Tuned In

The Sing-Off Returns: Handicapping Season Two

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The Most Important Television Event of Our Era, the a cappella battle The Sing-Off, returned last night to NBC with its three judge panel, Nick Lachey and this time ten entrants showcasing the diversity and lovable dorkiness of singing without instruments. Who’s a threat? Who’s going home? After the jump, a quick, and by no means thorough, look at some of the contenders:

I’ll skip last night’s ejectees, Pitch Slapped (a surprise) and Men of Note (not so much). Among the eight remaining finalists, Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town have a built-in advantage—and disadvantage. On the one hand: they’re the comeback act of Jerry Lawson, of the Persuasions. Who’s going to want to vote against them? (Last night, the judges gushed with respect and gratitude, but only Ben Folds actually even said anything about their performance. They did well, but I pity the judges should they ever have an off night.) On the other hand: they’re the comeback act of Jerry Lawson, of The Persuasions. The home audience may just want to pull the lever for someone who hasn’t already has a decades-long a cappella career already.

Mrs. Tuned In, who sings in a women’s chorus and thus unlike me actually knows something about this stuff, picks as her current act to beat gospel group Committed, who she said were vocally as strong as last year’s winner Nota. Also, you know, God. I know better than to argue with the expert, but the voting audience remains dominated by musical ignoramuses like me.

The Whiffenpoofs of Yale did a creditable job playing the Dalton Academy Warblers of the competition and seem technically skilled. On the other hand, they’re a group of Ivy Leaguers who dress like the guy from the Monopoly board, so I’m not sure they quite have the populist vote locked down.

The other college-guy group, Oregon’s On the Rocks, came in with the more current pop-styling-and-crazy-gestures approach that we saw from last year’s Beelzebubs, and sailed through on the power of their viral hit, “Bad Romance” (see video, above). But how much of their appeal came from the actual quality of the live performance, as opposed to it being kind of cool that 15 guys are covering “Bad Romance”? I’ll be interested to see how their second outing holds up.

I like the idea of Street Corner Symphony—a group of Nashville dudes bringing a southern sensibility to a cappella—but how exactly do Tears for Fears and Train fit into that? (Is there a Molly Hatchet original of “Hey Soul Sister” I’m unaware of?) I actually really liked their arrangement of southern-rock classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” but for now, I’m with Folds: “Y’all know some Skynyrd?”

The rest are my picks for the cannon fodder of this season: Groove for Thought, who I’m sure are fantastic people who have made their families proud but had no stage presence; Eleventh Hour, the high school show choir, has the Glee aura—they’re even from Ohio!—but didn’t stand out in the field; neither did L.A. choral supergroup The Backbeats, though I’m glad that their “rival groups” were able to band together and put the violence behind them.

Your thoughts? Your bets as to which group covers Cee-Lo’s “F___ Forget You” and when?