Also, this review from Entertainment Weekly about the show had me cackling my head off. My favorite bit?
A couple of the acts — Voices of Lee; Noteworthy — made such a point of emphasizing their religiosity in their taped introductions, I wondered when one of them was going to realize that one of their opponents was a bunch called the Beelzebubs. Beelzebub. As in demon. As in Satan. Don’t let those nice blazers the Bubs wore fool you, kids! E-e-e-e-k! Run for your lives!
I was pretty much thinking the same thing last night.
So, tonight, the remaining six groups had to pick one hit, and had to pick one cheesy song (the "guilty pleasure" song).
With one small exception, I agreed with the judges pretty much down the line. And it's only a small exception because I thought the group in question should've been ranked one notch higher, but since they're still in it, it's not a big deal.
The Tufts Beelzebubs: They were the first performers tonight, something which stood them in good stead. They were more "on" tonight than they were last night (which wasn't their best ever performance). They had a really nice arrangement for Flo Rida's "Right Round" (the hit song) that helped them cement one of the top two spots right off, and a really stunning rendition of Styx's "Come Sail Away" (the cheese). What was really surprising, and took the judges by surprise as well, was the fact that our goofy boyz played "Come Sail Away" completely straight — and it worked.
Noteworthy: This group basically imploded. It didn't help that they were the act immediately following the 'Bubs, so they suffered even more by comparison. They chose really badly with Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" (the hit song), a song that basically highlighted all of their weaknesses and played to none of their strengths. You're an all-girl a cappella group, and you're going with a song with that low of a register. Seriously? Seriously? What were you thinking? Are you sure you haven't been sneaking illegal substances and imbibing on the BYU campus? Because the only way you could've thought that was a good idea is if all of you were completely high. I groaned when I heard they were going with Wilson Phillips's "Hold On" (the cheese) because — and this is what I was thinking — it's a totally safe song for an all-girl a cappella group. There is no way that Noteworthy could poorly on that. Wrong again! They managed to completely bork it. I don't know how they did it (I didn't even think it was possible), but they managed to do it. Painful, painful, painful all around. It was truly a mercy elimination on the part of the judges, who spent a lot of time hunting around for something nice to say during judging. Yes, it was that bad.
Voices of Lee: They did better. Personally, I didn't think their rendition of Alicia Keys's "No One" (the hit song) was all that. The lead simply didn't have the chops to match Keys's soaring vocals and she tended to get drowned out by the back-up harmonies. Since Noteworthy basically fell apart into itty bitty pieces, I knew they were probably safe since only one group was getting eliminated tonight. What bumped them up a few notches and made them safer than safe was their Gospel-drenched rendition of George Michael's "Freedom 90" (the cheese). It was a nice arrangement, the group was well-balanced, and they allowed themselves to build to a crescendo. I still think they're roadkill tomorrow, but my reasoning for that is now different. It isn't that they're bad, it's just that their rendition of "Freedom 90" highlighted in a very stark way that they're not playing to their strengths. They're trying way too hard to sound like the other collegiate a cappella groups. If they brought in that gospel flavor into their other arrangements, they'd do a whoooooole lot better.
SoCals: I don't get the love for this group. I really don't. I don't see anything special there at all. Their rendition of Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" (the hit song), was a pretty standard collegiate a cappella arrangement that was competent, but didn't really stand out all that much. And, yeah, I can see why the judges thought their arrangement of Starship's "We Built This City" (the cheese) was unique (they went with a somewhat Broadway feel for it), it frankly left me cold and unimpressed. It didn't help that the female lead was no Grace Slick. I stand by my judgment: The SoCals are SoBoring.
Maxx Factor: I thought they should've placed one spot higher (it was between them and Noteworthy for elimination). First off, they had a really fantastic arrangement and rendition of Taylor Swift's "Love Story" (the hit song). I hate this song with the heat of a thousand fire-y nuns, by the way, and like Ben Folds I thought it was a horrific choice for them. But they turned it on its head and made it a warm, barber-shop style song that was really pretty amazing to listen to. I also agreed that they kind of fell apart on Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" (the cheese). It was wound a little too tight (the group needed to be looser) and didn't seem to really gel in performance. At some point, I think they lost track of each other because it did get a little discordant on the bridge.
NOTA: Still the ones to beat. Just an awesome, awesome music machine there. Fantastic. They're version of Jay Sean's "Down" (the hit) blew me away. Although I love the original, it does have that Singing Cylon quality to it thanks to Autotune, but they not only managed to pull it off and add some warmth that's missing from the original, but they also threw in a little of their Latin flavor to give it a punch. They were weaker on the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive", mostly because of the high falsetto that song requires, and they really were missing the center of the song. That said, I was groovin' to it. NOTA was even better tonight. They loosened up quite a lot and brought a little showmanship to their stage presence. Fantastic all around. Unless they take a collective shit on the stage, there's no way they're losing this contest.
So, to sum up, and to twitch my rankings just a little bit:
Who Should've Been Eliminated: The judges made the right choice in sending Noteworthy home. I initially figured they would've lasted the week, but they imploded so badly tonight that the judges basically had to eliminate them. They weren't as bad as Solo (which was eliminated last night), but Lord it wasn't pretty. And was it me, or did they cop one big ol' passive-aggressive attitude tonight? Post-judging because they weren't getting praised to high heaven, and in that swan song of theirs. Good riddance.
So, here's my ranking from the strongest to the weakest:
NOTA: I think we should just hand these Latin Kings the crown and be done with it. The only way they're losing is if they spectacularly fall apart on stage and break out the reefer to help them calm their nerves so they can continue. Seriously.
Tufts Beelzebubs: Scuttlebutt on some of the forums is that they're the ones the producers like for the crown. But since the viewing public is voting on Monday, December 21, I don't see that happening. In either case, the judges love them, so I think they're pretty solid for a spot in the top three.
SoCal: I don't like placing them here, but I don't see Voices of Lee or Maxx Factor making it into the final three after tonight. I still think they're bland, but they're here by default.
Maxx Factor: I don't see them going into the final three after tonight's rendition of "Rehab". If they stick with the barbershop, they might surprise me and edge out SoCal, but their stock has dropped.
Voice of Lee: Unless they pull in some of their Gospel roots, they're roadkill. I'm kind of mystified how they and Solo managed to win a spot in this competition, because there sure as hell are better collegiate groups out there.
So, there's my unvarnished opinion.
Overall, I'm rather pleased. My favorite groups look good going into the final night of competition this week, and one of the groups I really wanted to see gone is gone. The fact that they're gone is made all the sweeter by the nasty attitude they copped on the way out the door.
I also want to add: Ben Folds is adorkable and my favorite reality show judge ever. Shawn Stockman really brings humor and musical knowledge to the table that makes me want to fangirl him. Nicole Scherzinger is basically...the nice one. I think she's kind of in over her head here.