A Place to Read and Get Read

The Sing Off Season 4 Finale! Plus Season 4’s Top 10 Performances

In Entertainment on December 23, 2013 at 6:17 pm

By: Brian Mangan

(Ed: I will be updating this post with reviews and updating the Top 10 List with videos and links as the night goes on.  Stay tuned!)

Prior reviews:  Episodes 1 & 2Episode 3Episode 4, Episode 5, and Episode 6!

Before I get into the review of the finale, a few words to everyone reading.  Thank you!  It’s a pleasure to read and review a cappella and to have gotten feedback from so many people over the last two weeks.  Special props in particular to the members of Vocal Rush, who linked us on their official facebook page (www.facebook.com/osavocalrush) and to the members of the Filharmonic who were nice enough to add us on facebook!  Now, @benfolds, answer my tweets!

Finale Recap!

(Ed. Sorry about the delay everyone!  Real life (work) got in the way.  On the bright side, since it’s a finale with a ton of fluff, we haven’t missed much.)

We are in the finale, so I’m not going to be grading groups anymore.  Rather, we’ll just be enjoying the music.  One note heading into it, is that if this is anything like other finales, the music is going to be a step down from the rest of the competition – these kids have a lot to learn, are exhausted, and know it doesn’t affect the outcome (or at least I don’t think it does).  So lets just enjoy it.

Home Free – I Want Crazy 

This was a very “Home Free” performance, wasn’t it?  I like these guys, and like I’ve been saying from the outset, Austin Brown is an absolute star.  The more I think about it, the more I think that Austin might be better off just as a solo act.  Probably the only other iconic individual talent to come out of the Sing Off is Scott Hoying, and although Scott is amazing, there is something about him that just makes sense as an a cappella front man.  Tangent, I know.

Back to Home Free, they’re great, but I got up to get a drink in the middle of their song and got to the kitchen before I realized.

98 Degrees – I’ll Be Home For Christmas

I know they’re not in the competition but I want to make a quick comment about them anyway.  And this is an observation that would be useful to anyone who wants to sing a cappella, particularly post-collegiately: listen to how those four voices fill the sound.  Obviously, they are all super-talented super-stars, but as Nick pointed out last week, these fellas were not formed by anyone else, they made themselves.  Anyway, back to the point: you can make a big, full, rich sound with less than eight or seven or even six voices.  98 Degrees was four, Filharmonic was six, and both of those groups sounded as full and rich as much bigger groups.  With the right instruments, you can do anything, kids.

Ten – Love On Top

I know these last performances don’t go into the evaluation of the winner, but this performance was just not good.  I don’t want to belabor the point but … gosh.  “Love on Top” is probably one of my ten favorite songs in the world right now (and my group is going to do it, so everyone back off) but … jeez.  Great leads but the rest of the arrangement is just this big cacophony of noise that didn’t make much sense.  I’m sure that the judges are being nice because its the finale, but if this was one of the first few performances they wouldn’t be here… although the lead saved it at the end by being absurdly good as usual.

Jewel and Home Free

I didn’t comment  on the others, but this performance really, really shows how good Home Free is as a band.  Simply great voices, great idea of style and dynamic.  I didn’t like them that much in this competition, but they’ve shown glimpses all along that they are more capable than any of the other groups to use those voices to make great great music.

And go Jewel!  Get it girl.

Vocal Rush – Roar 

“You can’t beat truth, and emotion, and just, realness.  No one can touch that.”  That quote from the package might just be the perfect tag line for Vocal Rush, and for a cappella in general.

I don’t like the original that that much, and Vocal Rush did an admirable job yet again.  Nice breakdown, real fun.  Clearly not their best performance or arrangement, a little loose, but still fun to listen to, and isn’t that the point?

And the Winner is…

This is a tough choice from a strange but wonderful Sing Off season.  How can you not love this competition?  This final three would not have been my final three, but all of the groups were amazing from start to finish.

The momentum of the show and the media and the narrative online makes it seem inevitable that Home Free will win, but if it were up to me, I would go with Vocal Rush.  I didn’t think they had a legitimate chance, but after last week I think they really staked their claim to the title.  If Vocal Rush doesn’t take it, I’m definitely pulling for Home Free.

Third Place: Vocal Rush

Oh, well.  That’s television.

Second Place: Ten

Winner: Home Free

Congratulations to Home Free.  They are a wonderful group and I hope that they go far in the business.  As we said a few episodes back, none of these groups are likely to blaze the same kind of successful trail that Pentatonix did after Season 3, and that’s just fine.  Pentatonix was the superhero that a cappella, and the Sing Off, needed at that time.

As far as Home Free goes, I expect that they will be very successful in their niche and that they will introduce a cappella to a whole world of people who might not otherwise be exposed to it, and that’s a great thing (I am not going to speculate on the predeterminedness of any outcomes here, just enjoy it).  The more people that get to listen to a cappella, the better (the one and only Deke Sharon, who requires no introduction, just collaborated with a new group in Santa Fe called Voasis in an effort to bring it to a new region of the country as well).

All in all, a great season.  As I have been telling friends, relatives, and anyone else willing to listen that a cappella is a really wonderful art form.  Not only is it easy for anyone to join in and do, requires no equipment, and is comprised of the joyous sound of the human voice, but a cappella makes it possible for you to do anything, in any style.  You need to look no further than the groups in this very competition to see that a song can be interpreted in so many different ways: from quiet to raucous to both in the same performance, from country to gospel, with rap interludes, with step breakdowns, with jazz chords and/or in an infinite number of other styles or with other twists.

It’s wonderful, and this was a wonderful season.  Thank you for reading.  BRING ON SEASON 5!!!

Top Ten Performances in the Sing Off, Season 4

It goes without saying that these ranks are completely subjective.  That much is clear.  What you might not know is that, in making this list, I changed my mind about 20 times about which songs should be on the list and what order they should be in.

With that said, I hope that you enjoy this little compilation.  Let me know if I missed one of your favorites (and make sure you listen with headphones for full enjoyment!).  For all I know this list might be completely different when I wake up tomorrow.  But for now, the best of the best!

10. VoicePlay (Ep.2) – Play That Funky Music

9. Acoustikats (Ep.2) – Hey Ya

8. Filharmonics (Ep. 6) – Baby I Need Your Lovin’

7. Vocal Rush (Ep. 5) – Against All Odds

6. Vocal Rush (Ep. 4) – Holding Out For a Hero

5. Ten (Ep. 5) – Skyfall

4. Home Free (Ep. 6) – Colder Weather

3. Filharmonic (Ep. 2) – This Is How We Do It

2. Acoustikats (Ep. 3) – Amazed

1. Vocal Rush (Ep. 1) – Bottom of the River

Honorable Mentions (in some sort of general order from #11 and down):

Filharmonic (Ep. 1) – Treasure

Home Free (Ep. 2) – Life Is A Highway

Acoustikats (Ep. 1) – Blurred Lines

Streetcorner Renaissance (Ep. 1) – What Makes You Beautiful

Filharmonic (Ep. 5) – I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

Vocal Rush (Ep. 6) – My Songs Know

Home Free (Ep. 4) – Ring of Fire

Filharmonic (Ep. 3) – One More Night

Element (Ep.2) – Raise Your Glass

*                         *                         *

Brian Mangan is an attorney in New York City.  He sang in and directed the all-male group Time Check at Marist College, and founded and manages the New York City co-ed group The Callbacks.

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  1. Inter-blog love! I’ve enjoyed your recaps this season!

    This time, though, why do you write things like “I know these last performances don’t go into the evaluation of the winner…” and such? Nick seemed to clearly state that the top 3 (by themselves) were performing for competitive purposes. And why not? This is the first non-voted finale they’ve had.

    • Hey Warren! Thanks for the comment.

      I thought I remembered reading a while back that the outcome was determined before the finale, but I can’t find anything on it now. You may be right, and I’d love to look into it.

  2. I listened to all the performances on my computer with headphones since the first show. I guess that is why I didn’t have the reaction to Vocal Rush. They had emotion, but they just didn’t have the sharpness that I listen for in a capella. I did, after reading your reviews, go back and watch them, I can see where you say they are creative and had great arrangements. I’m someone who doesn’t like country music and I almost laugh when I hear that Home Free is country. What I heard from this group is a tightness and level of expansive sound that goes beyond their numbers. I heard it more fully with my headphones, but can you imagine what these guys must sound like live? You know, when those harmonies and bass are in tune the sound jumps to another level. It’s like a perfectly tuned symphony, you can hear the sound jump. I’m sure they were amazing to listen to live and that is what the judges responded to. Those singers in Home Free are trained and can probably sing anything. That’s why I snicker a little when I hear country. Austin is an awesome tenor, their beat boxer is great, and Tim, what can one say? I see what you say that they weren’t creative and didn’t take many risks… However, their sound was so superior to the other groups, to me it wasn’t even a close competition. When I first heard their part in the “Fun” opening, I knew they had it.

  3. Just had to mention that I love the Filharmonics. I thought they were very entertaining and great to listen to. I think they made a couple of bad song choices that didn’t enhance their sound. I didn’t hear too much they were weak in the middle, I guess that got noticed more hearing them live. The were not as crisp as Home Free. I also thought the Filharmocis were screwed in their sing off with Ten. Ten was a joke to me. You don’t put a bunch of would be soloists in one group. #1 because they do too much ornamentation which sets them far apart from the group. Notice that with Home Free, they did some runs and ornamentation but still in harmony. When did you hear Ten do that? #2 Even if Ten won the competition, do you think they’d still be a group after 6 or 7 months? They were not a bankable acapella group.

  4. […] with the Mets, and Alex Ovechkin leaving the NHL for the KHL.  We’ve reviewed and analyzed the Sing-Off and How I Met Your Mother.  We’ve done research into the NFL’s Forward-Pass Rule, […]

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