Tonight we find out who will be in the top 3! Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 9.
For the opening number, the groups are singing 光良 (Guang Liang) Michael Wong’s 《童话》 (Tong Hua / Fairy Tale) with Michael Wong himself. The song is about wanting a relationship to have a happy ending like in the fairy tales.
Our host is 赵屹鸥 (Zhao Yi Ou), and today we have 4 judges:
- 韦唯 (Wei Wei) – The female judge. Well-known Chinese diva.
- 谷峰 (Gu Feng) – Judge on the very left. Known for his jazz and vocal imitations of instruments
- 袁惟仁 (Yuan Wei Ren) – Judge in the shirt and tie. Songwriter and music producer from Taiwan. Wrote some of Faye Wong’s most well-known songs.
- Deke Sharon – The godfather of contemporary a cappella and producer for the U.S. version of The Sing-Off.
光良 (Guang Liang, English name: Michael Wong), a Malaysian Chinese singer-songwriter, is also sitting at the judges table, but it seems he will only provide some commentary and not actually participate as a judge.
Just like in the previous episode, the show has given everyone in the studio audience a device that will allow them to vote after every performance. Their votes will factor into the various performance scores.
In the first round of this episode, the four groups will compete in pairs. After a pair has performed, each of the four judges will vote for the group he/she prefers. The audience scoring will also contribute an additional vote. At the end of the round, the two winning groups will move on to round 2. The two losing groups will compete to see who will enter round 2 and who will go directly to the bottom 2.
The pairs are:
- 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella) vs. 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)
- 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman) vs. 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)
First round of performances:
1) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)
- Performance – 信乐团 Shin’s 《北京一夜》 (Bei Jing Yi Ye / One Night in Beijing) [opb. 陈升 Bobby Chen and 刘佳慧 Liu Jia Hui] [arr. MICappella]
- My thoughts – Very solid performance from MICappella. The alto sounded great and very convincing on the Peking opera portion. Awesome perc from Peter as usual.
- Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Calin sang with a lot of emotion today. I think it was the best you’ve sounded. Your head voice on the Peking opera part was great. Gu Feng: I was born and raised in Beijing, so for me, this song wasn’t authentic enough. Juni, I think you sang with too much power. You haven’t experienced Beijing, so you can’t really capture the feeling. But your passion for music was there. I hope you can come to Beijing sometime. Deke: Calin, your voice is beautiful and strong. I want to point out something… You’re a woman who’s singing like a man singing like a woman. This is not easy, so you deserve a round of applause by this. Guang Liang: I was surprised. I thought there were real drums, but it was actually all done by the voice.
2) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)
- Performance – 徐小凤 Xu Xiao Feng’s 《心恋》 (Xin Lian / Loving Heart). The song is about secretly liking someone who’s already taken.
- My thoughts – These guys are pretty decent at the guitar imitations. I like that they modernized the song, but some of the chords sound odd to me. The different elements in the performance don’t quite gel together.
- Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: I’m the pickiest with the five of you, and I anticipate your performances the most. I wanted to see what other kind of surprise you’d bring today. Every time you walk on stage, you always manage to have a surprising leap. Deke: Great job, guys! I loved the two guitar sounds. [demonstrates] Really cool. Yuan Wei Ren: I really think you’re getting better and better, especially with the group chemistry. Your staging and song choice were great. What’s most memorable is how you hug each other at the end of the performance.
Decision: The audience scores are: MICappella – 8.0, Voices Out of Control – 7.4. So MICappella wins the audience point. Gu Feng and Yuan Wei Ren vote for Voices Out of Control. Wei Wei and Deke vote for MICappella. MICappella wins 3-2.
3) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)
- Performance – 费翔 Kris Phillips’s 《冬天里的一把火》 (Dong Tian Li De Yi Ba Huo/ A Fire in the Winter) [arr. Freeman]. It’s a Chinese cover of The Nolans’ “Sexy Music.”
- My thoughts – Awesome. Lots of nice chords and the breakdown is cool as usual.
- Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: As soon as I saw their outfits, I was happy. You’ve already moved past the differences between genders when it comes to the voice. Females singing male parts, and males singing female parts. You’ve mixed it up very well. With your outfits on, you really let loose on the stage. Deke: You guys sound so good. There are times when you’re singing that it sounds like a record, like it’s been electronically tuned. I hear it, and I’m like that’s not quite possible. The thing that makes that possible is the bass, Lao Ma. Amazing. Guang Liang: Whoa, his voice is so low. Gu Feng: Last time, you were mental patients, and so when you got on stage today, I thought, wow, those mental patients are truly crazy now. That performance was super good. Yuan Wei Ren: During your performance, people in the audience were watching you with a smile on their faces. To a performer, that’s one of the best things.
4) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)
- Performance – Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” [arr. Dreamers’ 王语暄 Wang Yu Xuan].
- My thoughts – Not really liking the scatting. The buildup in the arrangement is a little too slow. It wouldn’t be a problem if the soloist was really good, but unfortunately, she’s only so-so (in my opinion). Generally, the performance is just… boring.
- Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: I’m happy that Sha Sha got to use the best part of her range today. With the five of you singing this song, we could almost forget that you’re missing two people. Where did your beatboxer Cheng Cheng go? [Cheng Cheng stands up in the audience.] Why is he there? What happened? [Group leader: Yesterday, we had some issues, and so we’re appearing as a five-person group today.] Gu Feng: As a judge who’s watched you from the beginning, I’m really sad. Because you had some unhappiness yesterday? Okay, so every group has some unhappiness. Say this group only has 3 people show up today and only 2 people tomorrow, are you still going to go on stage? I absolutely do not accept your excuse because this has reached the bottom line regarding my principles and my attitude towards work. You’re the group leader. We’ve all seen the Chinese TV drama 《亮剑》 (Liang Jian / Draw Sword). What did 李云龙 Li Yun Long say? There’s no reason to leave your brethren on the road. We need to fight back. Even if they’re corpses, we still need to bring them with us. That’s a team. You don’t lose people. That’s what we want on The Sing-Off. Also, the stage is a sacred place, and there is no reason why you should ever give it up. [The host tells Cheng Cheng and the other missing group member to come up onto the stage.] Host:Tell us why the group has split. Cheng Cheng: The day before yesterday, the group leader along with some other people decided to get rid of 赫伦 He Lun. I thought that, regardless of any reason, all seven of us should be on the stage, but they insisted on getting rid of him. They wanted him to fly home today. I couldn’t accept that. Sha Sha: Was it like that? I don’t think we should fight on stage. I usually don’t say anything, but I think what you’re saying isn’t the truth. Cheng Cheng: You wanted him to leave? That’s true, right? Sha Sha: Yes, but what you said wasn’t the truth. Group leader: I don’t want to explain anything, because as the group leader, I wasn’t able to keep the group together. It was my responsibility, and it was my problem. But I do want to say we (the five of them) are the ones performing on the stage. [Yuan Wei Ren walks off.] We are the ones who continued on. Sorry to everyone. Wei Wei: I just hope you all talk it over. Say what you need to say. The other guy: I just want to say one thing. Cheng Cheng and I are very willing to work for the team. I love a cappella. Do you know how it feels to have the chance taken away from you? Gu Feng: I have to interrupt… I recommend the seven of you discuss this off-stage. We have foreign friends here today. Don’t make us Chinese people look bad. [walks off] Wei Wei: I’ve been worried you’d have this problem. You’ve probably never sung in a group before. I started out singing in a group. I had to first learn how to listen to myself and then listen to others. I don’t want to say who’s wrong and who’s right, but I want to say… letting go is easy, but holding on is hard. You all love a cappella. One day, when you look back on this, I think you will treasure the times the seven of you had together. Let’s bring back the other judges. Yuan Wei Ren: Just talking about the performance, it wasn’t good enough. Regardless of how you did before or how well your next performance is going to be, I think this one could have been better. Deke: I want to say something to everybody watching the show. I want to say that a cappella is hard. People come up on the stage, and everything you see and everything you hear is just the people. They have to sing in tune; they have to move together. And most of all, they have to get along. There is no vocal harmony without interpersonal harmony. We see a 5-person marriage and a 6-person marriage. These people don’t only sing and rehearse together; they work out their problems. That’s what a cappella requires, and that’s how you make harmony.
Decision: The audience scores are: Freeman – 9.0, Dreamers – 7.9. Freeman gets the audience vote. The judges unanimously vote for Freeman. Freeman wins 5-0.
Gu Feng: Sorry, I’m taking up a bit more of everyone’s time. I was a little emotional earlier. That affected everyone, and I’m sorry. But I want to say… what brought us The Sing-Off… the biggest reason is teamwork and unity. I want everyone to remember that unity is power.
Now let us welcome the season 3 winners of The Sing-Off, Pentatonix! They’re performing their version of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” [Sooo good.]
[ETA: Found a bonus clip of Pentatonix singing "We Are Young"]
Host: Awesome. You guys just said hello to the Chinese audience with your amazing music. [PTX musical intro.] Host: I just heard 呼麦 (hu mai / Khoomei). Hu mai is a type of Mongolian [snorts]. I’m sorry. Hu mai, not 呼噜 (hu lu / snorting). Hu mai. Who did it? You? [points to Avi] Avi: Yeah, overtone singing. [demonstrates] Host: To really understand and sing that so well, they must really understand and like China. Let me ask them. Do you guys like China?
Kevin: [in Chinese] We really like China. Host: What? What? Say that again. Kevin: I said I really like China. Host: Your Chinese is so good, and yet you had me making a big effort to speak English. Kevin: I spent a year and a half in China learning Chinese at Beijing University and Tsinghua University. [They’re the top 2 colleges in China, so everyone is impressed.] My time in China left a deep impression on me, because I took advantage of a great opportunity and got to experience China’s culture, entertainment, music, and many other areas. These things were a good influence on me. So we’re very happy to come here and perform for you. It’s an honor to perform here. Host: What do I call you? Kevin: My Chinese name? My name is 陆佑乐 Lu You Le. 陆 lu from 大陆 (da lu / mainland), 佑 you from 保佑 (bao you / protect), and 乐 le from 快乐 (kuai le / happy). Host: [jokingly] He’s too infuriating. Okay, you host. I’m done. So awesome. Give a round of applause to Lu You Le and his fellow group members. Kevin: Thank you, thank you.
Host: Other than you, can anyone else in the group speak Chinese? Mitch: I speak a little bit of Chinese. Host: And I can speak a little bit of English. Mitch: [in Chinese] You are prettier than a beautiful flower. Host: Okay, you know what. That’s just for girls, not for guys. When everyone heard you were coming, we were all very excited because we love your songs. Just listen to their applause. PTX: Thank you! We’re excited to be here.
Host: So have you seen the Chinese version of The Sing-Off? Scott: Yeah, we have seen it. We love it. It’s so cool. It’s the same thing almost, the same stage and a bunch of amazing groups. Host: Do you [Kevin] want to translate, or should I? You do it. Kevin: No, you do it. Host: No, you do it. It’s like we’re doing Chinese standup comedy. Kevin: He said… No, you translate. Host: They think it’s really cool. They like how the stage is just like their stage. They are the season 3 winners of The Sing-Off, so they’ve been on the same journey as the four groups here today. They’ve been under the same pressure. As champions, what kind of advice would you give the groups here? Kevin: When there’s a ton of pressure, we would often cry. Host: You cry together? Kevin: Yes, we cry together. I cry. He cries. He cries. She cries. He cries. But we discovered that if we want to win the competition, we needed to have strong unity and focus. Chinese people have a saying: 持之以恒 功到自然成 (If you persevere, then you will succeed). Host: He kept stressing one word: family. This is a family.
Host: So today they’re not just here to perform. In our first round, we had two losing groups, and we need to pick the better of the two for round 2. The other will enter the bottom 2. So I want to ask you to give them a song to sing and then you will vote alongside our judges. Scott: We can have both groups sing the song 《甜蜜蜜》 (Tian Mi Mi / Sweet) [by Teresa Teng], and then we’ll decide which one is better.
[ETA: Found a bonus clip of Pentatonix singing "Tian Mi Mi"]
The two losing groups are Voices Out of Control and Dreamers. Voices Out of Control sings first and does a modernized version of “Tian Mi Mi.” Dreamers do a slower and more old school version. [I don’t like the way Sha Sha’s singing the solo. It sounds too affected.]
Decision: The four judges unanimously vote for Voices Out of Control. Kevin and Scott vote for Dreamers. Mitch, Kirstie, and Avi vote for Voices Out of Control. Voices Out of Control win 7-2. Dreamers are in the bottom 2.
In round two, Freeman, MICappella, and Voices Out of Control will perform. After each performance, each judge will give the performance a score (1-3 points). The audience will also vote after each performance. At the end of the round, the group with the highest combined score will advance to the top 3.
Second round of performances:
1) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)
- Intro package – We get to see their family members, starting with Peter’s family. They’re talking about how mischievous he was as a kid. His younger sister says that he’s inspired her to pursue her own dreams and that she really misses him. Calin’s dad says that he’s been watching the show and that he hopes she’s taking care of herself. Calin’s fiancé says that he’ll take care of everything at home, so that she can focus on the competition.
- Performance – Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” [arr. MICappella]
- My thoughts – Nice. They do pretty well with the rock sound.
- Post-performance comments – Host: What do you miss the most about home? Peter: I was originally going to say Whisky and Brandy, my two dogs. But after watching that video, I’d have to say my parents and my sister. They know that I’ve been obsessed with a cappella for 15 years, obsessed to the point of skipping school and failing tests. Ein Ein: I’m really happy because my parents are in the audience. My dad has never left the country (Singapore) before, and this time, he finally agreed to leave the country and come watch me perform. So I’m really touched.
- Judges’ thoughts – Gu Feng: Let me make an analogy. You’re like a warrior about to go into battle. In the first round, you used a weapon that didn’t suit you. In this round, you used the right weapon. Wei Wei:This performance gave me passion, passion, passion. Very good. Yuan Wei Ren: I think your song choices are getting better and better. I think this is definitely something that can lead you towards the win.
- Score – MICappella gets 11 points.
2) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)
- Intro package – One of the boys is from Inner Mongolia. He hasn’t been home in a while, and he misses them a lot. His parents miss him a lot too. They are so proud of him and will support him no matter what.
- Performance – 周杰伦 Jay Chou’s 《听妈妈的话》 (Ting Ma Ma De Hua / Listen to Your Mother) [arr. Voices Out of Control’s 李俊锋 Li Jun Feng].
- My thoughts – Ooh, I like how their arrangement includes a snippet of a Chinese lullaby at the beginning and the end. The rapping is pretty good on this. Hm, they added their own thing in the second rap section.
- Post-performance comments – One of the guys hasn’t been home in 3 years. He apologizes to his parents for that and hopes that they’re taking good care of themselves. They didn’t want to cry but couldn’t help themselves. The beatboxer’s parents are in the audience. His dad used to imitate the sound of frogs, and he would do the same. That’s how he started experimenting with different sounds.
- Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: You really touched me with this song. I don’t know if it’s because you were holding teddy bears… either way, I could tell you were singing from the heart. Yuan Wei Ren: Good song choice. This is a very popular Jay Chou song. When he was younger, his mother was very strict. He had to stay at home and practice piano instead of going out to play with the other kids. But given his success now, he’s most grateful to his mother. I think you’ve learned more than just music from being on this stage. You’ve learned more about interacting with your families.
- Score – Voices Out of Control get 10 points.
3) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)
- Intro package – Their students (and also eliminated contestants) are talking about how much they look up to their teachers and wishing them good luck.
- Performance – Katy Perry’s “E.T.” [apb. Pentatonix].
- My thoughts – I guess it was another super busy week. I prefer hearing their own arrangements, but their execution is always good.
- Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I’m pretty familiar with Freeman. There was a competition in 2009 here. When I saw them then, all they did was stand around and sing. Now they’ve moved from standing still to doing dance choreography while singing. It’s not easy. Congratulations! Deke: I think sometimes people in America are unfair to teachers. There’s an expression: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” You are teachers. You’re good at teaching other people how to do something. But the best teachers are people who can also do it themselves. And all the way through the show, every show, you have shown us that you know how to teach and you know how to do.
- Score – Freeman gets 11 points.
MICappella and Freeman both got 11 points from the judges while Voices Out of Control got 10 points. The audience scores are: Freeman – 9.3, Voices Out of Control – 8.8, and MICappella – 8.4. Freeman gets an additional 3 points for having the highest audience score. Voices Out of Control gets an additional 2 points and MICappella 1 point. The final point totals are: Freeman – 14, Voices Out of Control – 12, MICappella – 12. Freeman advances to the top 3.
Dreamers get to decide who they want sing against for the final spot in the top 3. They pick Voices Out of Control, so MICappella gets to advance to the top 3.
Guang Liang encourages the two remaining groups to forget about being nervous and just own the stage.
1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)
- Performance – Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love”
- My thoughts – I actually really like this. I didn’t like any of Sha Sha’s previous solos, but she sounded good on this one.
2) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)
- Performance – Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started”
- My thoughts – Oh yes, I remember not liking this when they sang it the first time. I still don’t like the rapping, but I think the background sounds stronger.
Decision: First, the studio audience will vote. Voices Out of Control win 185-53, so they get the audience point. The four judges unanimously vote for Voices Out of Control. Voices Out of Control win 5-0.
Dreamers are going home. The host says that he hopes this setback is a learning experience for them. Their swan song is the first song they ever sang on The Sing-Off stage, Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.”
The top 3 are: Freeman, MICappella, and Voices Out of Control.
So did you like this episode? Were you super happy to see Pentatonix? What did you think about all the drama? Who do you think will win?