Archive for the ‘A cappella’ Category


Track Listing: 

  1. Here We Go
  2. Circus
  3. One Night in Beijing
  4. 算了吧 [Suan Le Ba / Forget It]
  5. 志明与春娇 [Zhi Ming Yu Chun Jiao / Peter and Mary]
  6. 王妃 [Wang Fei / Princess]
  7. 散场的拥抱 [San Chang De Yong Bao / The Last Embrace]
  8. Moves Like Jagger
  9. Oh Yeah
  10. 那些年 [Na Xie Nian / Those Years]
  11. Here We Go (Club Mix)

The members of MICappella (the season 1 runner-ups for The Sing-Off China) have finally released their first post-TSO album. I bought a physical copy and have been listening to it on repeat for the past few days.

This is an album that should appeal to both TSO China fans and a cappella fans in general. The arranging, the singing, and the production are all top-notch. The two original tracks (“Here We Go” and “Suan Le Ba”) are both very catchy and radio-friendly and will hopefully get some nice airplay.

My favorite tracks are probably:

  • Circus: I’ve loved this arrangement ever since they performed it live on TSO China. The execution here is fantastic, especially the vocal percussion.
  • One Night in Beijing: I’m a sucker for that awesome Peking opera part.
  • 算了吧 [Suan Le Ba / Forget It]: This is an original song, and it keeps getting stuck in my head. Props to Peter and his collaborators Tat Tong and 张乐声 for the great songwriting!
  • 那些年 [Na Xie Nian / Those Years]: This is probably my favorite. I love how everyone gets a chance to solo in this song and how the arranging, the singing, the mixing, etc. really capture the meaning and emotion behind the melody and lyrics.

So… I highly recommend this album to all of you.

Digital copies are available via: iTunes, Amazon | Physical copies are available via: Sense Music Store

Follow MICappella on: Facebook, Twitter, Weibo


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Tonight we find out who the season 1 champs are! Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 10.

Opening the show is SLIXS from Germany with Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” and they are awesome as expected.

Next, the top 8 groups bring us the show’s theme song 《唱在一起》 (Chang Zai Yi Qi / Sing Together) [composed by: 谭伊哲 (Tan Yi Zhe), lyrics by: 科尔沁夫 (Ke Er Qin Fu), arr. 林孟慧 (Lin Men Hui) and 成斯 (Chen Si)]. Joining our top 8 is Kaichiro Kitamura, a famous vocal percussionist from Japan.

Our host is 赵屹鸥 (Zhao Yi Ou), and he’s introducing our top 3: Freeman, MICappella, and Voices Out of Control. Before the competition begins, he offers each group the chance to say how they feel:

  • Freeman:Many people’s hopes and expectations are resting on our shoulders, so tonight we’re going to let it all out and fight towards the finish.
  • MICappella: We’re the only group from outside of China. We’re going to do our best tonight, and we hope everyone will support us.
  • Voices Out of Control: Brothers, we’ve stumbled along on this journey to this final stage. We can finally give it our all.

While the top 3 are getting ready, the host shows us a video reflecting back on the past three months.

The host then introduces our 5 main 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
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.
  • 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.

Sitting behind the main judges are the special guest judges who will offer additional commentary and votes. They are the members of SLIXS and Kaichiro Kitamura. 费玉清 (Fei Yu Qing), the Taiwanese singer who sang with Freeman in episode 6, is also present to add his commentary, but he won’t be taking part in the voting process.

According to the host, the first 240 people in the audience are a cappella students from various parts of Asia. The remaining 350 people are just normal audience members (lucky muggles).

In the first round, each group will sing two songs. The first song will be a new song while the second song is a repeat of a past performance. At the end of the first round, the top 2 will be determined.

[In retrospect, it seems the groups had a lot of material to rehearse in the past week, so the performances are generally not as clean and in tune. I will try to keep that in mind during my commentary.]

First round of performances:

1) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Video – The group participated in the shooting of a short film. In this video, the members of Freeman are acting as teachers dealing with a music student who’s not really getting along with his classmates. Freeman’s Liang Zi teaches the kid about vocal percussion.
  • Performance – 韦唯 Wei Wei and 刘欢 Liu Huan’s 《亚洲雄风》 (Ya Zhou Xiong Feng / The Mighty Winds of Asia) [arr. Freeman]
  • My thoughts – I see Freeman finally fulfilled their promise of singing a Wei Wei song. I liked the sampling of “Arirang” and “Jai Ho” – nice touch.
  • Post-performance comments – The host brings up their promise to Wei Wei. Freeman was very happy with Wei Wei’s reaction to their performance. The host then asks them if this was their way of sucking up to Wei Wei. Liang Zi says they just wanted to keep their promise.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: This was such a great version of this song. They added different elements of Asian music. I was just singing along with them when they suddenly threw in “Arirang” and then followed that with an Indian style. When you made that promise, I didn’t think you would pick such a hard song of mine. I think when I perform this in the future I’ll have to invite you on stage with me. [Liang Zi: That’s a promise, right?] Wyman: They asked me to design them outfits if they won today. There’s not much time, but I agreed. With this song, if I had to be picky, I’d say you could be crazier since there was nothing wrong with the singing aspect. Gu Feng: I think many a cappella groups are like warehouses where they store their repertoire, but you are an exception. You guys are a factory that keeps producing new things.
  • Score – The guest judges and main judges will each give Freeman a score (out of 10). Audience voting gives Freeman an average audience score of 8.7. After combining the judges and audience scores, Freeman gets 101.7 points in the first round.

2) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Video – MICappella’ short film is about perseverance. It’s about being patient, overcoming difficulties, and fighting until the end.
  • Performance – Britney Spears’s “Circus” [arr. MICappella]
  • My thoughts – The lighting and camera angles at the beginning are pretty cool. I rather like this arrangement. Unfortunately, the more complex chords made it harder to tune.
  • Judges’ comments – Fei Yu Qing: I really liked it. Western music is not my forte, but I could feel their passion. Yuan Wei Ren: The main problem was pitch, and that definitely affected our enjoyment of the performance. [Juni says they’re very grateful to be standing on the stage at this point. They’ve been practicing so much that their throats are all sore.] Wei Wei: You’ve been taking risks all along, and we’ve been supporting you. This time, I could hear your fatigue. This solo isn’t that hard, and it just needed more power.
  • Score – MICappella gets an average audience score of 8.0. After combining that with the judges’ scores, MICappella gets 97.0 points.

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

  • Video – I guess the general gist of the video is about overcoming their hardships and banding together?
  • Performance – 麻吉弟弟 Machi Di Di’s 《甜蜜蜜》 (Tian Mi Mi / Sweet) [arr. Voices Out of Control’s 蓝瑞丁 (Lan Rui Ding)]. The song incorporates part of the melody from Teresa Teng’s “Tian Mi Mi.”
  • My thoughts – The song choice didn’t really work for me, and I didn’t really like the ending…
  • Judges’ comments – Fei Yu Qing: “Tian Mi Mi” is from my generation. I never knew you could do an R&B feel with the song. They added a lot of surprises and changes to the song. Wyman: The strongest parts of your performance were the different changes you made and your movements on stage. Your last few movements? Can you call that “playing cute”? Nothing wrong with that. Not everyone can pull that off.
  • Score – Their average audience score is 7.7. After combining that with the judges’ scores, Voices Out of Control gets 88.7 points.

4) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Performance –才旦卓玛 Cai Dan Zhuo Ma’s 《北京的金山上》 (Bei Jing De Jin Shan Shang / Atop Beijing’s Gold Mountain) [arr. Freeman]. Liang Zi says that a lot of people started liking Freeman because of this song, so it has special meaning for Freeman.
  • My thoughts – Yes, definitely one of my favorite Freeman songs.
  • Judges’ comments – Fei Yu Qing: I couldn’t do this myself, so you’ve already won me over. Wei Wei: From the first time I heard this, I’ve been very surprised by their arranging skills. Liang Zi, you are such a good musician. Yuan Wei Ren: I couldn’t find any problems, so I’ll probably give you full points.
  • Score – Freeman gets an average score of 8.9 from the audience. After combining that with the judges’ scores, Freeman gets 120.9 points. Combine that with the first song’s score of 101.7, Freeman has 222.6 points in round 1.

5) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Performance – 五月天 Mayday’s 《志明与春娇》 (Zhi Ming Yu Chun Jiao / Zhi Ming and Chun Jiao) [arr. MICappella]. This is the first song they sang together as a group and is one of their most popular performances from The Sing-Off.
  • My thoughts – I wasn’t expecting them to pick this, but it’s good.
  • Judges’ comments – Yuan Wei Ren: It was very good. From this performance, I could tell that you wanted to win. All along, your song choice, your staging, etc. have been great. That has all been my favorite actually. I think you have the biggest chance to win. Fei Yu Qing: You have so much charisma. You had such a strong sense of rhythm in your performance that it made me want to dance.
  • Score – MICappella gets an average audience score of 8.3. After combining that with the judges’ scores, MICappella gets 117.3 points. Combine that with the first song’s score of 97.0, MICappella has 214.3 points in round 1.

6) 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) [arr. Voices Out of Control’s 李俊锋 Li Jun Feng]. This may be their last song, so there’s no reason for them not to do firepower to the max.
  • My thoughts – I was hoping they’d pick this song. I can tell they’re giving it their all, but I think that also made it a little messy.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I thought Feng Bo Xin had a really cool expression at the end. I can already tell how much you’ve impressed. I think in the future, if you pay even more attention to the details, you’ll become even more mature as a group. Deke: What I’m going to say to you, I don’t think you want to hear, but it’s from my heart. There’s a piece of me that does not want you to win tonight. Because 20 years ago, I was your age, and I was on stage in a competition, in the finals. And my group, 5 men, did not win, and it lit a fire in my belly. And for 20 years, I’ve worked twice as hard to be the best and do everything, and now I get to travel around the world and try to share music with other people. I wish for you this fire. I wish for you the opportunity to take the talent, the power, and the poise, and the natural charisma you have and turn it into being one of the biggest pop stars in China. That’s what I wish for you. Wei Wei: I really admire your perseverance. You went from one of the least likely groups to top 3. I’m so proud of you.
  • Score – Their average audience score is 8.4. After combining that with the judges’ scores, Voices Out of Control gets 110.4 points. Combine that with their first song’s score of 88.7, and Voices Out of Control gets a total of 199.1 points in round 1.

The round 1 score: Freeman – 222.6, MICappella – 214.3, Voices Out of Control – 199.1. Therefore, the second runner-up is Voices Out of Control. Congrats!

Voices Out of Control: We are very grateful for all the judges’ advice and critiques. We also thank all the online fans and audience members for their support.

In round two, the final two groups, Freeman and MICappella, will compete for the title.

Second round of performances:

1) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Video – Liang Zi talks about how they were surprised by the great response to their first performance on The Sing-Off stage. He also talks about them trying to pull off breakthroughs: dancing, acting like mental patients, trying out Indian styles, etc. Lucy was worried that they’d be eliminated after they were defeated by Voices Out of Control [in episode 7 when they sang Aaron Kwok’s “Dui Ni Ai Bu Wan”]. Liang Zi says that on the stage they’re not teachers but rather students. Now, they’re turning in their last exam in hopes of getting a high score.
  • Performance – 汪峰 Wang Feng’s 《怒放的生命》 (Nu Fang De Sheng Ming / Blooming Life) [arr. Freeman]. It’s an inspirational/encouraging rock song. In the middle of the song, Liang Zi says two months ago, Freeman was close to disbanding. Two months later, they’re standing on The Sing-Off stage, and they have gotten their confidence back.
  • My thoughts – The message of the song is very fitting at this point. The song choice also allows them to keep the arrangement relatively easy and just focus on the emotional aspect. I still hear imperfections, but I don’t think anyone cares at this point.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Wyman: Every time I watch you perform, it’s as though this is no longer a competition. It doesn’t feel like you’re competing with anyone else. You’re just standing on stage showing us your best. It’s like you’ve elevated this show beyond just a competition. Deke:The best music takes you away; it takes you somewhere else. And you took me to a stadium with a hundred thousand people listening from all around the world and television cameras broadcasting around the world. I wasn’t here. I was there on the stage, and you were singing and representing China and showing the world what you can do. And I thank you for the journey.Yuan Wei Ren: While you were singing, I was thinking one thing: I helped pick the season 1 winners of The Sing-Off China. I feel very proud. It’s not that MICappella isn’t good, but rather you are too good. I think you will be the champions.

2) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Video – Ein Ein says that since they’re from another country, they weren’t sure which songs the audience would like and also whether the audience would like them. Peter says the first time he cried on stage was when Shan Ma Que was eliminated. Ein Ein says this no longer feels like a competition to them. They’ve learned so much and gotten to know each other. During rehearsals, they’d sing other groups’ songs and do other groups’ choreography. Peter says they’ll still do their best and try to win.
  • Performance – 萧敬腾 Jam Hsiao’s 《王妃》 (Wang Fei / Princess) [arr. MICappella]. They also threw in a little bit of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.”
  • My thoughts – MICappella certainly does well with these types of songs. Juni’s voice sounds tired. I wonder if shifting the key up would have put the song more in the sweet spot of his range and helped the energy level. It was still a very lovely performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I’m so proud of each of you. You all have shown the audience what is a cappella. Wei Wei: Juni, you did not disappoint your group. This time you hit all the right pitches. Yuan Wei Ren: This was a great performance. I feel unsettled, and I hope they don’t show my earlier statement. [I think he’s referring to his statement about Freeman being the champions.] Wyman: This is my last chance to be honest. Your style isn’t my favorite, but through your hard work and your performances, I want to say I am now a fan.

Time for the voting! The host first asks the 240 a cappella students to vote for their favorite. Freeman leads 146-94.

Before the rest of audience and the judges vote, Freeman and MICappella will perform one last time. They will alternate in singing several songs from their past performances:

  • MICappella starts with their mashup of Linkin Park’s “Faint” / 蔡依林 Jolin Tsai’s 《舞娘》 (Wu Niang / Dancing Diva) [arr. MICappella]. [Me: Yay, one of my favorites!]
  • Freeman answers with 郭富城 Aaron Kwok’s 《对你爱不完》 (Dui Ni Ai Bu Wan / Love You Endlessly) [arr. Freeman]. [Me: I love how everyone is doing the choreo. For some reason, I also like this more than the first time they sang this…]
  • MICappella then sings 倪安东 Anthony Neely’s 《散场的拥抱》 (San Chang De Yong Bao / The Last Embrace) [arr. MICappella’s Weijin].
  • Freeman goes next with 陈力 Chen Li’s 《枉凝眉》 (Wang Ning Mei / Eyebrows Frowning in Vain) [arr. Freeman].
  • MICappella then sings 卢广仲 Crowd Lu’s “OH YEAH” [arr. MICappella’s Peter]. [Me: Put this on iTunes, and take my money! ;)]
  • Freeman ends with 王力宏 Leehom Wang’s 《龙的传人》 (Long De Chuan Ren / Descendants of the Dragon) [arr. Freeman]

[That was awesome.]

Now the remaining 350 audience members will get to vote. Freeman comes out on top 235-82. [I guess some people couldn’t decide.] After adding the earlier 240 votes (146-94), Freeman leads 381-176.

Finally, the main and guest judges will vote. Each judge’s vote counts as 20 audience votes (for a total of 240 votes from the 12 judges). Two members of SLIXS vote for MICappella. Everyone else votes for Freeman. The final score is 581-216 in favor of Freeman.

MICappella is the first runner-up.

And the season 1 champs of The Sing-Off China are the members of Freeman!

As the winning group, Freeman gets a trophy (for each group member), a Sony Music recording contract [Yes!!!], prize money provided by Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum, and the chance to represent China at an a cappella festival in America. [Which one?!!!! I want to see Freeman live! SoJam or BOSS please! Though I’m guessing it’ll more likely be LAAF…]

Congratulations to both groups!!! I look forward to hearing more fantastic a cappella from you and also to buying studio recordings of your music!

Sorry for the delay in getting this recap up. The post-competition gala episodes are now up: Episode 11 (the first half) and Episode 12 (the second half).

As always, I’d love to read your thoughts on this episode and on the overall competition.

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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 / Freemanvs. 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 commentsHost: 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?

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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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