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[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.

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