Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Sing-Off

Friends, please allow me to introduce you to the Total Effing Scene that is TV's new show: The Sing-Off. If ever there were an indication that there is something on the telly for everyone, this show is it. If you are unaware, the show--hosted by the lamentable former boy-bander Nick Lachey--features---wait for it!--a cappella groups vying to be America's Top A Cappella Group. Because, you know, what this country needs right now is the joy of crowning our Top A Cappella Group to make it morning in America again. Nothing like a cappella music to bring us together as a nation.


What can I say? I missed the boat on a cappella groups. Never got the attraction, never understood the appeal. My college had several a cappella groups and each was more ridiculous than the last. The all- (white) boy one did a version of Seal's "Crazy" that truly truly would have made Mr. Heidi Klum weep with grief at what had been done to his music. But it seemed like I was living in a parallel universe where mediocre soulless music was considered "awesome!" and its purveyors rock stars, perhaps because my college was 98% upper-middle class white kids who wouldn't have recognized soul if it came up to them sporting a soul patch, eating soul food, and looking soulfully like Isaac Hayes impersonating Al Green on a soul high.

And now comes a TV show dedicated to disseminating and, dare I say, legitimizing this god-awful performance "art." To be fair, some of the singers are very good. Technically, they are fine singers. But together, in these groups, I find them to be just this side of unbearable to watch. So much finger snapping and pageanty smiling and cruise-ship emoting that you simply cannot find it in your heart or mind to believe their song. One group had to sing Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. Say what you will about Michael Jackson, but that song was a goosebump song. MJ nailed that song--and the goosebumps. This group? Good singing, no goosebumps. Why? I argue because--by definition--an a cappella group cannot give you goosebumps. There is something about the group arrangement, the need to finger-snap, the urge to be as earnest as possible in every performance, that completely sucks the meaning and intent out of any song sung.

I know I'll get hate mail. I anticipate and kind of secretly enjoy it, because I know that in besmirching the good name of a cappella groups I have hit on the third rail of a certain strata of white upper middle classdom: "but my son was in the Whiffenpuffers from Colby College! But my daughter was the lead singer in the Hootnannies from Skidmore! How dare you insult performers like my son who sang admirably for the Prick-i-Tones of The Claremont Colleges!" I hear you. I'm sure your kid was awesome. I'm talking about those other kids; I swear. So do watch the show on NBC and let me know who wins, because I can't do one more night, not even for this blog.


Anonymous said...

I agree totaally! Can't stand acapella, but I do likewatching this show.

St said...

Love acapella. And in addition to the lovely Nick Lachey (what can I say, I'm a Cincinnatian) ... Ben Folds! I don't think the show is that great or will attract many viewers but I'm enjoying it.