November 18, 2013

Greatest Hits: You should watch The Sing-Off

As my excitement for the upcoming season of The Sing-Off builds, I thought I should take a moment and count down my favorite performances from the last season of the show. For those of you who have been living under a rock somewhere far, far away from NBC, The Sing-Off is an a cappella singing reality competition. I'm inclined to call it the best singing competition on TV, even though it gets far less press or attention than its contemporaries.

There are two keys to the show's success.
  1. The a cappella spin makes it impossible for performers to hide behind instrumentation, auto-tuning, or other production tricks. These vocalists have authentic musical talent. It shows.
  2. The judging panel does not rely on celebrity or shock value, but rather gives authentic advice and criticism. Specifically, Ben Folds is the most intelligent judge I've ever seen on a reality competition show. (Of course, I'm near-devastated that the incomparable Sara Bareilles has been replaced by Jewel at the judges' table this season. But I'm withholding judgement on that for now. Kind of.)
So let's take a look back at some of the great performances from the last season of The Sing-Off, and hope that we get some more great ones in the coming season:

#5 - The Dartmouth Aires - "Pinball Wizard"

#4 -  Delilah - "Grenade"

#3 - Afro Blue - "American Boy"

#2 - The Dartmouth Aires - "Queen Medley"

#1 - Pentatonix - "Video Killed the Radio Star"

Pentatonix won the competition last season, for good reason. They've become quite a sensation since their victory. If you're on social media at all, you've probably seen their most recent video.

Did I convince you to watch? (Despite the cheesy lines they write for host Nick Lachey?) The Sing-Off returns to NBC on December 9th.

November 6, 2013

Nashville: "It Must Be You" Review

Nashville took a page from the Gossip Girl playbook last week: get all your characters together at a fancy event. Things are bound to fall apart. The interesting thing about the fancy-schmancy polo match was that the characters didn't behave exactly as you'd expect. Deacon, who you might guess would fit in the least at an event like this, eased into conversation all smiles with his beautiful lawyer girlfriend by his side. On the other hand, Juliette, the princess of glitter, was royally out-of-place.

An awkward Juliette strikes an awkward pose.
Which brings me to this - I am loving Juliette this season. At the end of season one, we saw glimpses of her troubled backstory. But this season, we've seen her humanity in humorous ways. This has endeared the character to me. One of my favorite lines from the episode has to be: "According to wikipedia, that sound means the game's about to start!"

I suppose this is the point where I brag about my predictions from my last Nashville review. They've all come true! Gunnar and Zoey did indeed hook up, Will's already had trouble with Edgehill and Layla's already made her move, and Juliette's affair with Charles (who, in this episode, the characters are all of the sudden chummy enough with to call "Charlie")  is about to cause her a world of trouble. Previews indicate we'll see that in next week's episode. What I did not expect about Juliette and Charles Wentworth was the possibility that the two of them might have a real connection.

I try not to comment judgmentally on the decisions the characters make (being as they are fictional) but rather how those decisions affect the overall complexity and richness of the story. Therefore, I'm not going to fault Zoey for her attraction to Gunnar. It makes for a good story. Plus, I have a theory that Sam Palladio can have chemistry with anyone.

From what we've seen so far, the new characters introduced in season two are adding to the drama in interesting ways. In particular, Luke Wheeler offers another - and very different - love interest for Rayna. "I was not expecting that," she says when he kisses her. Neither was I, Rayna. Well, not until the obviously foreshadowing conversation he had with Deacon at the polo match. This moment illuminates another fascinating thing about the nature of this show. The soapy details - like Luke's attraction to Rayna - move the larger "business of music" plots along. Because Luke wants to see more of Rayna, he's agreed to take Scarlett on tour. So Scarlett's big break might be the result of another entirely separate potential relationship. Which only proves that nothing's entirely separate. (And that makes a good story.)

And now for the reason anyone and everyone should watch this show: the music. The acoustic version of "Hypnotizing" was by far the best number in the episode. It turned a song I sometimes skipped past on the album into a true heartfelt ballad. Acoustic is how the song was meant to be sung. Oh, and listen for the harmonica.