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Archive for August, 2012

Top 5 night! Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 8.

For the opening number, the groups are singing 五月天 Mayday’s 《倔强》 (Jue Qiang / Stubborn). The song is about being stubborn in a good way and sticking to one’s principles.

Our host is 赵屹鸥 (Zhao Yi Ou), and today we have 5 judges:

  • 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 purple shirt and white tie. Songwriter and music producer from Taiwan. Wrote some of Faye Wong’s most well-known songs.
  • 韦唯 (Wei Wei) – The female judge. Well-known Chinese diva.
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.
  • 何炅 (He Jiong) – Judge on the very right. Well-known TV host. He has also recorded a few albums.

Instead of inviting other special guests, 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 elimination at the end of the episode.

The first round of this episode is similar to episode 6’s second round. The 5 groups will perform in a predetermined order. After two groups have performed, the judges will decide on the winning group. The losing group will be compared to the next group, and the better of the two will be decided. So on and so forth until all five groups have performed. The losing group at the end of the round will be in the bottom 2.

First round of performances:

1) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)

  • Performance – 陶喆 David Tao’s “My Anata” [arr. Voices Out of Control’s 李俊锋 Li Jun Feng]. In the context of this song, “anata” is Japanese for “darling.” The lyrics are predominately in Chinese along with a few Japanese words, and the song is heavily influenced by Japanese music, particularly enka.
  • My thoughts – Oh good, another nice song choice that plays to these boys’ strengths. I’m not quite sure I like the long “instrumental” break since it exposed some tuning and rhythm issues. Overall, it was a solid performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: With this being the first performance of the night, you seemed a bit uptight. Is the soloist having any issues? [Host: That was a timely cough just now.] Be more like when you sang “Huo Li Quan Kai.” Show us your passion. Wyman: A lot of your performances feel the same, but that one time you sang with G.E.M, it felt you were expressing your emotions. So this time, when you brought out some of your emotions, I felt touched. He Jiong: In college, I participated in an all-male a cappella performance, and it was horrible. I was the bass and also the only one with a mic. We sang “Silent Night,” and throughout the performance, the only thing the audience could hear was my bass part. One thing I liked about your performance is that you captured David Tao’s somewhat mocking undertones in the song. The song is him reflecting back on this failed relationship and somewhat mocking it. Your choreography and staging fit that, but I agree, you could have been looser.

2) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Performance – Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” (featuring Christina Aguilera) [arr. MICappella]
  • My thoughts – Yay! Cool arrangement! The slow jazzy intro is a nice arranging choice, and I have to give Peter props for his vocal horn. Also, great use of lip buzz! I don’t like how the soloist omits the “I’ve got the” in the last line of the chorus, but generally, he does a pretty good job on the solo. I’m also not sure I liked the groove in the final chorus; it felt a little disjointed.
  • Judges’ comments – Yuan Wei Ren: Very good song choice. You picked a song that’s really popular right now. Your performance was very professional, and there’s a huge difference between this performance and last week’s. I think you have a good chance.  Gu Feng: One small detail… when you’re whistling, don’t whistle directly into the mic. Hold the mic vertically so that it doesn’t pick up the noise. He Jiong: I think a girl whistling is really cool. Also, when Peter came up near the front of stage, I felt as though the judges’ table was shaking. [Wyman: No, that was me.] I felt like there was a lot of power, which is something you need when you pick a song that has such a strong groove.

Judges’ decision: Wyman votes for Voices Out of Control. The other four judges vote for MICappella. MICappella is in the safe zone.

3) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Performance – Medley of songs from 张艺谋 Zhang Yimou’s movie《红高粱》 (Hong Gao Liang / Red Sorghum) [arr. Dreamers’ 王语暄 Wang Yu Xuan].
  • My thoughts – The soloist’s pitch is rather inconsistent in the beginning, but it settles a bit once the rest of the group comes in. I liked this before the perc came in. There were some really nice chords and phrasing, but I really didn’t care for all the ba’s in the arrangement. The soloist has a great belting range, but there are times where he just sounds a little too pop for this song, especially on the cutoffs of longer notes.
  • Judges’ comments – Yuan Wei Ren: You guys are sounding more and more together. The soloist had pitch issues at the beginning [Soloist: I apologize. We only sleep 2-3 hours a day, but there is still no excuse for intonation issues.] The previous two groups had improvements in their solos. I’m not saying you didn’t sing well; it’s just that your part is too important. At the beginning, everyone is focused on you. After a few phrases, Wei Wei turned to me and said your pitch was off. I think you need to practice some more. Wei Wei: At first, your sound was very high and bright, but you kept going flat on the “wang qian zou” part. You pulled the rest of the group with you. He Jiong: I really liked your staging. The two girls next to you were very sassy, and they felt like characters from the movie. I was surprised by Cheng Cheng (the beatboxer). He’s been on my show before, and I never would have imagined that he would have been okay with giving up the spotlight and being in a group.

Judges’ decision: All the judges vote for Voices Out of Control. Voices Out of Control is in the safe zone.

4) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Performance – Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” [arr. Sirens’ 吴贞璇 Wu Zhen Xuan]
  • My thoughts – The feel of the song and the arrangement work well for Sirens. I’m just not liking the song choice. I think it’s a serviceable arrangement/performance of “L-O-V-E,” but it’s not anything special. I think it would have been better to take a familiar non-jazz (preferably Chinese) song and jazzify it. The scatting also sounds awkward to me.
  • Judges’ comments – He Jiong: That sounded very comfortable to me. If “Hong Gao Liang” felt like drinking hard liquor, then this was more like sipping white wine in the afternoon. Wei Wei: This is He Jiong’s first time here, so it’s the first time he’s gotten that comfortable feeling from you. I feel it all the time, but this time, I didn’t feel like there was anything that surprised me. The problem lies with the soloist. I got a tired feeling from you.

Judges’ decision: Gu Feng and He Jiong vote for Dreamers. Yuan Wei Ren, Wei Wei, and Wyman vote for Sirens. Sirens are in the safe zone.

5) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Performance – 王力宏 Leehom Wang’s 《龙的传人》 (Long De Chuan Ren / Descendants of the Dragon) [opb. 李建复 Li Jian Fu] [arr. Freeman]. The song is about Chinese pride.
  • My thoughts – This had some really nice chords, and the bass line from Leehom’s version is pretty awesome. The rap was awkward though… and something about the solo seemed a bit off for me. He didn’t quite have the oomph I was expecting.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: I felt the adrenaline this time. Your tone was bright and beautiful. [He has a sore throat. That explains my issue with the solo…] He Jiong: I could see the brightness of all six of you, not just the soloists’. It was great to hear this song at this time. I felt the table shaking again. Wyman: You took our breaths away. You immediately brought us into that state. I thought I was about to die from the lack of oxygen.

Judges’ decision: The judges unanimously vote for Freeman. Freeman is in the safe zone.

Dreamers is the losing group at the end of round one. Now, they’re going to factor in the audience votes. If they get the lowest score from the audience, then they’re in the bottom 2.

The audience scores are: Freeman – 9.1, MICappella – 8.2, Dreamers – 7.8, Sirens – 7.6, Voices Out of Control – 7.4.

Sirens and Voices Out of Control both have lower scores than Dreamers, so Dreamers gets to decide which group they want to sing against to determine who will be in the bottom 2. Cheng Cheng says they will compete against Voices Out of Control since Sirens shared their minced pork rice with the girls.

The duel consists of 3 parts. First, they will each sing a 30 second solo. Dreamers’ soloist sings an original song 《那里是哪里》 (Na Li Shi Na Li / Where is There). [It feels like his pitch center keeps drifting…]. Voices Out of Control’s soloist sings 常石磊 Chang Shi Lei’s 《哥哥》 (Ge Ge / Older Brother). Second, they will each sing a 30 second beatbox solo. Third, they will each sing a version of He Jiong’s hit 《栀子花开》 (Zhi Zi Hua Kai / Gardenias Bloom).

The host asks He Jiong what he thought of the two versions. He Jiong: Dreamers’ version felt more ordinary. It was closer to the original, but they added some rhythmic lines. Voices Out of Control remixed the song and added in the melody for 《天下足球》 (Tian Xia Zu Qiu / Total Soccer). [I have no idea what song he’s talking about. To me, the melody sounded a bit like one of the old opening songs for Detective Conan.] [ETA: Baidu tells me that it’s Masazumi Ozawa’s “Attraction”.] It gave the song a brand new feel, but the background sounded off.

Judges decision: Gu Feng, Yuan Wei Ren, and Wyman vote for Voices Out of Control. Wei Wei and He Jiong vote for Dreamers. Voices Out of Control enter round 2 while Dreamers are now in the bottom 2.

In round two, the 4 groups in the safe zone will perform. After each performance, each judge will give the performance a score (1-3 points). At the end of the round, the group with the highest points will advance. The audience will also vote after each performance, and the group with the highest audience score will advance as well. The theme of round 2 is: breakthrough.

Second round of performances:

1) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Intro package – They are talking about how they’re going to sing that everyone knows. The background music is the song.
  • Performance – 凤凰传奇 Phoenix Legend’s 《最炫民族风》 (Zui Xuan Min Zu Feng / The Most Dazzling Folk Style)
  • My thoughts – Whoa, this is a drastic rearrangement of the song. I thought it was really cool, but I also think it will be a polarizing performance. The original song incorporates elements of Chinese folk music while MICappella’s version removed those elements, modernized the song, and altered the chord progressions and solo. In a way, it’s kind of like Sonos’ version of “I Want You Back”. When it’s too different from the original, there are bound to be people who dislike it. Loved that last note from the soloist.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Yuan Wei Ren: Compared to your performance of “Moves Like Jagger,” this was pretty bad. I keep listening to the thirds in your harmony parts, and they keep clashing with your solo part. Some of them weren’t thirds; you moved to fifths. [I’m not quite sure what he means…] This performance felt like it was done mainly to fit the theme, and I was a bit disappointed. He Jiong: I felt like this was a battle between MICappella and the original song. If I had to choose, I’d probably choose the original version because it was written to be straightforward and ardent. You made this very pop and international-sounding, but there was no wow/incredibly memorable moment. I appreciate your sincerity, but you picked a song that’s really hard to rearrange effectively.
  • Score – MICappella gets 8 points.

2蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Intro package – Sirens want to learn more about the meaning of the song they chose. According to the man they meet, “Ju Hua Tai” is about the feeling of separation.
  • Performance – 周杰伦 Jay Chou’s 《菊花台》 (Ju Hua Tai / Chrysanthemum Terrace) [arr. Klangbezirk]. The song was written for Zhang Yimou’s movie “Curse of the Golden Flower,” which Jay starred in.
  • My thoughts – I don’t think this was the best song choice. It’s a rather subdued song, and I don’t think it’s particularly effective during a live performance. For it to really work, the soloist would need to be extremely captivating, and that wasn’t the case here.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Yuan Wei Ren: The earlier performances must have been too exciting; this felt too plain. The soloist still has a few pitch problems. Don’t waste your cuteness; bring out your real strength. It’s already top 4, top 5, and it’s time for those wow performances. He Jiong: What was your breakthrough? [Sirens: We’d sing and dance. We haven’t done such a slow song before.] I thought your inclusion of “To Be With You” at the end was nice, but I agree with Yuan Wei Ren. If you really wanted to add it, then you should have incorporated it in the middle and throughout. It felt abrupt to have it suddenly appear at the end.Gu Feng: Your breakthrough isn’t playing to your weaknesses and hiding your strengths. Based on your ages and personalities, you can’t really pull off subdued. You didn’t touch us emotionally.
  • Score – Sirens get 8 points.

3) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)

  • Intro package – The boys want to enter a state of calmness before singing.
  • Performance – 萨顶顶 Sa Ding Ding’s 《万物生》 (Wan Wu Sheng / The Birth of Ten Thousand Beings) [arr. 冯国东 Feng Guo Dong]. The song is inspired by Buddhist music.
  • My thoughts – Nice intro. The vocal imitations of Chinese instruments are pretty decent. This isn’t perfect, but it’s nice seeing something different from these guys.
  • Judges’ comments – He Jiong: This was great. It was a busy performance since it seemed like each of you had a different role. The rain was done by finger snapping, but who did the wind sounds? And who did the xun (Chinese ocarina)? And the gu qin and gu zheng? The original version has a very airy kind of feeling, but yours was more vast and masculine. I think you did a great job changing it up. Wyman: You were so good that you were like Freeman wearing Hey Boy’s clothes. Wei Wei: I thought you were great, but I think the soloist could have been even better. Yuan Wei Ren: I agree with He Jiong. It’s so great that you’re getting feedback right away, and you guys are just getting better and better. Gu Feng: In the intro, you evoked images of Journey to the West, and I knew right away that it was a breakthrough for you.
  • Score – Voices Out of Control get 14 points.

4) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Intro package – It’s her first time soloing, and she’s really worried about screwing up. The group leader says they believe in her.
  • Performance – Radiohead’s “Creep” [apb. Street Corner Symphony].
  • My thoughts – This staging is really creepy… This was probably my least favorite Freeman performance. Throughout the performance, I couldn’t stop comparing this with SCS’s version, and it kept falling short. The biggest issue was the solo. SCS’s Jeremy killed it, and I wasn’t feeling this version.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: The dramatic aspects of this performance were great. The solo was fantastic and expressive. He Jiong: Is there anything you want to say to the group leader? [She says thank you. The group leader says Fang Xiang is a great singer, and they were waiting for the right moment to have her solo.] Did you cry at the end? [Fang Xiang: I love this song, and I’m always very emotional at the end of it.] Any performance that makes you forget about the competition is a successful one. We got sucked into your performance and your story. Yuan Wei Ren: He Jiong’s critiques have been great. I agree with half of what he said. “Creep” is an English song. I want to encourage you to stick with Chinese songs to really capture people’s attentions right away. [Me: Thank you!]
  • Score – Freeman gets 14 points.

Voices Out of Control and Freeman both got the highest number of points (14), so both groups get to advance to the top 4.

MICappella and Sirens both got 8 points, so they will look at the audience scores to determine who advances and who is in the bottom 2. The audience scores are: Freeman – 9.0, Voices Out of Control – 8.6, MICappella – 7.9, Sirens – 7.6. MICappella advances.

The bottom two are Dreamers and Sirens.

1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Performance – Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You”
  • My thoughts – Still don’t like the “di da doo’s”, but this may be my favorite performance of theirs.

2) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Performance – Kesha’s “Your Love is My Drug”
  • My thoughts – Hm, this is okay… It’s nothing special, but it’s not bad (especially considering this is the third song they had to prepare). The judges look unimpressed. Question is… which is better: singing a song from a previous episode and doing well versus singing a new song and doing okay?

Judges’ Decision: [The groups get to pick the order in which the judges’ decisions are revealed.] Dreamers pick He Jiong because they’ve gotten feedback from the other judges in previous episodes. He Jiong picks Dreamers because he thinks they have more potential for variety. Sirens pick Gu Feng because he’s a stricter judge who’s given them great feedback. Gu Feng says Dreamers are individually very great and Sirens have a great team spirit. He picks Dreamers. Yuan Wei Ren picks Sirens. Sirens want to pick Wei Wei because she was touched by their performance of “Bie Yi Nan” in a previous episode. Wei Wei says she was really touched by their perseverance and sincerity towards music. She also says that while Dreamers were not at their best today, they are the better group when considering the overall factors. Wei Wei picks Dreamers. Wyman says it’s just a competition, and it doesn’t matter who wins or loses today. They’ve won something more. He votes for Dreamers. Dreamers win 4-1.

Sirens are going home. The group’s representative says they’re very grateful for The Sing-Off. It’s the first reality TV competition showcasing a cappella, and they’re happy that they made it to the top 5. Their swan song is their first song 张震岳 A-Yue Chang’s 《自由》 (Zi You / Freedom).

[Me: Sirens, I’m following your Facebook page, and I expect to hear more awesome things from you.]

The top 4 are: Dreamers, Freeman, MICappella, and Voices Out of Control.

How did you feel about this episode?

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And we’re down to 6. Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 7.

For the opening number, the groups are singing The Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain”. The song choice seems random at first, but then I realized that 1) this song is used in the Doublemint commercial that pops up before each episode and 2) Doublemint is the main sponsor. Okay. Not so random then.

As usual, our host is 赵屹鸥 (Zhao Yi Ou), and our judges are:

  • 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
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.
  • 巫启贤 (Wu Qi Xian, English name: Eric Moo) – Judge on the very right. Singer from Malaysia. Mostly sings in Mandarin and Cantonese.

In addition to the four main judges, the show has also invited 7 producers and celebrity managers and 10 people who are especially popular on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). These people will vote alongside the judges later on in the competition to decide on the elimination.

The 7 guests are:

  • 霍汶希 (Huo Wen Xi / Mani Fok) – Celebrity manager from HK. Manages stars like Nic Tse, Joey Yung, Twins, etc.
  • 敖君怡 (Ao Jun Yi) – Celebrity manager from Taiwan. Has worked with stars like Coco Lee, Jolin Tsi, Stefanie Sun, etc.
  • 宋文善 (Song Wen Shan) – Celebrity manager from Taiwan. Has worked with Teresa Teng and is known for creating the Little Tigers.
  • 黄韵玲 (Huang Yun Ling / Kay Huang) – Singer-songwriter and music producer from Taiwan.
  • 袁惟仁 (Yuan Wei Ren) – Songwriter and music producer from Taiwan. Wrote some of Faye Wong’s most well-known songs.
  • 杜华 (Du Hua) – CEO of 乐华娱乐 (Le Hua Entertainment). Manages stars like Han Geng.
  • Andy (Andy Ge) – Taiwanese TV producer. Manages a few Taiwanese pop groups like Lollipop F.

This episode’s format is familiar. In the first round, the groups will be divided into 3 pairs. After both groups in a pair have performed, the judges will determine who won. After all three pairs have performed, the judges will pick one out of the 3 winning groups to advance and also one out of the 3 losing groups to go directly into the bottom 2.

The pairings will be the following:

  • Pair 1自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman) vs. 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers) –
  • Pair 2麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella) vs. 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)
  • Pair 3人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control) vs. 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

First round of performances:

1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Intro package – They compare their journey to Journey to the West, saying that there are trials every step along the way. They talk about 7 strong personalities coming together in one group and how it’s almost like a miracle.
  • Performance – Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”
  • My thoughts – Gah, minus points for choosing this song. So many pitch problems, especially at the ensemble’s initial entrance.  I don’t even know what else to say, other than… the judges better not pick these guys over Freeman.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: This song was originally sung by Whitney Houston, a female, and you have some women in your group that probably could have handled the solo. How did you decide on the soloist? [Dreamers: This is such a classic song and tough solo. So many people have covered it, and we were really worried about it.] Wei Wei: I thought it was a great song choice. This is like a pop song aria, and your use of a male voice to take a Whitney song was great. Huo Wen Xi: Your soprano has a beautiful smile, and your soloist has great audience appeal. [Cheng Cheng, the group’s beatboxer, can simultaneously do 7 different sounds. He demonstrates.] Huang Yun Ling: I like them a lot, but they seemed nervous today. A cappella is really hard, but if you’re going to sing a cappella, then you need to have a really good understanding of pitch and harmony. It would be best if you have perfect pitch, because if the tuning isn’t there, then you’re not going to resonate as a group.

2) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Intro package – The group leader feels a lot of pressure, but the rest of the group members are very understanding and considerate. They do their best to support each other.
  • Performance – 李玲玉 Li Ling Yu’s 《天竺少女》 (Tian Zhu Shao Nü / Young Indian Girl). It’s a song from the classic TV adaption of Journey to the West.
  • My thoughts – So cool! I’m very impressed with how they modernized this song. So many good things going on. Just about everything was awesome: the arrangement, the execution, the solo, the bass, the VP, the breakdown, etc. The only thing that I didn’t like was the spoken part in the first verse; it was a bit distracting.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: It was fantastic! I was surprised to hear a song with an Indian style. I heard something that reminded me of the tabla (Indian percussion instrument). Du Hua: Looking at your style, you have one woman, three guys with glasses, and two guys without glasses. [Wei Wei interrupts and says one of the guys without glasses is actually a woman.] So sorry! When I first saw her, I thought she looked like JJ Lin. She has a celebrity face. If they were a pop group, she’d be the “cute one.” Ao Jun Yi: I’ve been watching this show on TV, and I’ve really wanted to hear such a legendary group live. If we can call Dreamers’ beatboxer Cheng Cheng legendary, then I think your beatboxer was just as good.
  • Post-performance comments – The mother of Wang Yu is in the audience, and it’s her birthday today. They sing “Happy Birthday” to her.

Judges’ decision: Wyman, Wei Wei, and Song Wen Shan vote for Dreamers. Everyone else votes for Freeman. Freeman wins 8-3.

3) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Intro package – They all live in different cities, so they have to rehearse on the weekends. They’ve spent a lot of time together because of this competition, and they really feel like a big family.
  • Performance – 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” [arr. 冯国东 (Feng Guo Dong)].
  • My thoughts – I’m not feeling this performance. Some of the notes are slightly off and enough to bug me. The solo doesn’t work for me, and I also didn’t need the horn imitation again. It wasn’t a bad performance, just not a great one.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: I feel like many of the groups follow a formula. Start out slow and then have the tempo pick up after a while. You guys did the same thing today, and it just seemed too common. Eric Moo: I disagree. The format wasn’t really that important. It’s more about whether you brought us happiness through song. You need to play it up. Yuan Wei Ren: There’s a problem that none of the other judges are bringing up, and that’s your soloist. Your beatboxer is great, but your soloist is a crucial part of your performance. Work on your solos more. [I’m guessing he’s speaking to the other groups as well?] Andy: I think Sirens have great stage presence, especially your bass. Come talk to me sometime when you’re back in Taiwan.
  • Post-performance comments – The soprano’s mother and the bass’s younger brother are in the audience. They brought minced pork rice, a Taiwanese dish, since Sirens have been craving it.

4) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Intro package – They’re talking about love. Love is taking care of each other. Love is like friendship. Love is like baseball. Love is like cotton candy. Love is like cooking. Love is like a balloon.
  • Performance –倪安东 Anthony Neely’s 《散场的拥抱》 (San Chang De Yong Bao / The Last Embrace). It’s about being with someone who still isn’t over her previous ex.
  • My thoughts – Ooh, alto soloist! I love her tone. I feel a bit ambivalent towards the string imitation section. The rhythm dragged a bit, and it wasn’t very effective for me. That may just be a matter of taste though. It was great once the VP kicked in, and the jazz section was a nice touch. It certainly made it more interesting than the original song. Ooh, lovely use of head voice in the solo.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I liked how they went from a string ensemble to a jazz ensemble and then to a pop group. I thought that was very smart. Maybe it’s because Peter is too good, but it seemed like your soloist wasn’t good enough.  Song Wen Shan: Compared to everyone else, your soprano seemed a bit lacking. Eric Moo: During the performance, I think you could tell what went wrong, but you didn’t let that get to you. Good job!
  • Post-performance comments – Calin, the alto, is engaged, and her fiancé is a magician. She talks about how the proposal was very ordinary (no magic involved) and how she didn’t even want a ring (money better spent on something like a house). They bring him out to surprise her and tells him that he now has the opportunity to make up for the plain proposal. Jack: Magic is just a way of deceiving people’s eyes. My biggest wish is to use my best magic to trick you into spending the rest of your life with me and letting me bring you happiness for the rest of your life. Will you marry me? Calin: Yes.

Judges’ decision: Ao Jun Yi, Yuan Wei Ren, and Andy vote for Sirens. Everyone else votes for MICappella. MICappella wins 8-3.

5) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)

  • Intro package – They had a horrible performance a while back, and the teacher told them they needed more practice. After that, they practiced 6 days a week.
  • Performance – 王力宏 Leehom Wang’s “Julia” [arr. 冯国东 Feng Guo Dong]. It’s about being unclear on the status of the relationship and not knowing what the other person’s thinking.
  • My thoughts – A solid performance from these boys. A simple arrangement but well executed. Decent solo. The only thing I can really complain about is the guitar solo. Felt a little bit indulgent/unnecessary.
  • Judges’ comments – Eric Moo: Good song choice. Rhythm was great. In the very beginning, the solo really fell into place, and I thought: Oh, finally a soloist that can really bring out the song. The only thing is that there weren’t any particularly strong aspects of the performance. Yuan Wei Ren: Yes, the soloist was great. This is the kind of solo I want from an a cappella group. Wei Wei: I agree. You sang the solo so smoothly, and the rest of you really got into the music. It wasn’t about looking cool like you usually are. Song Wen Shan: You guys remind me of the group I founded, the Little Tigers.

6) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Intro package – They’re talking about their financial hardships. Because of music, they can’t take on regular full-time jobs. They believe in their sacrifice for music.
  • Performance – 齐秦 Qi Qin and 齐豫 Qi Yu’s 《藤缠树》 (Teng Chan Shu / Tree Wrapped in Vines). It’s a folk song, and the tree and vine is an analogy for love.
  • My thoughts – Nice arrangement. The soloist was a little shaky at times, and I would have preferred someone with a darker timbre on this. The vocal pipa had its moments – definitely not the easiest instrument to imitate.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: Your arrangement didn’t have enough surprises for me. You didn’t seem very into the music on stage. Your VP is great during the modernized section, but you could also try incorporating Chinese percussion sounds in the Chinese section too.  Yuan Wei Ren: You have the same problem as a lot of the other groups. Your soloist doesn’t draw us in. Rather, it’s the ensemble that’s really supporting the performance. Eric Moo: I agree with Yuan Wei Ren. I want to tell all of the groups: Don’t be misdirected by the a cappella aspect. The solo is still the most important aspect. If the solo isn’t good, then it’s a failed performance.

Judges’ decision: Everyone votes for Voices Out of Control.

Before round 2 begins, we have a guest performance from The Voca People. They sing “From the Movies,” a medley of well-known movie theme music. After the performance, there is some interplay between the group and the host. The host then asks the Voca People to help them decide on the best group. The three winning groups (Freeman, MICappella, and Voices Out of Control) will sing an impromptu version of the folk song 《在那遥远的地方》 (Zai Na Yao Yuan De Di Fang / In That Faraway Place). Freeman kills it. MICappella kills it while throwing in a salute to Hey Boy by doing one of their signature moves. [Is it just me, or did anyone else hear a snippet of Phantom of the Opera?] Voices Out of Control doesn’t kill it as much as the other two but still sounds great. [These performances don’t sound very impromptu to me though…]

MICappella wins! They advance directly to the top 5.

The host then brings out the 3 losing groups: Dreamers, Sirens, and Strong Voice. The judges will now decide who will move onto round 2 and who will directly go into the bottom 2. Gu Feng announces that Strong Voice is in the bottom 2, which means Dreamers and Sirens will enter round 2.

In round two, the 4 groups will compete in pairs. The two winning groups will advance into the top 5. As for the two losing groups, one of them will compete against Strong Voice in the bottom 2, and Strong Voice gets to choose which group.

Second round of performances:

1) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Performance – 郭富城 Aaron Kwok’s 《对你爱不完》 (Dui Ni Ai Bu Wan / Love You Endlessly). A dance pop song that jump-started Aaron Kwok’s career.
  • My thoughts – This felt like a bit plain compared to their past performances. The soloist wasn’t very convincing on the verses, but he got it together in the chorus. They sold the performance though, which was really important given the song choice.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: Being in your audience is a great thing; you always bring out something fresh each time.

2) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)

  • Performance – The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” [apb. NoTa]
  • My thoughts – Back to the English and the NoTa arrangements… *sigh* No me gusta.
  • Judges’ comments – Song Wen Shan: I support [the group that reminds me of] the Little Tigers. You have their youthfulness, energy, and cuteness.

Judges’ decision: Gu Feng, Wyman, Wei Wei, and Ao Jun Yi vote for Freeman. Eric Moo, Du Hua, Song Wen Shan, Huo Wen Xi, Yuan Wei Ren, Huang Yun Ling, and Andy vote for Voices Out of Control. Voices Out of Control win 7-4. [Me: Nooooo.]

3) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Performance – 苏芮 Su Rui’s 《一样的月光》 (Yi Yang De Yue Guang / The Same Moonlight). It’s a song lamenting about change. [FYI, there’s a really good a cappella version of this song by The Public Bath House Vocal Group.]
  • My thoughts – Meh. Tuning issues.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Yuan Wei Ren: You picked a well-liked song, and you got points from me through this performance.

4蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Performance – 江蕙 Jody Chiang’s 《等爱的女人》 (Deng Ai De Nü Ren / The Woman Who’s Waiting for Love). It’s sung in the Taiwanese Hokkien dialect.
  • My thoughts – Tuning issues in the tenor and mezzo. The first verse seems a bit low for the soloist. In the original song, Jody Chiang has such excellent phrasing, and the soloist didn’t quite have that. I would recommend paying more attention to the ends of phrases. Taper those last notes a little more and add a bit of vibrato.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Yuan Wei Ren: It’s nice that you picked a Hokkien dialect song. You made some nice changes and arranging choices.

Judges’ decisions: Eric Moo, Wei Wei, Wyman, Huo Wen Xi, Ao Jun Yi, and Song Wen Shan vote for Dreamers.  Gu Feng, Andy, Huang Yun Ling, Yuan Wei Ren, and Du Hua vote for Sirens. Dreamers win 6-5.

The two winning groups are Voices Out of Control and Dreamers. They advance to the top 5. Strong Voice gets to choose between the two losing groups. They prefer to compete against Sirens, so Freeman advances to the top 5 as well.

1) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Performance – Jessie J’s “Price Tag”
  • My thoughts – More English… The arrangement reminds me a bit of Kinfolk 9’s version. I still think they should sing 苏打绿 Sodagreen’s 《小情歌》 (Xiao Qing Ge / Little Love Song) at some point…

2) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Performance – 《望春风》 (Wang Chun Feng / Spring Breeze). It’s a Taiwanese folk song.
  • My thoughts – Nice. Cool arrangement!

Judges’ Decision: All 4 judges vote for Sirens. Huo Wen Xi votes for Strong Voice while the other 6 guests vote for Sirens. The 10 popular Weibo people split their votes 5-5. Sirens win 15-6.

Strong Voice is going home. Their swan song is an original song 《大美丽》 (Da Mei Li / Big Beautiful). The music director wrote it for the group’s main soloist 陈小玥 (Chen Xiao Yue).

The top 5 are: MICappella, Voices Out of Control, Dreamers, Freeman, and Sirens.

That’s it for this week. How do you feel the groups did? Do you already have a top 3 in mind?

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The top 7 are competing for 6 spots! Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 6.

For the opening number, the groups are singing 张惠妹 A-mei Chang’s 《牵手》 (Qian Shou / Hold Hands). It’s yet another happy upbeat song – yay?  What’s with the sleepwear though?

As usual, our host is 赵屹鸥 (Zhao Yi Ou), and our judges are:

  • 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
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge in the shiny black jacket. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.
  • 伍洲彤 (Wu Zhou Tong) – Judge on the very right. Radio DJ. Has judged other Chinese reality singing competitions.

In addition to the four main judges, the show has also invited 11 radio DJs and 7 guest celebrities. These people will vote alongside the judges later on in the competition to decide on the elimination.

The 7 famous singers are:

  • (Xin / Shin) – Taiwanese rock singer
  • 黄征 (Huang Zheng) – Chinese singer-songwriter and music producer
  • 邓紫棋 (Deng Zi Qi / G.E.M) – HK pop star
  • 方大同 (Fang Da Tong / Khalil Fong) – HK singer-songwriter, known for his R&B style
  • 薛凯琪 (Xue Kai Qi / Fiona Sit) – HK pop star
  • 沙宝亮 (Sha Bao Liang) – Chinese singer, known for his ballads
  • 费玉清 (Fei Yu Qing) – classic Taiwanese singer, known for his smooth voice

This episode’s format is once again different from what we’ve seen before. In the first round, the groups will sing with one of the guest celebrities. After a group’s performance, the judges will each be given the opportunity to award the group a “medal” for awesomeness. At the end of the first round, the group with the most “medals” will directly advance to the next episode, and the group with the least “medals” will be put in the overall bottom two.

First round of performances:

1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers) + (Xin / Shin)

  • Intro package – The group is practicing while waiting for Shin. He may not be able to make it due to a typhoon. Luckily, that didn’t happen.
  • Performance – 信乐团 Shin’s 《海阔天空》 (Hai Kuo Tian Kong / Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies). The song is about not giving up and pursuing what you believe in.
  • My thoughts – The chords are not locking, and the cutoffs are sloppy. The soloists sound good, except in the end where the Dreamers’ soloist tried to harmonize with Shin (no idea what was going on there). This was definitely a meh performance for me. There really wasn’t anything that was especially good. But I suppose they also didn’t really get any rehearsal time with Shin…
  • Post-performance comments – Shin says that he was actually more nervous than the group since he had just arrived. Other celebrities had already practiced with their groups the day before. He wishes they could have done more together and says he’ll take the blame if the performance didn’t sound good.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I’m really happy to see you start working as a team. You went from each person doing his/her own thing to working with others like Shin.  Wu Zhou Tong: With your kind of situation where the singer arrives last minute, I usually don’t have any expectations regarding the performance. You did very well with what you had.
  • Judges’ decision – Dreamers get 2 “medals” from Gu Feng and Wei Wei.

2) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice) + 黄征 (Huang Zheng)

  • Intro package – The group is rehearsing their collab song when Huang Zheng walks in. He asks them to show him what they’ve got so far. After the performance, he says that choreography is fine, but he doesn’t want it to adversely affect the sound.
  • Performance – 黄征 Huang Zheng and 羽泉 Yu Quan’s 《奔跑》 (Ben Pao / Run) [arr. 冯国东 Feng Guo Dong]. The song is about being free, being brave, and chasing your dreams.
  • My thoughts – I used to love this song, but gah, these chords are so boring. The chorus doesn’t quite have the oomph I’m looking for, and the group also sounds really thin, which doesn’t work here. On the bright side, the soloists sound good, and the homophony on “zai da de lang” + caesura was a nice touch.
  • Post-performance comments – Huang Zheng says he really likes the group’s cohesiveness. The host asks Shin how Strong Voice compares to Dreamers. Shin says Strong Voice is very energetic and sounds great, but he loves his group more.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Based on the musical material, I prefer Dreamers. Their song was much richer music-wise. Wu Zhou Tong: I think with a cappella it’s not about adding as many different parts as you can. Sometimes, that just makes it sound scattered rather than layered. But you did a good job giving this song a new feel.
  • Judges’ decision – Strong Voice gets 0 “medals.”

3) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control) + 邓紫棋 (Deng Zi Qi / G.E.M)

  • Intro package – The soloist from last episode says he thinks the reason why he sang “Last Christmas” without enough emotion is because he didn’t have a [duet] partner. This time it’ll be different with G.E.M.
  • Performance – 邓紫棋 G.E.M’s “A.I.N.Y.  (爱你)” (Ai Ni / Love You) [arr. 洪大为 Hong Da Wei]. The song is about reflecting back on an ex.
  • My thoughts – Ooh, this is a very good start. There are some pitch issues in the tenor parts, but this is a more mature sound for Voices Out of Control. The arrangement fits the group really well – not too complex but full-sounding, and G.E.M is just killing it. I think this is the best I’ve heard this group sound. Very nice.
  • Post-performance comments – G.E.M says the guys feel like a family. The host mentions the lack of emotions thing again. G.E.M asks the guys if they’ve dated anyone. Huang Zheng: This is a girl’s song, so it was interesting to hear guys trying to capture the emotional subtleties and details.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Your solo was great this time; the pitch and timbre were wonderful. Your blend and tone were beautiful. Wyman: These are my nitpicky sunglasses; I wear them when I want to nitpick. I’ve decided that I’m rarely going to give a “medal” tonight unless something really wows me.
  • Judges’ decision – Voices Out of Control get 2 “medals” from Wei Wei and Wu Zhou Tong.

4) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella) +方大同 (Fang Da Tong / Khalil Fong)

  • Intro package – The soprano from MICappella really admires Khalil’s talent. Khalil’s concerned about the little interactions between the two duet partners.
  • Performance – 方大同 Khalil Fong’s 《爱爱爱》 (Ai Ai Ai / Love Love Love)
  • My thoughts – LOVE. Awesome arrangement and singing. The female soloist seemed a little nervous at first, but she settled into the performance later on. This was really fantastic.
  • Post-performance comments – The host asks the soprano how she managed to bribe the choreographer into giving her and Khalil so many “close” moments. G.E.M says MICappella succeeded in making her, a female audience member, jealous.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: Singing a song with your idol, was that a good thing or a bad thing? [Soprano: It was an unforgettable experience. I’ve sung this song before, but I know I don’t sound the best on it. Everyone encouraged me and told me I could do it.] I think one of the good things about singing with your idol is that you already have an idea of how he’s going to sing.
  • Judges’ decision – MICappella gets 3 “medals” from Gu Feng, Wyman, and Wei Wei.

5) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band) +薛凯琪 (Xue Kai Qi / Fiona Sit)

  • Intro package – They’re nervous about the celebrity collab. They also joke about being beaten to death by Fiona’s fans for holding her so close.
  • Performance – 万芳 Wan Fang’s 《新不了情》 (Xin Bu Liao Qing / Endless Love)
  • My thoughts – Yay, a slower song! This is sounding quite good. Good use of arranging to overcome potential sound issues like thinness. Not sure I needed the sax (?) imitation again though – it’s getting a little gimmicky at this point. It’s nice to hear more dynamics; some of those swells were really nice.
  • Post-performance comments – Fiona talks about how cute and earnest these “young” people are. Since Khalil and Fiona are rumored to be dating, the host asks Khalil how he feels about that performance, particularly the interaction between Fiona and Sirens’ tenor.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: You’ve changed from your usual style today, but there were a few problems with that, especially when it comes to the three boys. Don’t let your nervousness prevent you from expressing your emotions while singing. The vocal sax didn’t sound like a sax; it sounded more like a mosquito.
  • Judges’ decision – Sirens get 0 “medals.” [Me: What?!]

6) Hey Boy + 沙宝亮 (Sha Bao Liang)

  • Intro package – The guys say that Sha Bao Liang has such nice vocal chops and that they feel the pressure of singing with him.
  • Performance – 沙宝亮 Sha Bao Liang’s 《暗香》 (An Xiang / Faint Scent) and “1314”. In Chinese, 1314 (yi san yi shi) sounds similar to 一生一世 (yi sheng yi shi), which means forever and ever. Both songs are about not giving up on love.
  • My thoughts – Very odd arrangement. “An Xiang” felt like it was thrown in there just for the heck of it, and the “Billie Jean” sample was completely random. This didn’t feel like a cohesive performance, and the rhythm issues and pitch problems didn’t help. I find that the performance is a miss every time Hey Boy ventures away from their usual style. This time, I’d definitely say song choice and perhaps even guest singer were part of the problem.
  • Post-performance comments – Sha Bao Liang says that he knows Hey Boy usually sings folk music and that this is one of their first times doing something more pop. He thinks that’s brave and hopes that people applaud them for it.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Your bass and VP were great today. The VP was extremely steady. Since you sang pop today, the two of you really showed off your strengths. Wyman: Thank you for letting us try Western food for the first time. Previously, it was all Chinese food.
  • Judges’ decision – Hey Boy gets 3 “medals” from Wei Wei, Wyman, and Wu Zhou Tong. [Me: What the heck?!]

7) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman) + 费玉清 (Fei Yu Qing)

  • Intro package – Arranging the song was difficult because he had to account for pitch and rhythm issues during the performance. Fei Yu Qing says he can tell how much they love music. He was initially worried about some sections such as the vocal erhu and the rap, but after hearing them, all was good.
  • Performance – 周杰伦 Jay Chou and 费玉清 Fei Yu Qing’s 《千里之外》 (Qian Li Zhi Wai / Faraway)
  • My thoughts – The second half of the intro and the first verse of this were disappointing.  Because it was arranged so sparsely and because open intervals/voicings were used at various spots, the intonation problems were especially apparent, so it wasn’t very effective. Things got better in the chorus when the bass kicked in and the others switched to longer notes. The sing-song rap section was awesome and a return to form. From then on, it was the Freeman that I was accustomed to hearing.
  • Post-performance comments – Fei Yu Qing said this performance felt different than his usual TV performances. He really liked his group and was worried that he’d be the one making a mistake on stage. Sha Bao Liang said Freeman was awesome!
  • Judges’ comments – Wu Zhou Tong: I really enjoyed that performance. I think “Qian Li Zhi Wai” feels more like a beautiful painting, and there’s this feeling of space and distance. Wyman: I’m not going to give you guys a “medal” regardless of how good that performance is. In every episode, you guys have advanced after one song. I want you to sing another song this time.
  • Judges’ decision – Freeman gets 2 “medals” from Gu Feng and Wu Zhou Tong.

MICappella and Hey Boy both got the highest number of “medals”, so now they need to do a tiebreaker.  First, each group will show off a quick 30 second solo. MICappella’s alto sings Duffy’s “Mercy.” Hey Boy’s soloist sings 梁静茹 Fish Leong’s 《可惜不是你》 (Ke Xi Bu Shi Ni / Sadly, It’s Not You). Next, each group will show off a quick VP solo. MICappella’s Peter is awesome as usual. Hey Boy’s VP is awesome considering how he’s probably a beginner. Now they’ll each sing a version of “Happy Birthday.”

Gu Feng, Wyman, and Wei Wei vote for MICappella while Wu Zhou Tong votes for Hey Boy. MICappella advances directly into the top 6.

Strong Voice and Sirens both had 0 “medals,” so the judges will now decide who will move onto round 2 and who will directly go into the bottom 2. Wei Wei announces that Sirens enter round 2 while Strong Voice is in the bottom 2.

In round two, the 5 groups will draw numbers to determine the order. After two groups have performed, the judges and one celebrity guest will advance the better group. The remaining group will be compared to the next group, and the better of the two will be advanced. So on and so forth until all five groups have performed. The remaining group at the end of round 2 will be in the bottom 2 and will compete with Strong Voice for the last spot in the top 6.

Second round of performances:

1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Performance – Adele Medley (“Rolling in the Deep” / “Someone Like You” / “Turning Tables”)
  • My thoughts – I’m so sick of Adele covers. I almost want to leave it at that. It’s a decent arrangement, and the VP sounds fantastic. But that soloist and that soprano… Ugh.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Wu Zhou Tong: I can really feel your passion when you perform. Khalil Fong: I really appreciate how they tried to make a tight arrangement. This is an arrangement that really needs to feel solid and sturdy, and even though there were a few trouble spots, I still want to encourage you to continue. Shin: Should’ve sung this earlier. Who needs “Hai Kuo Tian Kong”? I can see your hard work.

2) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Performance – 《别亦难》 (Bie Yi Nan / Hard to Say Goodbye). The lyrics are from a poem by Tang Dynasty poet 李商隐 Li Shang Yin, and it takes about the trials and tribulations of love.
  • My thoughts – Ooh, I really like this. The arrangement is awesome. I love how it builds from something more classically Chinese sounding to more of a Zhong Guo Feng (Chinese-pop fusion) style. The soloist was a little bit shaky at times, but it seemed more like nerves than anything else.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Wei Wei: This song really touched me. A good pop song is all about making people feel things. During the two stops in the performance, I got this feeling in my heart, and tears were about to come out. Fiona Sit: I’m really touched by your sincerity. In my heart, you guys are the best.

Judges’ decisions: The judges and Khalil Fong unanimously vote for Dreamers to advance.

3) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Performance – 黄龄 Huang Ling’s 《High歌》 (High Ge / High Song). The song message is essentially “nothing can stop our love.”
  • My thoughts – Sounds awesome as usual. Major props to the arranger, bass, and VP. Great work!
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: I know I was a bit unfair earlier, but I really wanted to hear another song from you. Shin: That was fantastic. Dreamers finally have a strong opponent. Fei Yu Qing: That was great, especially the “yi” riff and the choreography.

Judges’ decisions: The judges and Shin unanimously vote for Freeman to advance.

4) Hey Boy

  • Performance – 张惠妹 A-Mei Chang’s 《站在高岗上》 (Zhan Zai Gao Gang Shang / Standing on a Tall Hill) [arr. 洪大为 Hong Da Wei].
  • My thoughts – I thought it was better than their first performance, but it was still messy.
  • Judges’ comments – Wu Zhou Tong: Some of your parts sounded a bit messy. Huang Zheng: Some performers own the stage; others feel a bit hesitant. The stage is yours, so you should have let out more.

Judges’ decision: Wei Wei, Wyman, and G.E.M vote for Sirens. Gu Feng and Wu Zhou Tong vote for Hey Boy. Sirens advance.

5) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)

  • Performance – 王力宏 Leehom Wang’s 《火力全开》 (Huo Li Quan Kai / Firepower to the Max). The song is about pushing Chinese music to the international stage.
  • My thoughts – I had been hoping they would sing a Leehom song sometime, but of course, they end up picking one of my least favorite Leehom songs… That may have worked in their favor though since their performance definitely exceeded my expectations. The song really fit the group, and the soloist killed it. (See, you guys singing in Chinese is much more convincing than singing in English.) VP and bass were great – really held the performance together. I was confused by the syllable change on the “ai” riff to “bai’s,” but maybe it was for articulation reasons.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: Wow, lots of firepower in here. There were moments that could have used a little bit of simplification. You don’t always need to aim for a super full sound. Fei Yu Qing: I thought it was great. You brought lots of energy and liveliness.

Judges’ decision: Wu Zhou Tong, Wei Wei, Wyman, and Fiona Sit vote for Voices Out of Control. Gu Feng votes for Hey Boy. Voices Out of Control advance.

Strong Voice and Hey Boy are in the bottom 2.

The bottom two perform.

1) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Performance – 《东南方》 (Dong Nan Fang / Southeast). It’s an original song! It’s about breaking free.
  • My thoughts – Yay for original songs. This sounded nice. Not perfect but still good.

2) Hey Boy 

  • Performance – 信乐团 Shin’s 《死了都要爱》 (Si Le Dou Yao Ai / Even in Death I’ll Love) and 《甩葱歌》 (Shuai Cong Ge / Levan Polkka)
  • My thoughts – Uh. That was completely random. The soloist for “Si Le Dou Yao Ai” was a bit shrill on certain notes.

Judges’ Decision: First, the radio DJs will submit their votes, and they vote 7:4 in favor of Strong Voice. Gu Feng says that he loves the purity of Hey Boy’s sound and that Strong Voice wasn’t at their best today. Gu Feng, Wyman, and Wu Zhou Tong vote for Strong Voice. Wei Wei votes for Hey Boy. Strong Voice wins 10:5.

The boys of Hey Boy are going home. Wu Zhou Tong makes them promise not to leave a cappella. Their swan song is 张杰 Zhang Jie’s 《看月亮爬上来》 (Kan Yue Liang Pa Shang Lai / Watch the Moon Rise).

[Me: I’m going to miss these guys.]

The top 6 are: Dreamers, Freeman, Sirens, Voices Out of Control, MICappella, and Strong Voice.

How do you feel about this week’s episode and Hey Boy’s elimination?

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Bracket A and bracket B finally meet! Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 5.

For the opening number, the top 8 groups bring us 庾澄庆 Harlem Yu’s 《快乐颂》 (Kuai Le Song / Happy Song), arranged by 彭祖容 Jo Jo Pang. The song, as you can guess, is about being happy.  It’s not my favorite song in the world, but it sounds fine as an opening group number.

Once again, our host is 赵屹鸥 (Zhao Yi Ou), and our judges are:

  • 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
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge in the blue shirt. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.
  • 赖家庆 (Lai Jia Qing) – Judge on the very right. Professor of Music. He’s subbing in for Tan Yi Zhe tonight.

In addition to the four main judges, the show has also brought in a panel of 7 special judges. They’ve all had experience judging other Chinese reality singing competitions (such as Super Girl and Super Boy), and they are:

  • 春晓 (Chun Xiao) – TV host.
  • 伍洲彤 (Wu Zhou Tong) – Radio DJ.
  • 朱桦(Zhu Hua) – Talented mainland singer.
  • 高晓松 (Gao Xiao Song) – Songwriter and music producer.
  • 丁薇 (Ding Wei) – Mainland singer-songwriter.
  • 黑楠 (Hei Nan) – Music producer.
  • 影子 (Ying Zi / SHADOW) – Classically trained singer.

Also sitting in the audience is a group of editors from various newspapers and blogs. These people will vote alongside the judges later on in the competition to decide on the elimination.

This episode’s format is very different from what we’ve seen thus far. In the first round, it will be bracket A directly against bracket B. Each group in bracket A will “duel” with a group in bracket B. The winner of the duel will earn a point for their team/bracket. At the end of the round, the bracket with the higher number of points will advance. [I’m not a huge fan of this format. Yes, it’s more exciting to have the two brackets compete as teams, but at the same time, a weaker group can take advantage of the format and advance due to being in the winning bracket.]

As a reminder, the groups in bracket A are: MICappella, New Sounds Have Arrived, Hey Boy, and Strong Voice. The groups in bracket B are: Voices Out of Control, Sirens, Freeman, and Dreamers.

The groups will each hold up the name of the group they want to compete with. If two groups mutually choose each another, then the match is set.

The pairs are:

  • Pair 1新声驾到 (Xin Sheng Jia Dao / New Sounds Have Arrived) vs. 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)
  • Pair 2Hey Boy vs. 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)
  • Pair 3壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice) vs. 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)
  • Pair 4: 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella) vs. 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

[I think these are actually very good matches. Though if I were New Sounds, I probably would have picked Voices Out of Control, rather than Dreamers.]

First round of performances:

1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Intro package – Group leader is talking about how people often ask him, “What’s the point of being a good singer?” He concludes that singing well isn’t as good as having good looks. Having good looks isn’t as good as having a tragic backstory, and having a tragic backstory isn’t as good as having connections. One of the girls talks about how she comes from a family of musicians and how they didn’t want her to become one as well. She also talks about losing hair thanks to the stress of songwriting. Everyone is basically talking about the difference between the ideal and reality when it comes to music.
  • Performance – 杭天琪 Hang Tian Qi’s 《黄土高坡》 (Huang Tu Gao Po / Loess Plateau). It’s about living on the Loess Plateau.
  • My thoughts – Wow. What a cool arrangement! Really really fantastic stuff going on. One thing I didn’t really like was the soloist’s phrasing at times. He was too staccato in the first verse. I understand it was a stylistic choice, but I thought he clipped the words a little too short. The other thing is I thought the ending was a little abrupt. I wasn’t expecting it to end so early. I didn’t even realize that was the end at first; I thought maybe it was another fake out.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: You surprised us yet again today. You brought together two different styles and made it sound very harmonically diverse. The chord change at the ending was particularly good. Wyman: Of all the times I’ve heard you sing, today was the most touching. Wu Zhou Tong: Most people think a cappella is just a way of performing, but listening to you took me to a different place. Gao Xiao Song: You said you lose hair over songwriting. Well, you lose hair regardless. Wyman writes lyrics, and all his hair is gone.
  • Post-performance comments – The girl takes a moment to address her musician parents via camera. She says that her parents used to say she was a bad singer, but now she’s standing on the stage because of her singing. She says she will continue to work hard and asks them to support her.

2)  新声驾到 (Xin Sheng Jia Dao / New Sounds Have Arrived)

  • Intro package – One of the guys is talking about his rebellious childhood and how he didn’t like to study. That changed when he started studying music.
  • Performance – Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (with Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” as the intro)
  • My thoughts – The intro was a nice touch, especially since they sang Pentatonix’s Britney Spears medley a while back. The performance was decent, but there were definitely intonation issues. This song choice was fine, and the arrangement had some nice moments. Problem is… it wasn’t anything special, especially when compared to Dreamers’ performance. It’s something that would suit the earlier episodes but probably not a top 8 kind of performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: You distracted me with the flowers. I don’t know what to say now. SHADOW: Since I didn’t get flowers, you can probably imagine what my critique is. I used to be in a choir, and it can be a very happy feeling when you all harmonize together. You may have been too happy, and that may have affected your performance. Gao Xiao Song: What grade are you? [College freshmen.] Well, if you’re still at this level by the time you’re sophomores, then that’s not good. Work on the intonation before giving flowers.
  • Post-performance comments – The host asked the guy how long it’s been since he’s seen his mother. He says it’s been half a year. The host tells him his parents are in the audience, and they all get really emotional.

Judges’ Decision: Chun Xiao, Wu Zhou Tong, and SHADOW vote for New Sounds. Everyone else votes for Dreamers. Dreamers win 8-3.

Bracket A: 0. Bracket B: 1.

3) Hey Boy

  • Intro package – The group leader, Luo Wu, is from rural China. He sometimes has financial issues, but his pride won’t let him accept charity money from others. His father watched an episode of The Sing-Off and is extremely proud of him. They will do their best to show their music to the rest of the country.
  • Performance – 《康定情歌》 (Kang Ding Qing Ge / A love song of Kangding). This is a folk song about Kangdang, a city in the Sichuan province.
  • My thoughts – I really liked this arrangement. I thought the various extended chords really gave this song a different feel. Problem is those chords are also hard to tune, and that was very apparent in this performance. I think more dynamics and phrasing would have also helped; I was expecting more swells in certain places. I do hope they keep this in their repertoire; it has a lot of potential.
  • Judges’ comments – Lai Jia Qing: You’ve grown a lot throughout this competition. You started out with your Chinese folk style, and now you’ve started incorporating elements of contemporary a cappella. Today was your best performance yet. Chun Xiao: You feel very uniform and cohesive, but you still sound very much like a school choir. You’re in the process of improving, and I hope in the future you focus more on the details of your voicings. Gao Xiao Song: Please keep the feeling of youthful hormones. Hei Nan: Disagree. What’s the point of hormones if they adversely affect their performance? Gao Xiao Song: If you have perfect intonation and no hormones, then there’s no meaning. [I guess basically they’re debating feeling (hormones) vs. pitch.]

4) 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control)

  • Intro package – They once did a gig where they had to dress as half-male/half-female. They really didn’t want to do it, but they didn’t want to turn down the money. They also asked to sing one of their own a cappella songs afterwards. It felt really embarrassing, but they were happy to get the money. They treated their teacher to dinner afterwards, and the teacher told them not to accept such a gig in the future. This is the opportunity they’ve been looking for – the chance to prove themselves.
  • Performance – Wham!’s “Last Christmas”
  • My thoughts – This is a really odd song choice. There’s nothing particularly special about this song, so I have no idea why they picked it. It was a good idea to go with something slower though; it shows contrast. Unfortunately, that also made the intonation issues even more apparent.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I’m really happy to see you simplifying some things, such as snapping your fingers instead of VP. I’ve heard you several times now, and for the most part, you stick to triads. It was nice to hear chord extensions in the solo. It felt like you were finally graduating from high school. Wu Zhou Tong: When the audience is watching you, why do they like you? You’re not extremely good looking, and your sound isn’t overly amazing. I think they want to see your facial expressions. In this last performance, you seemed a bit subdued or as though you were not enjoying the song as much. You want to bring everyone into your performance with your expressions.

Judges’ decision: Hey Boy wins.

Bracket A: 1. Bracket B: 1.

5) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Intro package – The group leader is very strict and blunt. He’s the foundation of the group.
  • Performance – Boyz II Men’s “Thank You”
  • My thoughts – Whoa. I had hoped Freeman would do something different this week, but I was not expecting this. Great arrangement and awesome sound as usual. The only thing that I was a little unsure on (and this is a matter of taste) was the soloist. He sounded fine, but he doesn’t quite have the smooth R&B kind of voice that I was looking for.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: I was moved. I didn’t expect to hear something like this from you. You did a great job with this R&B kind of feel. Gu Feng: After hearing the soloist, I can only say I think he looks too white. Gao Xiao Song: Proud to have you as music teachers. Wu Zhou Tong: I just want to know how such a low sound comes out of such a skinny and tall body. [He says he used to yell a lot when his voice first started to change.] Ding Wei: In many singing competitions, I see lots of people who love singing but don’t really understand music or love music. But you love singing, you love music, and you have great musical training.

6) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Intro package – One of their group members is particularly unique and kind of lives in his own world. For some reason, he just sticks out. He jokes about he has the worst temper, so any person who wants to be in Strong Voice will have to be able to handle his temper.
  • Performance – 李玉刚 Li Yu Gang’s 《新贵妃醉酒》 (Xin Gui Fei Zui Jiu / Drunken Concubine). The song is a fusion of Peking opera and pop music. The lyrics are about the complicated love between the emperor and the concubine.
  • My thoughts – I loved this performance until the Peking opera part. The arrangement was so wonderfully done in the beginning that I could almost overlook the pitch problems. The first soloist actually sounded more convincing than the original singer because his phrasing and sound are a lot more pop. He also added more emotions to the solo. However, once they got to the Peking opera part, it just started falling apart, and most of the issues lie with the second soloist. You can tell that he doesn’t have the Peking opera training that the chorus required, and on top of that, his pitch was all over the place. It’s really sad because the song started out so nicely.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: I’m speechless. Wyman: When you started out with Lady Gaga, I knew you were going to push boundaries. I think you could have gone ever further with your acting. No need to be shy or afraid. Chun Xiao:  They have a grassroots feel. It’s very nice and unique. SHADOW: It may be that not a lot of people like you… [The guy responds: I don’t care if people like me.] You didn’t let me finish… But I like you. You have the traits of an actor, and I think you should move towards musicals.

Judges’ decision – SHADOW and Lai Jia Qing vote for Strong Voice while everyone else votes for Freeman. Freeman wins 9-2.

Bracket A: 1. Bracket B: 2.

7) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Intro package – Peter Huang is their founder. He used to hate music when he was little. He was very much an athlete, but he had an injury while he was running. Luckily, there’s music.
  • Performance – 方大同 Khalil Fong’s “Love Song
  • My thoughts – Oh man, Khalil Fong’s songs are hard to pull off. The chords in the beginning are not easy, and they weren’t locked. Throughout the performance, there were other occasions where that happened. The soloist Peter sounded good but not great when compared to the original singer. One thing to work on is his runs/ad libs. The main problem with a song like this is that it requires a lot of precision, which wasn’t quite there.
  • Post-performance comments – The host asks about why Peter is soloing when he’s usually the VP. Peter says he wanted to get off of his comfortable sofa and sing a song of love to everyone.
  • Judges’ comments – Lai Jia Qing: We were surprised by how well Peter did with singing R&B. Peter, sing more and do less VP. Wei Wei: I was surprised that you started out lying down. Singing while lying down is very hard, especially when you’re trying to sing in tune. Zhu Hua: I like your musicality. I love your phrasing and your dynamics.

8) 蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band)

  • Intro package – Their group member Qing Ting is one of their newest members. As the competition was approaching, her progress was not as fast as the others’, and they were considering changing members. She had to try her best to stay in the group. Another problem was their VP who couldn’t attend their earlier rehearsals due to grad school stuff. He was having a hard time syncing with the rest of the group. They will try their best.
  • Performance – 潘安邦 Pan An Bang’s 《外婆的澎湖湾》 (Wai Po De Peng Hu Wan / Grandma’s Penghu Bay). It’s basically about the beauty of one’s childhood.
  • My thoughts – This is cute. It’s a very creative arrangement of a very simple childhood song. I especially love the jazz interlude, and the beach sound effects are cool. The only thing I have to say is that this isn’t drastically different from anything we’ve already seen from Sirens. It should be enough to get them through this week, but perhaps in later weeks, it may be time to take some more risks – maybe do a ballad or a song with a little more intensity.
  • Judges’ comments – Lai Jia Qing: I’m very familiar with Sirens. They’re also so smiley, confident, and genuine. You can’t let Qing Ting go; her smile is too important. Wyman: I want to believe Qing Ting is smiling somewhere.
  • Post-performance comments – They talk about how the VP is still in grad school and thus can only arrive one day before their performances. The host asks them why they haven’t replaced him, and they say they would be Sirens without him.

Judges’ decision: Gu Feng, Wei Wei, Zhu Hua, and Ding Wei vote for MICappella. Wyman, Lai Jia Qing, Chun Xia, Wu Zhou Tong, Gao Xiao Song, Hei Nan, and SHADOW vote for Sirens. Sirens win 7-4.

Bracket A: 1. Bracket B: 3. Bracket B wins, so the 4 groups in bracket B get to advance.

In round two, the 4 groups in bracket A will divide into pairs and compete. The better group in each pair will advance, leaving the remaining 2 groups as the bottom 2. The bottom 2 will then each sing another song.

The pairs are: Hey Boy vs. MICappella and Strong Voice vs. New Sounds.

Second round of performances:

1) Hey Boy

  • Performance – 宋祖英 Song Zu Ying’s 《大地飞歌》 (Da Di Fei Ge / Flying Song) [apb. 蚂蚁组合 (Ma Yi Zu He / Ant Group)] The song is about the beauty of nature.
  • My thoughts – Another great arrangement. The intonation on this is better.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Wei Wei: Since you’re called Hey Boy, I think you should have brought a more masculine feel to this song. You did last time with “La Mei Zi.”

2) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Performance – Linkin Park’s “Faint” / 蔡依林 Jolin Tsai’s 《舞娘》 (Wu Niang / Dancing Diva)
  • My thoughts – What a cool mashup! I really like the intensity; it shows a different side of MICappella. The breakdown was awesome with a nice lip buzz going.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Gu Feng: Of all the songs that we’ve heard, this was the most fusion kind of song. You really incorporated everyone’s strengths, and it was very much like a great stir-fry.

Judges’ decisions: The judges unanimously vote for MICappella.

3) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Performance – 花儿乐队 The Flowers’ 《穷开心》 (Qiong Kai Xin / Happy for No Reason)
  • My thoughts – LOL. This is great! This kind of style (peppy and very Chinese) seems like it would be hard to pull off, and they just do a fantastic job. I’m impressed.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: You really picked the right song this time. I never imagined you could take such a hickish song and make it sound so good.

4) 新声驾到 (Xin Sheng Jia Dao / New Sounds Have Arrived)

  • Performance – 小虎队 Little Tigers’ 《青苹果乐园》 (Qing Ping Guo Le Yuan / Green Apple Paradise). It’s a Chinese cover of a Japanese song called “What’s Your Name” by少年队.
  • My thoughts – Same thoughts as “Baby.” It’s fine but nothing special. This isn’t going to win when compared to Strong Voice’s performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: I think some groups can only handle one new song per week, and if they were to sing two new songs, it would be a bit hard. Compared to your first song, this song sounded like you didn’t have enough time to practice. Zhu Hua: I thought this song better fit your capabilities. Your performance had a lot of energy; it just needed more musical complexities.  Hei Nan: I like your fresh sound.

Judges’ decision: Strong Voice wins 8-3.

The bottom two perform.

1) Hey Boy

  • Performance – 张杰 Zhang Jie’s 《看月亮爬上来》 (Kan Yue Liang Pa Shang Lai / Watch the Moon Rise). It’s about watching the moon with your loved one.
  • My thoughts – This is not good. It seems that two new songs per week (not including the group number) are Hey Boy’s limit.

2) 新声驾到 (Xin Sheng Jia Dao / New Sounds Have Arrived)

  • Performance – Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” [apb. Pentatonix]
  • My thoughts – Uh. It’s kind of awkward watching these guys sing this song.

Judges’ Decision: Lai Jia Qing, Gu Feng, Zhu Hua, Gao Xiao Song, Ding Wei, and Hei Nan vote for Hey Boy. Wei Wei, Wyman, Chun Xiao, Wu Zhou Tong, and SHADOW vote for New Sounds. The 11 judges are 6-5 in favor of Hey Boy. Now the 10 editors will submit their votes, and they vote 7:3 in favor of Hey Boy. The overall vote is 13-8 in favor of Hey Boy.

The boys of New Sounds are going home. The group representative says they’ve done very well for a group that’s only four months old, and their only regret is that they can’t continue the journey with their new friends. They also want to thank their teachers in Freeman. Their swan song is 张震岳 A-Yue Chang’s 《再见》 (Zai Jian / Goodbye).

[Me: Keep singing! For a four month old group, you guys are quite awesome. Study those Pentatonix arrangements. Learn from them, and develop an arranging style that suits your group.]

The top 7 are: Dreamers, Freeman, Sirens, Voices Out of Control, MICappella, Strong Voice,and Hey Boy.

How do you feel about our top 7? Do you have any predictions for next week?

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