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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?

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?

Welcome to The Sing-Off China competition episode 4!

The opening group number is 陶喆 David Tao’s 《找自己》 (Zhao Zi Ji / Find Myself).  The song is somewhat about wanting to escape from the harshness of reality into a dream world. It sounds okay, but I could have used a little bit more attitude from a few of the soloists. The random scatting near the end was also very odd…

As usual, our host is Mr. 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 in the blue shirt on the very right. Known for his jazz and vocal imitations of instruments.
  • 谭伊哲 (Tan Yi Zhe) – Judge in white on the very left. Music producer.
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge with the hat. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.

This episode’s format is similar to that of episode 2’s. Among the 6 groups, only 4 will advance. This episode consists of 2 rounds. In the 1st round, the groups will be divided into 3 pairs. After both groups in a pair have performed, judges will either advance one group or ask both groups to wait. At the end of the first round when all three pairs have performed, one group will be eliminated. In the second round, the remaining groups will perform another song, and the judges will then advance groups until two are left. The bottom two will each perform another song, and then the judges and 21 choir directors will vote for the group they want to save.

The pairings will be the following:

  • Pair 1梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers) vs. 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman) – Wyman: One group has been together for a really long time, and the other has just formed. We want to see which can do better. [He compares the situation to dating for 10 years before marriage vs. love at first sight.]
  • Pair 2蓝色警报 (Lan Se Jing Bao / Sirens Vocal Band) vs. 木塞子 (Mu Sai Zi / MUSE.S) – the battle between youthful mixed groups.
  • Pair 3Honey vs. 人声失控 (Ren Sheng Shi Kong / Voices Out of Control) – boys against girls.

Here we go. Round 1:

1) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Intro package – The group leader has been dedicating his life to a cappella, and he’s spent a lot of time recording a cappella. He often stays up late arranging music for the group.
  • 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). It’s a Tibetan song that praises Beijing and Chairman Mao.
  • My thoughts – Fantastic arrangement. I love how they modernized the song, and some of the chords are just delicious. I laughed (in a good way) at the sample of the Chinese national anthem. Sure, the intonation was a bit off at times, but nothing’s perfect.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Very brave arrangement. The Tibetan singing at the beginning was especially wonderful. That kind of singing is usually done by a female voice, and yet the male voice on this was great. I was pleasantly surprised.  Since you guys can arrange and perform something like “Bei Jing Jin Shan Shang,” could you be a bit braver and do one of my songs? Gu Feng: On The Sing-Off, each group is like a family inviting us to their home and acting like the gracious host. Your home was comfortable and welcoming. Your rooms (analogous to voice parts) were clearly separated/delineated and had a great atmosphere. I still have goosebumps from your performance. Wyman: The others are probably very familiar with and love this song, and so they probably gave you bonus sentimental points. I’ve never heard the song before, but I still thought it was amazing. I think you could record this, and it’d be a hit.

2) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Intro package – They’re “experts” at their own parts and are thus opinionated, so arguments inevitably occur.
  • Performance – 高胜美 Gao Sheng Mei’s 《千年等一回》 (Qian Nian Deng Yi Hui / Waiting 1000 Years for One Opportunity). This is the theme song from a classic TV adaptation of 《白蛇传》 (Bai She Zhuan / Legend of the White Snake), and it’s about the love story between the white snake maiden and a mortal man.
  • My thoughts – The arrangement itself was pretty decent. I feel ambivalent with regards to the beatboxer. He’s awesome, but there are moments where I wish he were more of a vocal percussionist rather than a beatboxer. Sometimes, his beats distract rather than complement the performance. I didn’t like the soloist. She tried to incorporate elements of Peking opera into her singing, and that just made her sound affected. This is such a classic love song, and she really didn’t convey the message of this epic love story.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: I have to say… you’re my favorite type. I used to love American and Japanese cartoons, the ones where people with special abilities team up to fight against some evil or problem. You remind me of that, and it makes me really curious what you’re going to do week to week. And to copy what Wei Wei said, I hope one day you do one of my songs.

The host then mentions how he heard that someone in the group got angry and slapped a table. It was the beatboxer Cheng Cheng. He was angry because he had to use a different type of mic than what he’s accustomed to. He says it turned out for the best; the feel and blend was better with the mic he had to use. He also says that his beatboxing has more feeling now that he’s performing with a group. [He demonstrates the difference.]

The host then asks the two groups about the areas in which they’re each stronger than the other. Freeman says they have more experience and have been together longer. Beatboxer Cheng Cheng says Freeman doesn’t have much pressure.

Judges’ Decision: Freeman advances. Dreamers have to wait and see.

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

  • Intro package – One of the guys is a super busy graduate student, so he can’t be in Shenzhen for all the rehearsals.
  • Performance – Connie Francis’ “Stupid Cupid”, apb. Mandy Moore
  • My thoughts – This is sounding great. This style fits the group well, and I really like the tempo changes in the arrangement. I would have preferred a little bit more drama from the soloist in the slow section, but otherwise, it was a very solid performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Tan Yi Zhe: I’m a bit afraid to look at your mezzo’s smile. Her smile and teeth are really nice. I loved their performance too much. It could be in both a musical or teen drama. I also really liked the “come hither” gesture that the mezzo made. It turned me from a smart producer to a dumb producer. Wei Wei: No more vocal erhu. This time we got vocal trumpet with a mute, and it sounded very real.

4) 木塞子 (Mu Sai Zi / MUSE.S)

  • Intro package – They’re under a lot of pressure and stress because they have to deal with school on top of the show.
  • Performance – Voco Novo’s 《我要去巴黎》 (Wo Yao Qu Ba Li / I Want to Go to Paris)
  • My thoughts – If you haven’t heard Voco Novo’s original version, go listen to it now. I’ll wait. Now as for MUSE.S’s performance… the biggest problem was their soloist. She just sang the notes without any emotion behind them, and she had pitch issues on top of that. It just didn’t work. The rest of the group needed more phrasing (like in the dah after a bunch of doo’s) and dynamics to make this performance more interesting.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: I was brought to Paris by their music, but I only made it to the hotel. There’s a type of music called elevator music. It sounds pleasant, but it’s not memorable.

The host says that after The Sing-Off, MUSE.S is splitting up because they’re all going their separate ways. Some of them are going abroad. However, they hope to reunite in the future.

Judges’ decision: Sirens, your cuteness and joyfulness have left a deep impression on the judges. Your love for music clearly shows in your performances. MUSE.S, you unconsciously expressed a kind of sad joyfulness. Both will wait and see.

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

  • Intro package – They went from a group with zero dance skills to a group that can sing and dance simultaneously.
  • Performance – 《拍手》 (Pai Shou / Clap Hands). This is an original song! The lyrics are about music and their dreams.
  • My thoughts – I definitely like this better than anything else they’ve sung. The song is actually quite catchy, and I like the little “la la la” section.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: There’s a designer called Helmut Lang. Why did he want to become a fashion designer? It’s because one day when he went shopping and couldn’t find any clothes that he would want to wear/buy, so he decided to make his own. I want to know why you chose to go with an original song. Voices: There are a lot of strong groups here. We wanted to sing one of our own songs, so that if we’re eliminated, we can leave without any regrets. Wei Wei: Pop songs really place emphasis on accents. I rarely hear you use any accented notes.

6) Honey

  • Intro package – They argue over not singing well. They want to work together and just do their best on stage.
  • Performance – 赵薇 Vicki Zhao’s 《小冤家》 (Xiao Yuan Jia / Little Rival). It’s a Chinese cover of the Carpenters’ “Jambalaya” and is about the love/hate relationship between two people.
  • My thoughts – I don’t think this was the best song choice for Honey. It’s hard to pull off cutesy and memorable at the same time. They sounded pretty decent in the intro, which makes me think they should go the Delilah route and do more “emotional” kind of songs.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: Your home is bigger than Freeman’s (more members = more rooms). Problem is most of your extra members are bedrooms. Why not have a study and an entertainment room? Basically, you should be more complete. Wyman: All I have to say is… someone should bring them some pants to wear and have them sing again. You look really pretty, but it’s distracting. You’re good enough without using your legs as a distraction.

Judges’ Decision: The all-male group is too mature. The all-female group is too green. Too mature means less creative space; too green means too much space. It’s hard to go with either, so both will wait and see.

Only one group (Freeman) has advanced. One group will be eliminated before the remaining 4 move onto round 2. Those 4 are Sirens, DreamersHoney, and Voices Out of Control.

MUSE.S is going home. The host says that they better keep their word about reuniting in the future. Their swan song is “Sing to the World.” [ETA: This song is composed and arranged by Voco Novo’s Christine Liu. It is also the theme song for Vocal Asia. (Thanks to Edison Hung for the info!)]

Now for round 2:

1) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Performance – 张惠妹 Amei Chang’s “Bad Boy” It’s about realizing that the other person is not good for you.
  • My thoughts – It started out well, but then the flow was interrupted by the beatbox solo. The first verse sounded really good. The bass in the chorus made the performance feel as though it was dragging a bit. The interlude needed more attitude from the various solos. It was still a very good performance though, and the beatboxing really fit the song this time around.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I used to be a drummer. The drums and bass are the foundation of the group, and they need to be the same intensity. Compared to how showy your beatboxer is, the bass seems a bit meek. Each time someone has a solo, he/she needs to own the stage like the beatboxer does.

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

  • Performance – 李宇春 Chris Lee’s 《我的心里只有你没有他》 (Wo De Xin Li Zhi You Ni Mei You Ta / You Are the Only One in My Heart). It’s a Chinese cover of Laura Fygi’s “Historia De Un Amor.”
  • My thoughts – I really liked the vibe on this, and the soloist sounds great. The bass is a little soft in the mix at times, which makes the performance sound a little thin at times. The breakdown is awesome – definitely the best part. It adds the needed contrast and provides a nice change in the groove.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: You’re already on your fourth song. The vibe you’ve given off for each song has been youthfulness. I think you should be crazier. It’s like you already have the cake base. Now it’s time to add more interesting toppings.

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

  • Performance – Aerosmith’s “Dream On”
  • My thoughts – Horrible song choice. Why would you pick an Aerosmith song when you can’t really do justice to a Steven Tyler solo? And if you absolutely had to pick an Aerosmith song, why would you pick “Dream On” when it’s one of the hardest songs to pull off? I could say more, but I’ll just leave it there.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: There’s still a rhythm issue. If you spend time learning the proper English pronunciation for each line, the right accents would come out.

4) Honey

  • Performance – 李玟 Coco Lee’s 《美丽笨女人》 (Mei Li Ben Nü Ren / Beautiful Stupid Woman). The song is about female empowerment.
  • My thoughts – This song was a better fit for Honey than their first song. Generally, it sounded pretty good. The arrangement worked well for them. I think they just needed more time to clean up pitch and rhythm.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: Previously, you girls all felt the same to me.  Now we’ve discovered three can solo really well. Hopefully, you’ll continue to show us surprises like that.

Now the judges will advance two groups, leaving the other two groups to compete for the last spot.  The two groups to advance are Sirens and Dreamers, which means the bottom 2 are Honey and Voices Out of Control. The bottom 2 will each perform one more song. Then the 21 choir directors and the 4 judges will vote on whom to save.

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

  • Performance – Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started”
  • My thoughts – Ugh. Why why why would you choose this song when rap isn’t your forte and especially when’s in English?  The arrangement/performance had some really nice moments. I just can’t get past the horrible rapping.

2) Honey

  • Performance – 张惠妹 A-mei Chang’s 《姐妹》 (Jie Mei / Sisters).
  • My thoughts – This was not great. I will just attribute it to being too emotional and not having enough rehearsal time. Having to learn so many songs in a week is tough, especially on such a new group.

The 21 choir directors are voting. Most of the ones voting for Honey mention the cute factor. The voting result is: Voices Out of Control – 15, Honey – 6.

Judges’ Votes

  • Gu Feng: Yes, you are ladies, but you’re also adults. You cried again… I hope this is a good learning experience for you. But a competition is a competition, so I vote for Voices Out of Control.
  • Wyman: I think Honey did lose a bit of control, so I’m voting for Voices Out of Control.
  • Wei Wei: I’m going to give my vote to your sisters. I think you’ll understand. My vote is for Honey.
  • Tan Yi Zhe: Since the outcome is pretty clear, just smile, like me. My vote is for Honey. You need more practice, but I have faith in you.

So the final vote is: Voices Out of Control 17, Honey 8. Voices Out of Control is advancing while Honey is heading home.

Because members of Freeman actually taught the two groups, the host asks Freeman for a few comments. Liang Zi says the girls started from nothing and had to work very hard. They’ve done very well with what they’ve been given.

The representative for Honey says they’ve learned and improved so much from this competition. They will keep working hard. Their swan song is Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know.”

[Me: Honey, keep singing! Lead the way for all-female a cappella in China.]

The 4 groups from Bracket 8 entering the Top 8 are: FreemanDreamers, Sirens, and Voices Out of Control.

Next week, the two brackets finally meet!

[I had iffy internet for the past few days, so sorry for the delay!]

Now that the top 4 from bracket A has been named, it is time to introduce bracket B! Welcome to The Sing-Off China, episode 3.

For the opening number, the 8 groups bring us 杨培安 Yang Pei An’s 《我相信》 (Wo Xiang Xin / I Believe). The song is about optimism and believing in oneself, and it’s probably my favorite opening number thus far. The arrangement does a good job of conveying the message of the song, and while some of the soloists sound better than the others, the performance is lovely. (I really didn’t care for the camera work during the VP fill near the end though…)

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

  • 韦唯 (Wei Wei) – The female judge. Well-known Chinese diva.
  • 黄伟文 (Huang Wei Wen, English name: Wyman Wong) – The bald judge in the black shirt. Well-known Cantonese pop lyricist.
  • 谷峰 (Gu Feng) – Judge on the very right. Known for his jazz and vocal imitations of instruments
  • 谭伊哲 (Tan Yi Zhe) – Judge in the black jacket on the very left. Music producer.

This episode’s format is similar to that of episode 1’s. Among the 8 groups, only 6 will move onto the next episode. After each group’s first performance, the judges will critique and decide whether the group moves on or has to wait. The judges can only advance 3 groups based on their first performance. After all 8 groups have performed, one will be eliminated, and the remaining 4 will perform another song. The judges will then pick the 3 groups they liked best.

First round of performances:

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

  • Intro package – None of the members are music majors, and they aren’t great at reading sheet music. They’re called the Sirens because when a siren goes off, everyone notices. They want people to notice and listen to them when they sing.
  • Performance – 张震岳 A-Yue Chang’s 《自由》 (Zi You / Freedom). It’s about two people breaking up.
  • My thoughts – The arrangement had some nice moments, but with only five people, the sound was a bit thin. The intro was cool in concept but sounded too exposed. I think a choral approach with the other members harmonizing with the solo line would have been more effective. The VP breakdown was great. The chords in the bridge were nice, but I think some of them could have benefited from different voicings.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: You helped me understand the importance of song choice. As a judge, I want groups to make me feel like they’re my friends through their singing. You succeeded today. Wei Wei: These five people seem very natural, and they have their own kind of feel.
  • Judges’ decision – Wait and see.

2)  AHA

  • Intro package – They came together because of a cappella, and they feel like a family.
  • Performance – “Chili Con Carne” [apb. The Real Group]
  • My thoughts – This isn’t a bad performance, but I don’t really feel anything from it. There were some pitch and balance issues, and some of the rhythms were not precise enough. The biggest problem with a song like this is really the lack of an emotional connection. I hope the group chooses a different type of song next time because they do have the talent.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: It’s nice to finally hear something with a Latin feel on this stage, but I feel that you don’t really understand Latin music. The bass shouldn’t always be just one kind of groove. The VP felt like a beatbox, but Latin drums have a lot of other little sounds. The performance was essentially missing some spice. Wyman: I actually thought it was too full and too busy. Wei Wei: I thought your technique was great.
  • Judges’ decision – Because their technique is rather good, the judges want to hear them again. Wait and see.

3) 木塞子 (Mu Sai Zi / MUSE.S)

  • Intro package – They are a collegiate a cappella group from Guangzhou. They are all different majors who were brought together by a cappella.
  • Performance – 刘欢 Liu Huan’s 《弯弯的月亮》 [apb. Club For Five] This song is about looking up at the moon and reminiscing about one’s hometown.
  • My thoughts – I absolutely love Club For Five’s arrangement and performance, so this one falls short for me. The soloist does a pretty smooth rendition but could have been more emotional. I’m hearing some pitch problems, and the girls aren’t quite blending with the rest of the group. I also thought the “deng” echoes were unnecessary.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Your solo was very captivating at first, but I didn’t feel it enough. Your movements and your solo did not have the same level of conviction. You should sing as though you’re telling a story. Tan Yi Zhe: It sounded great. Then the vocal erhu started, and I started laughing. His posture didn’t look great.
  • Judges’ decision – Wait and see.

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

  • Intro package – They believe that singing a cappella is about being modern and popular. They’re here to win.
  • Performance – Jay Sean’s “Down” [apb. NoTa]
  • My thoughts – I don’t care for this performance either. This group has a lot of potential, but singing a NoTa arrangement was just not a good idea. Trying to imitate without understanding the aspects of NoTa’s sound just made the VP and horns breakdown sound weak. The soloist also doesn’t have the “oomph” needed to sing this song.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: [Not fully understanding what he’s saying…] You don’t have to dance the entire time. You could start with mic stands at first and then start dancing halfway through. You’re a very mature group, but there’s a fine line between well-practiced and insincere. I can’t tell which you are. Wyman: How old is the soloist? [24] Your pants are too short. I’d add some socks if I were you.
  • Judges’ decision – The four groups they’ve seen thus far were all good, but none of them were especially good. Wait and see.

5) 梦想家 (Meng Xiang Jia / Dreamers)

  • Intro package – They’re a new group that was formed to compete in The Sing-Off China. They had to replace two members last minute. This is their first time performing on stage together.
  • Performance – Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You”
  • My thoughts – Wow. For a new group, this is a very mature arrangement and sound. I’m actually really digging the solo and bass. The only really questionable moments were the soprano’s “di da doo’s” and the fake-out ending.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: His solo really touched me. He fully immersed himself in the music. What’s also interesting is that these people are all really good at what they do [which is singing?], and yet you brought all of them together.
  • Judges’ decision – Advance.

6) 自由人 (Zi You Ren / Freeman)

  • Intro package – Many soccer teams have a player called a libero (aka sweeper). The libero is a very versatile player who can handle many different positions. They wish to be as strong and versatile as a libero when it comes to music.
  • Performance – 陈力 Chen Li’s 《枉凝眉》 (Wang Ning Mei / Eyebrows Frowning in Vain). The song is from the TV adaptation of the classic novel 《红楼梦》 (Hong Lou Meng / Dream of the Red Chamber) and is about the tragedy that befalls two star-crossed lovers.
  • My thoughts – Whoa. That was fantastic. Great song choice (really fits the group), very nice arrangement, and lovely vocal imitations (especially the xiao, the Chinese vertical flute).
  • Post-performance comments – This is a group of teachers. One of the guys is ET’s teacher, and another teaches Xin Sheng Jia Dao (New Sounds Have Arrived).
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: This was a really brave song choice. I really admire your talent. You did a great job of taking this classic Chinese song and giving it a more international kind of feel. [Host interlude] Host: So this guy with glasses. His wife is home pregnant. Do you want to say anything or sing anything to her? [The guy sings 苏芮 Su Rui’s 《牵手》 (Qian Shou / Holding Hands).]
  • Judges’ decision – Advance.

7) Honey

  • Intro package – They claim to be China’s first all-female a cappella group. Men have an Adam’s apple and can make certain sounds that women can’t. There is a degree of difficulty to being a female beatboxer. This is their first time on TV and in a competition, so they’re super nervous.
  • Performance – Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want From Me” [apb. Delilah]
  • My thoughts – Well, I’m glad they didn’t try to tackle “Grenade” instead. The tempo was rather inconsistent in the beginning, but I suppose that can be attributed to nerves. The group sounds okay, but there were some pitch issues here and there. The rhythm isn’t quite as clean as it could be, and I think the performance could have benefited from a greater range of dynamics. I’m curious to see what they’ll sing next.
  • Judges’ comments – Tan Yi Zhe: Your clothing is very bright. I’m a single producer. Your higher voices were great, but your middle and lower voices need more work. It’s okay; I can help you. Gu Feng: Well, you can ask me too.
  • Judges’ decision – Wait and see.

8) 平衡木(Ping Heng Mu / Balance Beam)

  • Intro package – They’re a group from Shanghai, and they’re all about balance – gender balance, sound balance, etc.
  • Performance – Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”
  • My thoughts – *sigh* Another “Rolling in the Deep” cover… It was a good idea to gender swap the solo, but I didn’t care for the main soloist. He sounded a bit too generic and didn’t really bring anything to the solo. The arrangement, however, was nice for such an over-covered song though the group does need to work on intonation. The bass sounded solid.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: It was too balanced. It lacked personality. Also, on the “ba ba ba’s” in the breakdown, I got bored when you sang it so many times without adding new elements to it. Tan Yi Zhe: The best part was your ending pose, but other than that, I was sort of sleeping through your performance.
  • Judges’ decision – Wait and see.

Since the judges only advanced 2 groups so far, they get to advance one more, and that’s Honey.

As for the group going home, it’s Balance Beam. The group representative says they have gotten so much stronger as a group after all the time and effort they put into rehearsing. They hope to keep singing together. Their swan song is an original song called “Ready to Fly,” and it’s about chasing one’s dreams. [Me: An original song?! Awesome. Please keep singing and songwriting!]

Second round of performances:

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

  • Performance – Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”
  • My thoughts – Hm, interesting groove. The arrangement seems like it might have been inspired NoTa’s. It’s a nice and chill performance. One problem with that is it’s a bit too low key. It sounds good but doesn’t seem special – there’s no “wow” moment.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Gu Feng: I’m just going to talk about the groove. If a Jamaican were to hear your performance, they’d think that something sounded off. You need to study reggae some more. Reggae’s strong beat isn’t on the first beat.

2) AHA

  • Performance – 邓丽君 Teresa Teng’s 《南海姑娘》 (Nan Hai Gu Niang / South China Sea Girl) and 李香兰 Li Xiang Lan’s 《夜来香》 (Ye Lai Xiang / Evening Primrose). “Nan Hai Gu Niang” is a classic while “Ye Lai Xiang” is a Chinese standard.
  • My thoughts – I’m still not connecting with their performance. The bass sounds off for some reason, and I wasn’t a fan of the “Ye Lai Xiang” portion… The soloist and arrangement just didn’t work for me.
  • Judges’ thoughts – Wyman: Your performance transported me to a beach-themed night club, and then when you sang “Ye Lai Xiang”, I was transported to Shanghai in the 1930s. I think it’s great that you can transport the audience to another place with your music.

3) 木塞子 (Mu Sai Zi / MUSE.S)

  • Performance – Wonder Girls’ “Nobody”
  • My thoughts – Ooh, nice intro. I’m not a huge fan of the soloist, but I suspect it may be because of her having to sing in Korean. The tenors sound off at times, and the alto is still not quite blending at times. Overall, this is a lot of fun, and I like it better than their first performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Wyman: I feel like the true Wonder Girls spirit was only expressed by one of the guys – the one with glasses in the middle. Can I see it one more time? They’re not the best dancers, but their dancing is really cute. It felt very earnest and sincere.

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

  • Performance – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”
  • My thoughts – I liked this better than their first performance. The soloist sounded more convincing on this than on “Down.” The arrangement felt a bit stagnant in the middle. I was starting to get a bit bored before the breakdown, which sounded kind of random. The ending was nice though.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: You made it sound like Korean pop. This song has such a strong beat, and you made it sound a bit bland. You didn’t really try to understand the song, but I think you have the potential.

Voices Out of Control, Sirens, and MUSE.S advance to the next episode, which means AHA is going home. The group representative says they’re going to continue working hard and singing together. Their swan song is 苏芮 Su Rui’s 《奉献》 (Feng Xian / Dedicate) and is about dedicating oneself to loved ones.

The top 6 from bracket B are: Dreamers, Freeman, Honey, Voices Out of Control, Sirens, and MUSE.S.

——————–

Generally, I do feel that the groups in bracket B are slightly stronger, but I do think they need to be more careful about song choice. Since it’s just the first episode for bracket B, I can understand about picking whatever songs are comfortable for the group. However, in the future, groups should play to their strengths. Pick songs that they can convincingly solo and that they can connect with.

——————–

Next week, we’ll see the top 6 in bracket B compete for 4 spots!

How do you think these groups did? Which groups do you think will advance in the next episode? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Thank you to everyone who read and/or commented on my recap of episode 1. Now it’s time for episode 2!

The opening group number is 张雨生 Tom Chang’s 《我的未来不是梦》 (Wo De Wei Lai Bu Shi Meng / My Future is Not a Dream). The bass sounds a bit off in the first verse, but it all comes together in the chorus. This is very tastefully arranged, such that it works well for a large group number and puts the focus on the soloists. A nice performance from our top 6 in bracket A.

Our host for the evening is once again Mr. 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 in the grey shirt on the very left. Known for his jazz and vocal imitations of instruments.
  • 谭伊哲 (Tan Yi Zhe) – Judge in the white shirt and black jacket on the very right. Music producer.
  • Deke Sharon – The godfather of contemporary a cappella and producer for the U.S. version of The Sing-Off.

Among the 6 groups, only 4 will advance. The show tonight consists of 2 rounds. In the 1st round, the groups will be divided into 3 pairs. After both groups in a pair have performed, judges will either advance one group or ask both groups to wait. At the end of the first round when all three pairs have performed, one group will be eliminated.

The pairings will be the following:

  • Pair 1: 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice) vs 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella) – Wei Wei: I think these two groups have a lot of experience, so it will be like a fight between the pros.
  • Pair 2: ET vs 新声驾到 (Xin Sheng Jia Dao / New Sounds Have Arrived) – Wei Wei: They’re both full of youth and energy. They bring a teen idol kind of vibe.
  • Pair 3: Hey Boy vs 山麻雀 (Shan Ma Que / Russet Sparrow)

For the 2nd round, they’ve invited 21 choir conductors and music directors to help them decide on the final elimination. More on the 2nd round format later.

Here we go. Round 1:

1) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Intro package – They’re performing a snippet of 陶喆 David Tao’s 《沙滩》 (Sha Tan / Beach). It sounds promising. They’ve been living together for the past few months, and that has really helped the group’s blend and cohesiveness. They’ve started paying even more attention to the details, and their sound has matured.
  • Performance – 凤凰传奇 Phoenix Legend’s 《月亮之上》 (Yue Liang Zhi Shang / On the Moon). The song is about someone missing and waiting for a loved one.
  • My thoughts – Ooh, great song choice. I’ve always been a fan of songs that mixed pop music elements with more traditional Chinese styles. I liked the way they arranged the intro. Lots of nice chords. The female soloist is a little weak when compared to the original soloist, but generally, she sounds fine, except on a few of the higher notes. I didn’t like the guy on the folk singing part. I feel like this kind of singing requires more control and technique whereas he just sounded like he was screaming. The rapping was pretty good – good flow and very confident sounding. I would have liked a nice crescendo into that final section. Ooh, vocal erhu – very nice! Overall, this was great. Good song choice, good arrangement, and good performance.
  • Judges’ commentsDeke: This is the sound that I flew 4000 miles to hear – the marriage of traditional Mongolian folk songs and American hip hop, erhu and rap and a cappella. Tan Yi Zhe: This song was such a huge hit. Your a cappella version gave this song a brand new feel. I love you guys!

2) 麦克疯 (Mai Ke Feng / MICappella)

  • Intro package – They’re in this competition to make new friends and to share their music. Girl: “My voice tends to be quiet, so when we’re singing together, I need to make myself sing louder. We need to improve our choreography.” They spend a lot of time practicing things over and over again.
  • Performance – 陶喆 David Tao’s 《月亮代表谁的心》 (Yue Liang Dai Biao Shui De Xin / Whose Heart Does the Moon Represent). The song is about a lover asking “How deeply do you love me?” and the person replying “My love is very real. The moon represents my heart.” The chorus is derived from 邓丽君 Teresa Teng’s classic 《月亮代表我的心》 (Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin / The Moon Represents My Heart).
  • My thoughts – Very nice arrangement. The chords are not quite locking into place at some spots; I think the problem lies in the upper voices. The vocal erhu felt a little unnecessary/gimmicky. The last chorus sounded fantastic! Now, since MICappella is directly competing with Strong Voice, I’d say they probably lost the duel due to song choice. Strong Voice picked a more “epic” sounding song (and pulled it off), which made MICappella’s choice seem a lot more low key.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: When compared with Strong Voice, your group seemed weaker with regards to song choice and arrangement. [Me: Well, song choice greatly affects how the song itself is arranged…] The girl in your group [not sure which one she’s referring to] really knows how to sing. Why didn’t you have her sing as well? Gu Feng: Speaking of the soloist, you did vocal erhu as well, but I can tell you’ve never played erhu before. The girl from Strong Voice was even worse (at pretending to play erhu). Nobody plays erhu with their left hand like that. Let’s have the two erhu’s duel. My opinion is that if you’re performing in a group and you’re going to imitate an instrument like the erhu, then you want to call attention to yourself by mimicking the actions of playing that instrument, and you want to do that accurately.

Judges’ Decision: They have not heard enough, so both groups will wait and see.

3) ET

  • Intro package – The group is having some fun bantering – making fun of each other, calling each other crazy, etc. We’ll do our best in each round
  • Performance – Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” [apb. Pentatonix]
  • My thoughts – Another Pentatonix arrangement, so I can only talk about execution. The intro is sounding really really good. It sounds like there are few intonation issues in the bass, especially when he goes low right before the chorus. Other than that, the performance is nice. It’s hard to say anything else since I’ve already heard the Pentatonix version…
  • Post-performance commentsHost: How many of you have experienced what this song is about? ET: … Host: How many of you have dated?
  • Judges’ comments – Deke: You guys remind me so much of Pentatonix. [Me: lol!] You brought a lot of power and strength to the song. The beginning was captivating and captivating and then you lost the song a bit. It all began to fall apart a little bit, but you had passion, which is the most important part. I want to especially point out you, Ke Da. The solo you performed was so much more mature than your years. Beautiful voice. Can you sing a little more for us? [Ke Da then sings a snippet of 徐若瑄 Vivian Hsu’s 《爱笑的眼睛》 (Ai Xiao De Yan Jing / Smiling Eyes)] Wei Wei: I really liked that you finally started expressing your emotions (through song).

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

  • Intro package – The group says they’re a little shaky when it comes to the basics – intonation and rhythm. Our musical style is a bit like our personality – very powerful. They’re working really hard every day, and even though they’re a new group, they believe they can go far. [Note: I forgot to mention last time that their group name is a play on words. 新声 (xin sheng / new sounds) has the same pronunciation as 新生 (xin sheng / freshmen). Since they’re a group of freshmen, the host gets to make some puns with that.]
  • Performance – The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” [apb. Pentatonix]
  • My thoughts – Another Pentatonix arrangement. Oh, and Pentatonix choreography. I’m hearing intonation issues in the tenor part. The soloist was decent, and the performance was fine. Once again, it’s hard to critique when I’ve already seen the Pentatonix version.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: I feel you’ve improved a lot in just a week. You had a lot of groove changes – fast and slow. Very impressive. Tan Yi Zhe: I like you guys. I must give you a standing ovations. Deke: You remind me of the Beatles. They were silly, and they were young. Then they grew up and changed music history. Keep going. That’s only 3 months? That’s amazing.

The host asks ET: “What do you have that New Sounds doesn’t have?” ET: “Passion.” New Sounds: “Wrong. Sorry man. We have passion too.” Then they proceed to talk about silly things they have that ET doesn’t have.

Judges’ decision: New Sounds, you just formed 3 months ago. You need more time to get better, so we want to give you more time to practice. You get to advance. ET has to wait.

5) 山麻雀 (Shan Ma Que / Russet Sparrow)

  • Intro package – They’re actually a 7-member group. Their 7th member couldn’t come because she was worried about possibly being fired from her job. They spend a lot of time memorizing their movements while also focusing on their facial expressions.
  • Performance – 《勒浪特》 (Le Lang Te). The song is about being happy and expressing that happiness.
  • My thoughts – Like I said last time, I know nothing about this kind of music. That said, I think they sound great, and they have amazing voices. I’m really glad that they’re in the competition representing China’s ethnic folk music. Unfortunately, I don’t see them going too far in the competition simply because this show tends to favor contemporary a cappella.
  • Post-performance comments  – Host: You’ve shown us great Lisu ethnic music, dance, and outfits. Have you also learned things from other groups like rap, bass, or beatbox? Shan Ma Que: Yes, MICappella taught us a little bit. [demonstrates] [Me: Awwww. Adorable!]
  • Judges’ comments – Deke: Ladies, you warm my heart. In America, Shangri-La is a dream place. Now I know what exists in Shangri-La. Wei Wei: I have to say you are my favorite. You really epitomize what a cappella means. You’re great.

6) Hey Boy

  • Intro package – One of the guys is talking about how he used to have rhythm issues and how taking a music class helped. The guys are practicing hard and when one of the guys says “That’s good enough,” another guy says “No, it needs to be the best.”
  • Performance – 宋祖英 Song Zu Ying’s 《辣妹子》 (La Mei Zi / Spicy (Feisty) Girl). It’s considered a Hunan folk song and is about a feisty girl who’s not afraid of spicy peppers.
  • My thoughts – Inventive arrangement. Hm, pitch is a little off at times. The guy in mostly red had a shaky solo line. I like these guys a lot, and I’m curious to see what they’ll do next.
  • Judges’ comments – Tan Yi Zhe: Before this, you lacked a bit of diversity, but today with your staging, harmony, counter melody, and musical structure, you did it all. I like you guys! Gu Feng: Originally you had a very cute unsophisticated/hickish kind of feel. [Me: Not the best translation. It’s not really intended to be an insult.] But today I heard a walking bass and a Michael Jackson kind of feel. It surprised me and made me forget any weaknesses in your performance.

Judges’ Decision: Both groups will have to wait and see.

Only one group (New Sounds) has advanced. One group will be eliminated before the remaining 4 move onto round 2. Those 4 are MICappella, Hey Boy, Shan Ma Que, and Strong Voice.

ET is going home. They talk about how being on The Sing-Off is a dream come true, and they wish the best of luck to all the other groups. Their swan song is Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” [apb. Pentatonix].

[Me: ET, I hope you continue singing together. I give you a lot of crap about using Pentatonix’s arrangements, but it takes talent to pull off those arrangements. Use what you’ve learned from them to develop your own sound and to apply that to Chinese music.]

In round 2, the remaining 4 will each perform once, and then the judges (and I guess choir directors) will decide the 3 groups that get to advance.

Round 2:

1) 壮声 (Zhuang Sheng / Strong Voice)

  • Performance – 凤飞飞 Feng Fei Fei’s 《爱你在心口难开》 (Ai Ni Zai Xin Kou Nan Kai / Loving You is Hard to Say). It’s a Chinese cover of The Crickets’s “More Than I Can Say.”
  • My thoughts – The first verse of this sounds like Committed’s arrangement of “Every Breath You Take.” The “bew bew bew” line in the second chorus was a bit distracting. The last chord of the second chorus was really nice, but the cutoff was messy, which reduced its effectiveness. Overall, good performance.
  • Judges’ comments – Gu Feng: Even though you altered the feel in the middle of the song, your groove stayed consistent throughout. I hope the next time you sing such an old classic, you bring even more new ideas to the table.

2) 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). It’s a Taiwanese dialect song about a guy breaking up with a girl who has fallen out of love with him.
  • My thoughts – I like how this was arranged. The awesome bass line and VP provide the groove while the other parts focus on the harmonic texture. That collective step before the chorus repetition was really cool because if you’re going to repeat the chorus several times, then you really need to make it interesting somehow for the audience.  The soloist sounded a little weak on the first verse, but once he got to the chorus, it was great. His falsetto also had a few rough spots. I absolutely love their VP though.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: Everyone did their role very well. You took such a simple melody and made it sound so rich and yet not overly complex. You gave us a lot of passion.

3) 山麻雀 (Shan Ma Que / Russet Sparrow)

  • Performance – 才旦卓玛 Cai Dan Zhuo Ma’s 《再唱山歌给党听》 (Zai Chang Shan Ge Gei Gang Ting / Sing Another Song for the [Communist] Party)
  • My thoughts – I preferred their first song.
  • Judges’ comments – Wei Wei: This was my favorite song in preschool/kindergarten, and it was the song that led me towards my path as a singer. I think your key was a little low. This is usually a solo song. I think if you were to sing it right, you would need a really bright sound, but none of you went into that range.

4) Hey Boy

  • Performance – 《嘿 妹妹》 (Hei Mei Mei / Hey Younger Sister). I think the song is singing about the innocence of youth. I could be wrong, so correct me if I am.
  • My thoughts – I think this is my least favorite Hey Boy performance thus far. I think I like it best when they combine elements of contemporary a cappella with their sound. That’s a personal preference though. That last bell chord was a nice surprise.
  • Judges’ comments – Tan Yi Zhe: You’re very good at playing to your strengths.  Other people have really strong beatbox whereas you just used it at the end. It was very tasteful and effective. Your tenor has great pitch.

Now the judges will advance two groups, leaving the other two groups to compete for the last spot. The first to advance is MICappella. According to the judges, MICappella didn’t meet their expectations in round 1 but did so in round 2. Strong Voice is also advancing, which means the bottom 2 are Hey Boy and Shan Ma Que. The bottom will each perform one more song. Then the 21 choir directors and the 4 judges will vote on who to save.

1) Hey Boy

  • Performance – Beyond’s 《海阔天空》 (Hai Kuo Tian Kong / Boundless Oceans Vast Skies). The song is about following your dreams and ideals.
  • My thoughts – This is an epic-ish song, which means it’s generally hard to do it justice. You really need a good arrangement and soloist. I don’t think Hey Boy had that. The arrangement wasn’t horrible, but there were questionable moments like the “doo doo doo” quarter notes in the first verse. The soloist sounded hesitant for some reason (he’s usually great), and that’s a no-no for this song. Maybe the guys were feeling very emotional or nervous because they were in the bottom 2, and that affected their performance?

2) 山麻雀 (Shan Ma Que / Russet Sparrow)

  • Performance – 李娜 Li Na’s 《青藏高原》 (Qing Zang Gao Yuan / The Tibetan Plateau). This is a very very popular folk song about the Tibetan Plateau.
  • My thoughts – They sound great (especially that soloist!) on this although they’re not as together rhythm-wise as they can be.

The 21 choir directors are voting. Most of them are saying that they love Shan Man Que and that their song has touched them. However, it is still a competition, so they have to go with Hey Boy. The voting result is: Hey Boy – 18, Shan Ma Que – 3.

Judges’ Votes

  • Gu Feng: I was touched by the purity of your sound and your personalities. I hope you go back and teach some of that beatboxing to your kids. I vote for Shan Ma Que.
  • Deke: [to Shan Ma Que] From the way you sang the last two songs and told us you were not expecting to still be here. And the look in your eyes, I can tell the three mothers are ready to be home with their children. And when I look at Hey Boy, I see the future. I see a cappella with the tradition of China and the future of global music coming together. And for this reason, I’d like to give another chance to Hey Boy.
  • Wei Wei: [to Shan Ma Que] You already knew what the result would be, and yet you remain so happy and satisfied while watching the other group. This time your sound was what it should be. It touched me. But you already know that I can’t vote for you, my favorite group.
  • Tan Yi Zhe: Shan Ma Que has the most consistent pitch in the competition. They just don’t know (contemporary/western) harmony. If they had teachers working with them on harmony and music theory, they would beat their competition. I vote for them.

So the final vote is: Hey Boy – 20, Shan Ma Que – 5. Hey Boy is advancing while Shan Ma Que is heading home.

Shan Ma Que thanks everyone and says this was a great experience. They loved making new friends and also getting to meet Wei Wei in person.  Wei Wei then goes on stage and hugs them. Finally for their swan song, they’re singing 《欢迎你来到香格里拉》 (Huan Ying Ni Lai Dao Xiang Ge Li La / Welcome to Shangri-La).

[Me: Shan Ma Que, keep singing and smiling! I loved your presence on this show.]

The 4 groups from Bracket 8 entering the Top 8 are: Strong Voice, MICappella, New Sounds, and Hey Boy.

Next week, we get to meet the second bracket of 8 groups!