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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Kentucky’s energetic acoUstiKats are acoUstika-mazing in The Sing-Off premiere

Kentucky's acoUstiKats performing on NBC's The Sing-Off (Photo from Facebook)

Kentucky’s acoUstiKats perform on NBC’s The Sing-Off with lead Ron Wilbur’s impressive three-octave range. (Photo from Facebook)

 
The acoUstiKats were acoUstiKa-mazing as the last group to perform on NBC’s The Sing-Off last night. Their energetic, Elvis-inspired rendition of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” scored the only standing ovation from judge Shawn Stockman of Boys II Men.
 
It also kept them safely in the competition which continues tomorrow night, Dec. 11, on NBC at 8 p.m.
 

The fun, hip-gyrating performance led judge Jewel to say that she needed an “acoUstiKa-cold shower” afterwards. She said she never knew men could move like that.
 
Judge Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five teased Stockman by saying he thought the Boyz II Men star’s acoUstiKat ticket “had exploded in his pocket.”
 
All three judges and host Nick Lachey, who didn’t tell the national audience that he was born in Harlan by the way, praised the solid performance for its fun take on one of the year’s most popular songs. Stockman said he first thought it would be “an acoUstiKat-astrophie” when he learned the a cappella group was taking on the hit, but was pleasantly surprised by the three-octave range of lead singer Ron Wilbur.
 
Click below to see last night’s acoUstiKats‘ performance:
 

 
The first group to perform was the high schoolers from Oakland’s School for the Arts, Vocal Rush. Their medley followed the inspiring opening in which all 10 groups sang “Some Nights” by Grammy winners F.U.N.
 
Vocal Rush performed well enough for all the judges to marvel at their maturity musically despite their young ages. Lachey commented that he, too, went to a School for the Performing Arts – SCAPA in Cincinnati – and understood the pressure of such an environment.
 
Next up were the only country group in the competition and perhaps the only country a cappella group in the nation – Home Free from Minnesota. The five guys who perform more than 200 shows a year and live together most of that time in an RV sang “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line.
 
The only other college a cappella singers besides the University of Kentucky acoUstiKats were from Princeton University. The Princeton Footnotes sang “Trouble” by Taylor Swift. The group’s harmonizing received some praise from Stockman, but Jewel found the bass grounding of their chords, or tonic, a bit insecure.
 
The next group was from Puerto Rico and were the only Latin group. Calle Sol, which literally translates “Sun Street,” are comprised of four singing and dancing female singers and two men who primarily handle vocal percussion. They sang and danced their way around Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay.” Folds said it was “really fun” and “really unique,” but warned them that uniqueness could be both an asset and a liability.
 
Five grown men who’ve returned to their passion of street corner harmonizing took the stage to “teach” the young ones what classic Doo-wop could do with a new hit. Street Corner Renaissance from Los Angeles say they had no formal training and literally grew up singing on the street. They brought old school to new school with their rendition of One Direction teen pop hit “What Makes You Beautiful.”
 
Stockman, who said, “Children, take note,” was so moved that he jumped up from his seat and hugged every man individually, thanking them for their legacy.
 
Next up was a group who were performing on stage as a group for the very first time – Ten. The ensemble are friends from Dallas who’ve had long and storied careers as backup singers with some of the best in the business, and many with roots in Gospel.
 
At a down moment, one of the group prayed for guidance about continuing to sing professionally or not and then heard about NBC bringing back The Sing-Off. She called nine of her friends and they began rehearsal.
 
The group were roundly praised for their performance of “Tell Me Something Good” by soul artists Rufus and Chaka Khan.
 
An all-female group of singers from Brooklyn – Element – sang “Burn” by Ellie Goulding. The women had already admitted in a pre-performance video that being an all-female ensemble meant they had to be creative about replacing the bass usually associated with a cappella singing. Jewel praised their creativity, but worried that they got loud too soon and didn’t follow a steadier curve to build intensity.
 
A group of all guys who recently added a girl sang after the all-female ensemble. Vocal Rush is made up of friends from high school who have worked and sung together at the same Disney theme park in Orlando for years.
 
Jewel called their song choice of “Feel This Moment” by Pitbull and featuring Christina Aguilera “interesting” because the dance number doesn’t have much in the way of lyric to present.
 
The last group to perform before acoUstiKats was an all-Filipino American group of young men calling themselves The Filharmonic. The group’s performance of Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” was appreciated by the judges and audience alike. Jewel agreed with the group’s own assessment of themselves seen in a pre-performance video in which the lead singer was said to have the “voice of God” and another was considered to have “great hair.”
 
After the acoUstiKats‘ rousing performance, the two teams battling it out to stay in the competition were announced. They were The Princeton Footnotes and Voice Play. The two then sang-boxed their way through a duet version of “Bye Bye Bye” by ‘N Sync.
 
Folds said that if the two groups had sung in their solo performances like they did in the duet that neither of them would’ve been on the chopping block. In the end, however, one group had to leave and the judges chose to send home The Princeton Footnotes. Folds said he felt Voice Play showed more potential for improvement.
 
This leaves Kentucky’s acoUstiKats the only college ensemble remaining in the competition for a grand prize of a Sony recording contract and $100,000 cash. The nine remaining groups will perform again Wednesday, Dec. 11.

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