Monday, March 18, 2013

When Singing Pigs Fly

The Sing-Off…a relic of our former mainstream a cappella days, has miraculously returned!
I’d like to think that this was karma’s way of paying me back for making me fat, but really, it’s because a cappella has gotten a lot more popular over the last two years.
Yes, it’s true ladies and gentlemen. NBC has brought the series back and auditions are posted online now.
But there’s always that small demon in your ear that’s saying…
Is it back for good? Are we going to get multiple seasons or just one more?
Speaking as someone who has zero hours of professional television experience, but millions of hours watching television eating potato chips, here’s my opinion on how the Sing-Off can stay for good from a purely outside perspective.
1) Find a happy medium season
Season 1 was four episodes long and aired in mid-December. Season 2 was 6 episodes long. Season 3 took some steroids and upped its game to 16 episodes.
You see the problem? 1 and 2 were too short. 3 was too long. We want to remember our favorites but get to the ending without overtaxing it.
2) Mondays are stupid.
The Sing-off was up against the CBS comedy block powerhouse, Fox Network’s House, and ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
And we still pulled in 3-5 million viewers!
Obviously, that wasn’t enough to save the show from cancellation. But if NBC makes the wrong scheduling call, we are just going to run into the same problem again. NBC, here’s what you need to do. Either put the show in a time slot where it isn’t going to mangled by the competition, or consider the fact that 3-5 million viewers is a SIGNIFICANT win. (Plus, it outperformed “Whitney” which is the worst show ever, but NBC renewed it and no one is really sure why)
3) Vary the challenges.
It was clear to me (at least) that after 10 episodes of season 3, the show was starting to run out of ideas for song categories.
Couldn’t we try competing with GLEE? Couldn’t you do a Broadway night? A comedy night? An indie night? A salute to Hollywood night? A television theme song night? A “take this really popular song and flip it upside down on its head” night?
Couldn’t you bring in guest mentors? Add some star power to the show?
I loved the final episode, when the groups performed with the judges. Do more of that.
4) Nick
Nick Lachey takes a lot on the chin. But from the stories I’ve heard, he works really hard and I respect that. Which means the problem doesn’t lie with him, it lies with whoever writes his material.
So to the writers…Please stop using terms like “Rapappella.” That’s not a thing, and Urban Method didn’t invent it (mastered it yes, invented it no). Please stop saying “swan song,” or at least vary it with something else. Please stop complimenting groups on how they “do all that with just their mouths.”
5) Give groups their due
I’m a big fan of Afro Blue. I’m a big fan of Ben Folds. But I did not like Ben Folds critique of Afro Blue, when during their rendition of “American Boy,” they added a musical quotation of “American The Beautiful.” I thought it was brilliant, and it sounded fantastic.
Not every group is going to be full of pop superstars. I know this is a television show, and ratings are the priority. But I also believe that being different sells. I felt like Afro Blue kept getting shut down week after week for their jazz style and, having seen Afro Blue in person before they were on the Sing-Off, they are at the pinnacle of vocal jazz a cappella.
6) Show me something new
Here’s an idea…show us a live riff-off. Even if it’s staged and rehearsed. Show us that it can be done and more people will want to do it.
Bring back more guest groups. Every week, give us a “host” group who performs one or two numbers. Show us that these former groups still exist and groups that aren’t on the Sing-off are just as successful.
Let groups play with costumes and lights. Make the groups do something more dramatic.
Like it or not, The Sing-Off is back with a vengeance. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Marc Silverberg
Follow the Quest for the A cappella Major

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