Because they’re a smaller group, and smaller groups just seem to do better in competitions. They’re a little older, better looking and more from Southern California than the rest of the groups. Seriously, there’s NO ONE from NYC in this competition which seems very bizarre, and so the SoCals are going have all of, well, socal, the second largest population center in the country, voting for them by default.

Noteworthy looks GREAT judging by the previews, the girl who looks lie Pink is just fabulous. Also, HUGE kudos to Deke Sharon for the incredible arrangement of Under Pressure you’ll hear the entire cast perform as the opener. To me, the all-female thing will be huge OR they’ll flop big time. Probably the former because they’re gorgeous and VERY good.

Voices of Lee I’ve never heard of, which makes me nervous that the only reason they’re on this show is for the religious right red-state demographic. One of the things I DON’T like about the show is how contrived some of the casting seems. That’s unavoidable to an extent. When I was pitching the TV version of Acappella U, I remember this coming up early and often - stuff like ‘there are black groups and latino groups, too, right?’ And you kind of want to be honest and say, well, yes, sort of, but that’s not why these groups aren’t usually formed along racial and cultural lines, and a lot of the best stuff out there tends to be done by mostly white groups from Ivy-league-ish schools. There are minorities in great a cappella groups, to be sure - Mouth Off’s Christpher Diaz is an incredible talent and one of the pillars of the a cappella community, but amongst tthe ICCA high-achievers and repeat CARA winners, there’s not the broad demographic spread you see in American Idol Finalists. Television networks are very good at tweaking reality to serve their own creative purposes, and all things considered I think that’s fine if it serves the greater good.

Now, if that being said, Voices of Lee is my on-paper Dark Horse provided they’re decent on stage. Those bible-belt people know how to VOTE on shows like this. I mean, they managed to bring down Adam Lambert, the greatest contestant in AI history. Let’s all hope Voices of Lee is in there because they’re a huge talent, not just the best Christian group that came out.

That bring us to the Bubs, the quintessential Alpha Males of recorded collegiate a cappella, who I’d have to guess have more CARAs, BOCA selections and screaming female fans than anybody (can I get a fact check?). I sincerely hope I feel like a fool 24 hours from now for saying this, but I’m a little concerned after seeing the preview clip NBC threw up. I think there are four questions for the Bubs:

1) Will they show up, i.e. are they really all that good? To quote our facebook status, will the Bubs we see tonight be like Tony Stark without the Iron Man suit- a wealthy, super-smart guy completely dependent on technology for his competitive prowess, or more like Bruce Wayne sans Batgear - an incredible natural competitor whose reputation is aided by, but not founded upon, toys & gadgets, i.e. post-production.

2) If the answer to number 1) is yes, then, will it all translate through the TV medium? Will seeing a big group like the Bubs on TV be as good as seeing them live (it isn’t for Hockey). Micing and mixing big groups is always tough, and there are so many faces and voices to learn.

3) Will it percolate the musical taste buds of John Q Public? This is the aforementioned Big Question.

4) Then there’s the kicker. Even if all those questions are answered with a ‘Yes’ and the Bubs look and sound the best, can America root for the group of rich white kids? I say group because on an individual basis we have no problem rooting for them as long as the national media digs up at least one humanizing attribute (volunteers at a soup kitchen) or heartbreaking storyline (little sister in a wheelchair) to make us feel like they’re OK. But when you have a BUNCH of RWKs, things get a lot tougher. Then you’ve got Cobra Kai, the Eden Hall Academy Varisty HOckey Team, or the heel in every other sports movie in history. When we see a team in a competition who has all the advantages, especially money, we’ve been trained to root against them. NBC has already done a little legwork to counteract this inclination by pointing out on the Sing Off website that the Bubs are actively involved in charity work in the Boston Public Schools, and hope there are liberal doses of that on the show.

The Bubs are the toughest test for the contemporary collegiate style - no pretty girls (and though a good looking bunch, they’re not Abercrombie models), no compelling rags-to-riches storyline, no built - in demographic - I guarantee that 4 out of 5 people in the northeast haven’t ever heard of Tufts, let alone know where it is. The Bubs just have (presumably) great singing, incredibly intricate arrangements, vp, etc., and the best, most technically gifted a cappella minds in the competition. We here at Acappella U are hoping against hope that the Bubs take this competition by storm, because in the same way that Pavorotti got the masses into Opera, the Bubs get folks hooked on college a cappella better than anyone else. To some extent this will be true regardless of who wins, but if the Bubs in particular do well on the show and John Q public goes looking for more of their music, he’ll be blown away by what he finds. The world, my dear students, will then be your oyster.