With the current line-up now locked in, Home Free has effectively turned into the country equivalent of Pentatonix. Both groups specialize in three-part harmonies backed by an extremely beefy two-man rhythm section that make their sound much fuller than the number of members would suggest. Both groups are fronted by charismatic front men that have the Sing-Off judges (particularly Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman) and producers salivating, often placing them in the forefront of the show’s opening numbers. And both groups feature very distinct and different individuals with clearly delineated roles and personas. In the case of Home Free, a fresh twist is that I can compare each member to a celebrity.
First, let’s start with founding member Chris Rupp–he has a bald pate and stubble, and he does have a strong facial resemblance to American Idol Season 5 favorite Chris Daughtry–albeit with a slimmer, less beefy frame. I nickname him “Slim Daughtry“.
Now, with beatboxer/percussionist Adam Rupp, he has a puggish heartthrob vibe that I tend to associate with Hurt Locker and Bourne Legacy actor Jeremy Renner (though not the pug nose). Though if you ask me, I find Adam hunkier than Jeremy, but I’ll still dub him “Jeremy Renner”
Many veteran Home Free fans have noted the burly member Rob Lunquist’s resemblance to Clerks and Dogma director Kevin Smith, which I wholeheartedly agree. But I have a cuter nickname for him: “Babydaddy“. As in the bearded and chubby instrumentalist and composer from the band Scissor Sisters. I just think that nickname encapsulates Rob’s funny and cuddly qualities better than “Kevin Smith”.
The swarthy vocal bass Tim Foust exudes a “dark lord” mysterious vibe that I think has fangirls salivating, that he reminds me of the character Loki as portrayed by actor Tom Hiddleston in the Thor and Avengers films, so I think “Loki” would be a perfect nickname for him (and yes, I know over the web, Loki seems to have a wider fangirl base over Thor). Ironic note: I recall Tom Middleston occasionally appears in other roles and in some public appearances with a stubble, but in his role as Loki it seems he never shows up with facial hair.
Now, for Austin Brown, I have a tougher challenge coming up with a suitable nickname. Vocally, he resembles Mr. Big singer Eric Martin (“To Be With You”), but “Eric Martin” is not quite a compelling nickname. His features though made me recall Steve Winwood at times, and come to think of it, prior to being a solo artist Steve was a frontman for several famous rock bands like the Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, and Traffic, and Austin is such a quintessential frontman that “Steve Winwood” could indeed be suitable, albeit Austin’s beefier than Steve Winwood ever was.
Another key quality this group shares with Pentatonix is that they were never in danger of being in the bottom two, and their body of work in the show was consistently of a high quality in relation with the other competing groups. Besides the “Ultimate Singoff” performance of Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright” with the Filharmonic that for me was the big highlight of the season, (and I previously mentioned when I talked about the Filharmonic a few blogs back), here are my top performances from this group:
4. “Colder Weather” originally by the Zac Brown Band. Prior to this performance, the band ‘s numbers were mostly uptempo. It’s nice to see the opening verses sung by “Babydaddy” instead of relying mostly on “Steve Winwood” (though “Steve Winwood” brought it home), and how they are capable of stirring strong sentiments and emotions instead of simply giving audiences a fun, good time. They should include stuff like this besides the crowd pleasers that they are bound to give out for that refreshing contrast.
3. “Life Is A Highway” originally by Tom Cochrane. My favorite part is the opening, how each component comes in separately and then builds up together. I know fangirls would also like to highlight the bridge with “Loki” singing the lines (Ben Folds described it as a bass guitar suddenly standing up and speaking), and that is indeed another great moment in this masterpiece. And this song is actually a longtime mainstay in their repertoire, but they originally did it a bit more conventionally instead of the more dramatic opening employed here. I think this should be their opener in every concert moving forward…
2. “I Want Crazy” originally by Hunter Hayes. It’s a bit apt that one of their best performances is their performance at the finale. This number seems to encapsulate what they intend to be moving forward.
1. “Ring of Fire” most famously associated with Johnny Cash. I first was a bit turned off by the rendition as even if it started slow, I found it a bit too peppy and upbeat and seemingly missing the message of the song. But then I listened to Johnny Cash’s famous recording and I realize it was also kinda uptempo, with mariachi horns at that. Then I started appreciating what Home Free did to this song much better, that they modernized it, respected tradition, and added some good twists that remains in the spirit of Johnny Cash’s famous version. Besides the slow opening verse, the other fine innovation they employed was the Caribbean rhythms towards the latter part of the song–if Johnny has mariachis, Home Free got those Latin-Caribbean beats that made me fantasize their fellow contestants Calle Sol joining in to dance along in this sequence. Finally, there is Tim’s range as he showcased higher octaves on some lines. Now it made me intrigued how Pentatonix’s Avi Kaplan would join in the recorded version–will he lend a few overtone singing textures in the intro? Trade verses with Tim? I want to check that out…
COMING UP: FANTASY HEAD-TO-HEAD SING-OFF WITH PENTATONIX