'The Sing-Off' premiere: All the drama of 'Glee' (and then some)

Beelzebubs.jpgI was pretty convinced that " The Sing-Off" was going to be "Glee" without the drama. Boy, was I wrong. This is what I learned: A capella groups have some serious bad luck, age is just a number and perfect singing just isn't enough in the competitive world of "The Sing-Off."

In his introduction, host Nick Lachey says that the only thing the groups have to depend on is "teamwork, trust and precision." Is he still talking about singing? Also, Nick, this is supposed to be a "feel good event." Why are you dressed like a funeral director? We soon find out.

Opening group song: David Bowie's "Under Pressure." I've had a while to ruminate on this, since Zap2it was the first to post the video last week. On first impressions, The SoCals, Nota and Noteworthy are standouts. Solo and Maxx Factor - oy vey. Their sound is all over the place. The soloists bring it, though I worried for Amy, the chick with the gnarly faux hawk from Noteworthy, when she struggled with that really long high note. I think she's probably a great singer, but that isn't her best moment.

Group 1: Nota, "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
This group is cool. From the video package, I'm pretty sure they throw raging parties. We learn that Edgar's wife had swine flu and lapsed into a coma. I hope I'm not the only one whose heart tugged when he said he sang to her even though he wasn't sure she could hear him.

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I actually got chills watching Nota. They're very good. Their performance was so smooth with its elements of island reggae, salsa, cumbia and reggaeton.

Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) tries to make it about her and her Hawaiian roots, then she remembers that this is about Nota and they're from Puerto Rico. Ben Folds (Ben Folds Five) likes the "mouth drumming" and called them confident and in tune. When Ben was talking, was anyone else reminded of their most boring college professor? He gets more energetic later. Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men) says Nota was "tight" and gives a shout-out to Edgar's vocals. He especially liked the Spanish portion and felt they "brought the song to life."

Group 2: Voices of Lee, "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield
The video package introducing the group is clear on their Christian roots. I laughed out loud when one of them said that while they may seem "straight-laced," they can also really let loose. Why? The statement was followed by footage of the team playing ping-pong and then outside throwing leaves at each other. Pretty sure they were going to start chugging warm milk next. They said that this would be the first time they would be without their director, Danny Murray, and that it would be hard without him. I understand. Anybody who says he'll "kick you in the fanny" if you don't win is a keeper in my book.

Their performance was underwhelming. In my opinion, they came off so controlled and traditional. Their choreography was too simple for my taste. They need to find the TV version of themselves: A larger, more expressive performance style if they want to win this. After judging, they said choreography wasn't their thing. Well, it showed.

Shawn said they were off key, had some shaky notes, but he loved the choreography (what?). Ben said that the overambitious musical arrangement drowned out the lead singer's voice. Nicole enjoyed Amanda (the lead singer) and connected with the spirituality. Snore.

Group 3: Face, "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
In the intro video, they say their a capella has a rock style. One member said (very deadpan), "We don't do doo wop." Forest spoke of his difficulties having a baby with his wife, who had undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer. Another singer's wife carried their baby. These acappella groups have the worse luck!

I enjoyed the performance. It started out soulfully and, ultimately, it was a pretty sexy performance by some pretty unsexy guys. I really dug it. Face also proved that fist pumping can work outside of the Jersey Shore.

Ben felt the chorus didn't quite reach its potential, but the performance was fun. Nicole had some "deep thoughts" on the power of voices and said she really rocked out. Shawn gave a shout out to their vocal percussionist, but he felt the soulful beginning was too busy.

Group 4: Noteworthy, "Think" by Aretha Franklin
The Mormon gals have a pretty contemporary style - no sign of "Big Love" here. Amy stresses that the group's goal is not to "force people to believe in something," but to bring them "hope." They won't sing songs with swearing or any kind of innuendo. They call their style "uplifting power pop."

The performance was pretty tight and I was right: She-hawk has an excellent voice. Surprisingly, they have really great energy and soul. Also, where do these Utah girls get all their 'tude from?

Shawn thought they brought the "flava," but felt they got screechy in their high notes. Ben agreed with Shawn and felt their arrangement was too intense and that they can build some dynamics in. Nicole liked their style and how they handled the elements of the song. She felt they lost "the blend" of their voices toward the end.

First elimination: Face is eliminated!!! That just wasn't right. Voices of Lee should have gone. Regardless, the elimination was a good change of pace. I'm glad they built that into the show.

Group 5: Beelzebubs, "Magical Mystery Tour" by The Beatles
Bunch of typical college dudes. 'Nuff said.

Their performance is theatrical, inventive (created a human car with one member on top, driving!). While they did a great job, I was slightly frightened by their over-the-top facial expressions.

Ben thought it was fun and that they explored their space. He felt it was the most pitchy when it was the most entertaining. Shawn compared their performance to a Broadway play. He forgave their pitchiness, because he feels they're a total package. Nicole felt they proved a capella isn't dorky and thought they "did their thing."

Group 6: Maxx Factor, "Dancing Queen" by Abba
In their introduction, Nick used the words "old-school," "old-fashioned," and "mature." Ouch, Nick, take it easy. They're obviously older than most of the other groups, but Nick, c'mon. They're an all female Barbershop Quartet, who believe they represent "real women."

Barbershop style is dated, but I think these moms are pretty cool. They're retro in the same way "Members Only" jackets are cool again. I was delightfully surprised that I liked this group as much as I did. In the group song, I felt they were one of the weakest. Maybe their style needs to stand alone?

Shawn thought they had flair and good harmonies, but he felt the lead got drowned out. Nicole said their style is "dope" and they were "sassy and classy." Ben loved it, too. He gave props to their baritone singer and he complimented them for having the bravery to "take a chance, take a chance, take a chance." That was Ben trying to be funny.

Group 7: The SoCals, "Somebody to Love" by Queen
They have the most in common with the cast of "Glee." Lucy, one of its singers has a throat illness that causes her to lose her voice frequently. This may be her last chance, she says. Dramatic!

The SoCals definitely live up to their L.A. roots. They have very dynamic choreography. The vocal percussion is much more front and center than we've seen with the other groups. There's no doubt who Dan, the lead singer, is. The group rotates around him.

Ben gives Dan props for his lead singing and felt they really met the challenge that the Queen song presented. He felt like their key wandered a bit and called out the bass singer for going sharp. Shawn thought they worked out the key changes in time. Nicole also applauded their ability to recover after losing the key.

Group 8: Solo, "Whatcha Say" by Jason Derulo
Solo comes from a low-income community. One member was homeless at the time they auditioned for the show. The Singing group seems to give them strength in the community it has provided them. Very cool story, but I'm exhausted from the trials and tribulations of a capella.

They have really powerful vocal percussion and brought some much-needed urban vibe to the show. While there were way too many solos, at least everyone had an opportunity to shine.

Shawn felt they should be proud that they made it here (do you feel a "but" coming?). He loved the spirit and their "flava," but he felt the harmonies needed work. Nicole felt their "light" (whatever that means), but not their harmonies. Ben gave the beat box props. He felt they held their own on pitch, but some of the solos were better than others.

Second elimination: Solo is eliminated! I was sad to see Solo go, but it was the right decision. Of course, in a very typical diva move, one of the singers decided to stretch her stage time even when the rest of the group had made their exit. I ain't mad at her, though. Go ahead and soak it up, girl.

On tomorrow's episode: Each group will sing a hit song from the last two years and a "guilty pleasure." I'm looking forward to the ol' gals of Maxx Factor singing "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse. It's so strange, it's cool.

Do you think the judges got it right? Should other groups have gone before Face and Solo?

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Photo Credit: NBC Universal