THE SING-OFF SEASON 4 CHAMPIONS HOME FREE: COUNTRY-TONIX, CONCLUSION–FANTASY SHOWDOWN WITH PENTATONIX

Before I proceed, upon further research on this band’s history made me realize something–prior to Tim Foust’s entry as a permanent band member Home Free wasn’t a country group; their repertoire is more crowd pleasing numbers encompassing various eras like in the style of Straight No Chaser or the Cat’s Pajamas.  I think Tim’s country leanings made them go towards this direction, and the harmonies they were able to develop with new member Austin Brown sealed their direction, and they found their distinctive niche.

I also have to mention a fun video this group made with their co-Sing-Off colleagues VoicePlay, a “Zombies vs. Hillbillies” showdown where they did their takes on Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor”.  Imagine if popular cable series The Walking Dead turned into a musical comedy, this would be the result:

Now, this inspires me to imagine what if Home Free were in an “Ultimate Sing-Off” with Pentatonix?  How would that look like?  Let me switch the system a bit and turn it into a one-on-one showdown.  Who would beat who?  Let’s start with the main lead singers:

SHOWDOWN ROUND 1:  Austin “Steve Winwood” Brown vs. Scott Hoying.  Both are favorite lead vocalists by both Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman and the show producers.  Both are charismatic vocalists with wide vocal ranges and the tendency to go into melismas.  Both have significant gushing fangirl followings.  It’s a very closely fought battle, but in terms of looks and the way in the current incarnation of the group, Austin takes more lead vocal chores while Pentatonix is such a more democratic enterprise that Scott yields the lead to the other members a bit more frequently, this round goes to Austin, albeit by a narrow margin.  Home Free: 1; Pentatonix: 0.

austin vs scott

SHOWDOWN ROUND 2:  Rob “Babydaddy” Lundquist vs. Mitch Grassi.  This pairing seems to be a major physical mismatch–even though Mitch gained a few pounds since winning The Sing-Off, he’s still a puny pipsqueak compared to the burly heavyweight that is Rob.  If this were simply a physical battle, Rob could simply sit on Mitch and the battle is all over.  But in this kind of competition, singing is what we have to measure, and thus the playing field is all level.   And they have striking similarities:  both guys take the role of high tenors in their respective groups, both have backgrounds in musical theater, and both are funny people (not apparent during the Sing-Off in the case of Mitch, but have you seen his Superfruit videos?).  As pleasant as Rob is as a singer, Mitch’s high tenor/near-soprano range is so consistently impressive that Mitch is decisively the winner by a landslide in this round.  Home Free: 1; Pentatonix: 1.

rob vs mitch

SHOWDOWN, ROUND 3:  Adam “Jeremy Renner” Rupp vs. Kevin “K.O.” Olusola.  In terms of hunkiness, to my taste Adam wins it for me.  Interestingly enough, in terms of musical talent, Adam might even have the edge here as it is reported in his bio that he’s a multi-instrumentalist who could play several musical instruments (he specializes in brass instruments like the trumpet, though), even though Kevin has scored great renown and press with his cello-playing.  But what matters in this showdown is their beatboxing skills–this showdown is a “Beatbox-off”(I almost went like Ben Folds and called it a “Beat-Off”, which he initially mentioned on that legendary “I’m Alright” number but had to sanitize it and do a re-take on TV).  Now, both are probably amongst the Top Three best beatboxers in all four seasons of The Sing-Off, so I have so much awe and respect for their talents.  But, then I have to think: as good as Adam probably is in playing an actual trumpet, can he do trumpet or brass sounds with his voice the way Kevin does (or maybe even the sound of pebbles on water like in their now classic cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”)?  So because of those extra vocal skills Kevin has, this round goes to Kevin, though to Adam we have to send much love and respect for his talents; this is a showdown of masters, after all.  Home Free: 1; Pentatonix: 2.

adam vs kevin

SHOWDOWN, ROUND 4:  Tim “Loki” Foust vs. Avi “Bass Cannon” Kaplan.  Now this is probably what could be considered the main event if this were a boxing match.  There are fangirls salivating at this match-up of the basses.  Both of them are terrific standouts who also have solo vocal moments in their respective groups.  In terms of solo moments, it might seem that Tim has the upper hand.  Many people have also pointed out that Tim’s vocal range can stretch higher, but then again, so does Avi especially if you listen to “Little Drummer Boy” and his solo “Tumbleweed” video.  But then, the kicker–can Tim do overtone or throat singing like Avi?  It’s an evenly matched battle, but Avi probably takes it very narrowly because of that skill.  Home Free: 1; Pentatonix: 3.

Tim vs Avi

SHOWDOWN, ROUND 5:  Chris “Slim Daughtry” Rupp vs. Kirstie Maldonado.  Although technically the overall showdown is already won by Pentatonix, let us still take a look at this match-up.  Actually in terms of background and leadership, Chris might actually have the edge here–though except for a press round we didn’t hear him do a solo lead on The Sing-Off,  in their earlier incarnations he took lead singing roles, and he’s also reportedly the songwriter for their original material, like the stalker song they did and I featured in the first installment of this article.  His bio also says he can play several musical instruments.  He may not be prominent since Austin joined their band, but I think he’s still a power behind the throne especially since he’s a founding member of the group.  But bigger weight is for singing, and here Kirstie has made her presence felt, and as good as the stalker song was, Chris is not really as compelling a vocalist as Kirstie.  Chris may reassert himself in the band as time wears on, but at this point, Kirstie wins this round.  Home Free: 1; Pentatonix: 4.

chris vs kirstie

Let me squeeze in a review of Pentatonix’s latest video, their cover of Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding’s “I Need Your Love”, released on the day of The Sing-Off season 4 finale.  In context of their PTX, Vol. II album, it’s a solid number, but the video enhances the experience of the song.  The video plays on the “couch” videos Pentatonix has released previously, but with multi-panel edits like in their classic “Daft Punk” video.  I also love the fact that their outfits are in basic colors–green sweater for Avi, yellow shirt for Kirstie, blue shirt for Mitch, purple sweater for Scott, and red jacket for Kevin.  But the clincher is how they reverted back to their old couch video format at the video’s end.  Definitely a treat.

On a final note, let us go back to Home Free.  It seems their brand of country is more of a light-hearted brand and they have released two videos thus far: a cover of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and a Hunter Hayes medley.  Check them out below:

Both are starting off promisingly, although not yet in the million views level that Pentatonix now enjoys with each of their official video releases.  The line up of their album (to be released in February) looks like a pleasant combo of solid country numbers that I hope would make Nashville take notice, but what I hope for them down the line is that they challenge themselves the way Pentatonix regularly does instead of staying in light-hearted fare, probably like tapping deeper into the genre and do a cappella takes on bluegrass classics, or stretch their repertoire by adding serious folk rock in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band–if Macklemore & Ryan Lewis can find a balance with heavy serious fare and comedy, these guys do have the talent to probably strike the same balance.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

25 thoughts on “THE SING-OFF SEASON 4 CHAMPIONS HOME FREE: COUNTRY-TONIX, CONCLUSION–FANTASY SHOWDOWN WITH PENTATONIX

  1. but Kevin is also a multi-instrumentalist. He soloed on the saxophone at Carnegie Hall plus a little Beatboxing for the From the Top program. He also sang at the same venue with a school singing group on a different occasion. Plus he’s a fluent multilinguist. I don’t know who else in PTX and Home Free can claim to that.

    1. **
      HOME FREE IS MULTI-TALENTED, TOO (altho there’s nothing wrong with JUST country music)!…..You Tube their new vids: ‘BUTTS REMIX’ & ‘HONEY I’M GOOD’ (Tim hits a D1 !)—-JUST AWESOME BEATS, BASS LINES, RAPS & HARMONIES !!!
      **
      ADAM is a TRUMPET BOSS & plays solid bass, piano, drums & is a SICK beatboxer!
      …..You Tube: ‘ADAM RUPP VP SOLO VANCOUVER’…..
      **
      CHRIS is a PIANO WHIZ, plays solid bass, guitar, harmonica…
      ROB plays sax…
      AUSTIN plays solid piano…
      **
      TIM plays solid piano & that BASS!
      ……You Tube: ‘ACAPPELLA AMAZING GRACE WITH TIM FOUST’ (just sang w/early idols Acappella Band)…AWESOME BASSES!!
      **
      AWESOME ORIGINALS, TOO: ‘EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY’, ‘I’VE SEEN’ & hilarious
      ‘CHAMPAGNE TASTE ON A BEER BUDGET’ & ‘FULL OF CHEER’…
      **
      TRUE, POP IS A BIGGER MARKET, BUT I’M GLAD THEY’RE ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC, NOT THE MONEY!!
      **
      MOST OF THEIR SHOWS ARE SOLD OUT (incl. an arena, for acappella nay-sayers)
      & a little over a year after their Sing Off win, they are making plans to tour Europe & the rest of the world next year!
      **
      I’m glad they’re making their OWN path, their way, in their time: NOT comparing them to anyone else!! THEY’RE introducing the world to their new ORIGINAL SOUND!!!

    2. I’ve You Tube’d many aca-groups & many regular beatbox championships for a long time…Adam, imo, is the aca-world’s best beatboxer!!…He can also hold his own with ‘regular’ beatboxers, like Heatbox, etc…There’s a pic of Adam, Syzygy
      & Constant Change at a club, ‘throwing down’ in his words (Instagram)…Wish I could’ve seen that!…His beatboxing is pure/clear/sharp, w/many other sounds!!
      .
      *** WATCH HIM AT WORK…EXAMPLE: ‘ADAM RUPP VP SOLO VANCOUVER’ ***
      🙂 🙂

      1. PLUS, HE’S HOT!! AS ARE AUSTIN & TIM!!! AND ALL VERY TALL/6’2″-6’4″!! 🙂 🙂

  2. Thank you too! Sometimes I come across as a bit harsh, apologies 🙂
    I’m such a Kevin-fan sometimes I forget I’m not the only one! Thank you for your blog!!

  3. Hmmmm…. yes it is your opinion! My opinion is Pentatonix has been working on their national touring, appearances, etc. for what? about 2 years. Just happenend to have released their latest video on the day of the Singoff Finale (I guess that’s what you call good marketing). I’m just anxious to see what Home Free will be able to do given time and guidance into the national scene (this Home Free group has not been together but about a year and haven’t had the same exposure) I don’t think all of their talents and abilities have been seen.

  4. I liked your blog but I must respectfully disagree only based on the fact that Pentatonix as a year since they won and have had the chance to hit the million hit mark for that reason. I think if you give Home Free a year they will be there also. Also what I do like is that Home Free is Country and as Jewel mentioned doing Accupella in Country is not as easy as it looks, they just made it look easy. Anyways, please don’t take my comments personal just giving you my thoughts, thanks Be cky

    1. Understood. I do admire how they evoked country simply with their singing. I do actually wish Home Free gets the same level of success as Pentatonix. Now I would like to note that within 3 months after winning the Sing-Off, Pentatonix achieved their first big viral hit with the Gotye cover–they generated a million hits during the first week that video came out.

  5. When you mention Scott yielding the lead, I think that came out midway through Season 3 and then took off afterwards, when the judges & the fans realized how great Mitch is, that Kirstie can hold her own & that Avi can do more than overtones. Even Kevin has been singing. Their fans love hearing from all of them (me too). It will be interesting to see if Home Free does this as well. As much as I love Tim & Austin, Rob & Chris have beautiful voices, too. Adam surely sings, too!
    I love both groups; hard for me to compare them because of that. I would much rather see Country-Tonix (or Home Tonix?), all ten of them, performing together.

  6. How can you really compare the two, Home Free according to NBC:“This all-male group has already been on the road touring the country and the transcontinental journeys have made them all very close. Their years of performance experience add to their refreshing country sound.”, come on talk about ringer. Pentatonix met for the first time the day before the audition, and not only did they have to get to know one another during their show, but also hat to compete against some of the most incredible groups during Season 3. I’m sorry but compared to Season 3, Season 4 was a cakewalk for Home Free. In my opinion, all top 5 of Season 3 could have beat Home Free. But as everyone says, just my opinion.

    1. Wow, seems like you have it out for negative for Home Free. Just because they are a country group I think sets them apart. Every group that has won is different in their own way. So again I beg to differ but it is your opinion and I have mine

    2. The current Home Free line-up had Tim guesting 2009 off & on (songwriting/ persuiing country music) then full member late 2012..Austin guested late 2012,(songwriting & pursuing own music), then full member early 2013..Both have sung all kinds of music, pop, classical, soul, choral, rock, acappella/or w/instruments..
      .
      PTX’s Kristie, Scott & Mitch sang solo/duets/together throughout high school (possibly Jr high?) and added Kevin (pursuing own classical/pop music w/cello) & Avi (pursuing own classical/opera/jazz music, w/guitar & a cappella late 2011….
      .
      Home Free’s done workshops for high schools/colleges/a cappella camps for years, teaching a cappella, raising $, sometimes splitting concert profits w/the schools for their music programs…Giving back..
      .
      Avi & PTX are doing that now, too..Workshops at schools/a cappella camps..Giving back…
      .
      They.’re ALL in it for the joy of singing/music…You can tell that they love it & that money is secondary…(They would have taken more main street avenues for sure)..
      .
      God bless them all..
      .
      P.S…JOSEPH……….
      .
      PTX carved their own Pop/Electronic/Soul path, mostly younger viewers, so HOME FREE will carve theirs, whether it’s ‘JUST’ country music & to intimate that they should be more creative (a la PTX), on its way to something bigger, is not right..
      They can be creative in their OWN way, not like anyone else, no matter the audience
      .
      ALL 10 ARE TOP QUALITY SINGERS !!!
      .
      FYI- YouTube: ‘HOME FREE ADAM BEATBOX DRUM SOLO’…JUST INCREDIBLE!! 🙂

  7. Austin beating Scott….just because Scott lets others lead? That makes no Sense. Scott could riff him to death in seconds. Sorry no contest there.

    1. Austin can riff!!! He grew up singing w/his gospel touring father & can sing any-
      thing!..Scott said Austin’s got a killer voice (Star Tribune), You Tube: ‘Home Free Thinking Out Loud SPM ST15’…Austin went to PTX’s concert in L.A…Btw, Scott
      also said Tim’s bass is unreal & he taught Avi some things, incl. how to sing lower.. Kristin & Jeremy just saw HF’s concert in Anaheim (blown away by Tim’s bass)…I love PTX, too…It’s ok to love more than one aca-group, or any group, you know.. .They’re friends, not competing, they’re supporting each other in this still very small
      (but growing!) aca-field…All aca-groups out there often visit each other, go to each
      others’ concerts, sometimes collab (like HF & Avi: awesome ‘Ring Of Fire’ & HF with Peter Hollens: gorgeous ’19 You + Me’….We all know about PTX’s many wonderful collabs w/others!….This is a great aca-world!..Besides, they all listen to many diff. artists, like Boyz ‘ll Men, Tori Kelly, Lady Gaga, Zach Brown Band, Daft Punk, a huge variety…As it should be…Amen!! 🙂 🙂

  8. Why bother with a sing off. I would love to here them collaborate some music together. Two power house a cappella groups would be fantastic.

    1. Actually I agree with you there–the showdown was just for fun anyway. Well, they did take steps in that direction as Home Free collaborated with Avi in their recording of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.

      1. Home Free can & has sung just about every type of genre, but their full, tight
        harmonies are perfect for harmony-based country flavored songs…That, along
        w/their insane bass/beats ‘team rhythm’..Example: their ‘BUTTS REMIX’ (class-
        her than it sounds & awesome)!…Also, watch their crazy beatboxer in action:
        ‘ADAM RUPP VP SOLO VANCOUVER’…Sooo good!! 🙂 🙂

  9. I think Tim is the winner there… Avi certainly can do overtones, but what advantages can Ptx get with that skill,,
    Me myself can do Fry Register down to c(-3).. But that doesn’t mean that i am a better bass singer.. No offense

    1. Agree, from a standpoint as a choral director, Tim is far and away the more proficient singer and Bass. His technique alone is going to let his voice continue for many many years, while I am slightly concerned how long Avi’s will last. Could be a long time if he is careful, but he sometimes does things that are unhealthy for his voice. I also feel in general this “showdown” was skewed in Pentatonix favor due to the author’s preference for their brand of creativity. I admire them wanting to do something different, and it certainly makes for nice entertainment, but if you were to just listen to each group (without visuals) Home Free creates a far more pleasing auditory experience. Their risks never detract from the music as Pentatonix’ sometimes can on occasion. Either way both groups are excellent and are furthering a previously dying art form.

  10. I love how Mitch takes the win hands down. However I think Scott deserved a win since his runs and riffs are amazing. Plus he shouldn’t get denoted because he shares the spotlight with equally transcendent people. Also, Pentatonix is way younger and they formed right before the competition, showing that they adapt and can thrive in new situations, therefore making them the better of the groups.

  11. I agree that Pentatonix is the winner .. Because they can mash up how many songs .. Like their video , ” Evolution of Beyonce ” and ” Evolution of Music ” . Try to watch their Sing-Off performances , they won because of Kevin and Avi and they take risk , and where ever they go they sing .

  12. Oh Yeah Guys Let Us Say One Thing Country Accapela Is Dominated By Homefree And Pop By Pentatonix But The Two Groups Look Live And Awesome For The Homefree They Do Their Best And All Supporters Of Accapella Like Them I Trust In Them Love Homefree In Blood

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