There are only 20 episodes so far over the three seasons of The Sing-Off (not counting the Christmas TV special). But the opening numbers from this show are generally of such sterling quality that to simply reduce them to a Top Five feels unfair, so I’m counting down a Top 10–consider this a playlist that I wish the choir of angels would perform if I have finally died and gone to heaven. Here is my countdown, starting with:
10. Halloween Medley: “This is Halloween” (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) / “Werewolves of London” (Warren Zevon) / “Ghostbusters” (Ray Parker Jr.). [Season 3] Season 3 was generally grander than in previous seasons, in all senses of the word. Yes, the episodes were expanded to 11, the roster of competing groups to 16, and that they held it as a weekly series for the fall. Coincidentally, one of the episodes fell exactly on Halloween, so for that episode they decided to commemorate it with a grand spectacle, replete with the competing groups in Halloween costumes, and the first time they featured a medley for the opening number.
9. R&B Medley: “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (James Brown) / “ABC” (Jackson 5) / “Crazy in Love” (Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z) [Season 3] This was to commemorate that the groups would be performing two R&B numbers each, one a classic (1960s-1970s) and the other more contemporary (1980s-present). It’s another grand number that evoked the soul revues of the 1960s, and the groups were snazzily dressed in 1960s formal outfits. Highlights for me include: a) The Dartmouth Aires’ Michael Odokara-Okigbo leading the way grittily belting out his James Brown part like Soul Brother Number One in the days of yore; b) Pentatonix’ Scott Hoying and Vocal Point’s Keith Evans making like skinny white blue-eyed soul brothers singing alongside the aforementioned Michael; c) Urban Method’s Troy Horne’s effective Michael Jackson falsetto on “ABC”; and d) Afro Blue’s Danielle Withers strutting fiercely exactly the way Beyoncé did in her music video for her song.
8. “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” (Jackie deShannon) [Season 2] I love the dramatic slow start that then segues into this nice danceable groove. For the finale episode for Season 2 of this series, we are also treated to judges’ participation towards the end of this number–Shawn Stockman and Nicole Scherzinger definitely delivered on the vamping and wailing department. Too bad Ben Folds couldn’t outdo his fellow colleagues in the vocals department, so he did some beatboxing instead…
7. “Wake Up” (Arcade Fire) [Season 3] One of the themes for Top Six week is rock music, so the opening number reflected that, as this is a soaring, dramatic ballad performed by a highly acclaimed rock band. I would’ve ranked this higher in the list if it weren’t for a single bum note by Afro Blue’s Christie Dashiell.
6. “Use Somebody” (Kings of Leon) [Season 2] I like the vocal and visual tag employed for this number. It’s interesting to note that the first four lead parts were performed by the four groups that eventually made the finale for the season. Beautiful and soaring, with Street Corner Symphony’s lead singer Jeremy Lister’s heavenly sweet tenor wonderfully opening and closing the song.
5. “21 Guns” (Green Day) [Season 2] I have not watched the Broadway musical American Idiot, but I think this number comes close or maybe even improve upon the Broadway version of this Green Day smash. Another soaring highlight from Season 2.
4. “All Night Long (All Night)” (Lionel Richie) [Season 3] This was “merge week” for Season 3 (as for the previous four weeks, the groups were divided into two separate sets competing in alternate weeks). Some might dispute my high ranking for this number, but I just found this number grand and extremely enjoyable, and yes, befitting the theme for that week, “Guilty Pleasures”. Among the highlights to this number: a) Urban Method’s Troy sounding like Seal in singing the opening lines for this song (boy, this guy has so many voices inside one body); b) North Point sounding silky smooth delivering their lines; c) Delilah’s Candace Eve (formerly of Season 1’s Voices of Lee) evoking departed judge Nicole Scherzinger; d) Vocal Point entering the stage with booming vocals that gave me visions of the elaborate grand entrance of the prospective princess bride-to-be in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America; e) that brief high pitched falsetto wail by one of the guys from the Collective (doesn’t he look like judge Ben Folds?); and f) Afro Blue’s Danielle giving a slinky touch to the Afro interlude of this song.
3. “Under Pressure” (Queen & David Bowie) [Season 1] The opening number that started it all indeed opened grandly. Obviously the highlight was Noteworthy’s Amy Whitcomb (later leader of Season 3 group Delilah–here she was in her short bleach-blonde hair incarnation) and her piercing wail at the song’s climax, but everyone else brought treats to the table, like Nota’s David Pinto’s falsetto and SoCal’s Dan Payson-Lewis’s soaring vocals.
2. Mash-Up: “Bittersweet Symphony” (The Verve) / “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” (Katy Perry) / “Hollaback Girl” (Gwen Stefani) / “Baba O’Riley” (The Who) [Season 3] As judge Ben Folds commented when he reviewed Pentatonix’s Kelly Clarkson – Cee Lo Green mash-up later that episode, the number is lyrically “non-sequitur after non-sequitur” but musically it blended so beautifully. The effect is like an impressionistic portrait of teenage angst. Highlights include: a) the trade-offs between Dartmouth Aires’ Michael and Pentatonix’s Scott, exchanging lines from the Verve and the Who songs; and b) Urban Method’s Liz Ager and Pentatonix’s Kirstie Maldonado sassy delivery on the Katy Perry portion, as if they actually lived out the lyrics of that song.
1. “I’ve Got the Music In Me” (Kiki Dee) [Season 2] This opener that kicked off Season 2 is the best opener of all so far for two reasons: 1) the number allowed us to enjoy the flavor of the competing groups’ varied styles, and yet the number still works as a cohesive whole; and 2) all 10 groups sounded ferociously wonderful that a cursory glance you wouldn’t know at all who would’ve been eliminated or who would’ve gone on to win it all–they all seemed evenly matched. This is the sort of number you want to loop forever and last longer–you want Jerry Lawson to bellow the “Hold on! I’ve got the music in me!” fakeout ad nauseam so the song could continue on and on and on…