'The Sing-Off' premiere: Keen singing and swan songs | EW.com

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'The Sing-Off' premiere: Keen singing and swan songs

I didn’t expect much from The Sing-Off, the new a capella competition show that combines American Idol, Glee, and America’s Got Talent with host Nick Lachey and the sad little caterpillar pasted to his upper lip. But during its two-hour premiere, The Sing-Off offered some pleasures both intentional and inadvertent.

Some of the groups, culled from around the country, were Glee-fully good and others were bad (no surprise that Face was sent home – over-emoting the already over-the-top “Livin’ On A Prayer” just doomed those guys). A couple of the acts – Voices of  Lee; Noteworthy – made such a point of emphasizing their religiosity in their taped introductions, I wondered when one of them was going to realize that one of their opponents was a bunch called the Beelzebubs. Beelzebub. As in demon. As in Satan. Don’t let those nice blazers the Bubs wore fool you, kids! E-e-e-e-k! Run for your lives! (For the record, I thoroughly support the Beelzebubs, as the group was founded in 1962 and named by a Tufts student who was reading Paradise Lost, thus the source of their name.)

But getting back to running for your life: Maxx Factor, the all-female barbershop quartet, broke into a version of “Rehab” that was meant to make us chuckle warmly and say, “Awww, see? The ladies covered an Amy Winehouse song – how racy!” I was racing to the fridge for a soda before they finished that bit of cutesiness.

This being the post-Susan Boyle era of TV competition judging, no act was ridiculed in the making of this show. And I do have to say that Ben Folds is my new favorite TV judge, hands down. The once-and-future Ben Folds Five leader was smart, articulate, funny, and perhaps the only person currently on TV who can use “keen” as a word of praise and not seem like he’s reading from an old Archie comic book.

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The other two judges seemed cast as types. Former Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman took the Randy Jackson role (“Wow, wow!”; “Pitchy”), while Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger was the Paula Abdul effusive-babbler (“Your voices are limitless!”).

When Lachey explained that each group voted off would sing a parting tune, he said, “We call it their ‘swan song’ ” – as though he thought the term “swan song” was some mysterious foreign phrase that only inside-the-biz folks could possibly comprehend without him enunciating very carefully.

All in all, kinda fun. Will I stick around to see which act that you-you-you will be voting for to win the cash prize and the Sony Records contract? Probably not. But e-mail me if Voices of Lee ever looks up “beelzebub” in the dictionary…

Did you watch The Sing-Off? What did you think?