Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ben Folds is Judge on "The Sing-Off," A Competition for A Cappella Groups

There is just something about collegiate a cappella. If you’ve never gotten the chance to experience it, now’s your chance: "The Sing-Off" is a four night special holiday event that had its premiere tonight on NBC. It is American Idol-esque show, except instead of individuals, there are groups, and instead of singing with accompaniment, they doo-wop and be-bop their way through the songs without instruments. Criticized by some as being too corny for TV, or too corny, period--a cappella is just so darn catchy it’s easy to love…or at least easy to be entertained by for an hour or two. It’s also hard not to smile at a group of clean-cut, khaki-clad college boys, like the Beezlebubs from Tufts University in Boston, singing their hearts out while performing a rendition of a Kelly Clarkson song, or Flo Rida’s “Right Round.”

Director Sam Wiesman is the show’s producer, and former 98 Degrees member Nick Lachey is the host. (This too has a lot of people rolling their eyes, but not to worry.) One judge who has helped the show catch a lot of attention is singer-songwriter Ben Folds, who released an album earlier this year of college a cappella groups covering his songs. We also have on the panel Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men, and Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls.

Although there are many shows out there looking for talent or the next musical sensation, “The Sing-Off” offers something different. People may not realize that singing a cappella requires a lot of talent. Being able to harmonize with others without musical accompaniment--and actually sound good doing it--is not something that everyone can do. It’s also fun to hear the instrumental or percussive sounds of songs you know and love mimicked by voices. Also, students in thousands of colleges across the U.S partake in this tradition. Ben Folds said of his “University a cappella” album: “Music education has been atrophying. And yet, at any given school, any number of a cappella groups are getting together a few times a week to rehearse and perform. What’s more is they’re really good…it must be amazing to sing in them. I wanted to capture that magic.”

The show airs on NBC for the next two nights at 8:00 p.m. ET, with the finale airing live on Monday, December 21st. The winning group will receive $100,000 and a major-label record contract. Tune in and you’ll find yourself singing along in no time.

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