Monday, September 19, 2011

The Sing-Off Set Visit: Returns for an Extended Third Season


Get those ears of yours in tune, America, because another televised singing competition is about to start but this time its all a cappella. That’s right, The Sing-Off is back for a third season of vocal powerhouses and I got the chance to visit the set for a taping of one of their new episodes and have a brief chat with host Nick Lachey and judge Ben Folds.

Nestled into Stage 15 on the Sony Pictures lot in Los Angeles, the set of The Sing-Off is an absolute joy to walk onto with vocal groups warming up all around you to make their wildly versatile voices primed to impress the judges and advance to the next round of competition. And this year, there are a whole lot more of those voices to go around with the series more than doubling its number of episodes from its first two years on the air.

“We’re bigger and we’re better!” boasted host Nick Lachey. “We’re up to 11 episodes from 5 last year so we’re like the little show that could and we’re able to showcase even more unbelievable talent, which I think is great.”

With so many music competition shows on the air right now I asked Lachey and Ben Folds, who acts as one of the show’s three judges, how they distinguish themselves to stand out from the crowd. “Well that’s pretty easy,” said Folds, “our show is rooted in a cappella competition and that engine is what makes us extremely different.”

“The structure and competition symbols of the show might be similar to other shows out there but the a cappella aspect gives it a whole different feeling that makes it really special,” continued Folds.

In a world of pop music dominated by auto-tune and electronic sounds I asked Folds if there was even a place for a cappella music on the scene and if the winners of their show have any hope of topping the charts in a such a climate. And to put it simply, he absolutely thinks there is. “A cappella is really a huge cultural movement and there is always room for it in the music industry. If anything, I think the hardest thing about this show is keeping the competition tense. The music is just so powerful that it creates an enormous generosity between the competing groups that they’re just happy for each other no matter what happens.”

And after sitting through a taping of an episode I can certainly vouch for that statement. They really do revel in the other groups’ performances and it is almost as fun to watch them watch each other perform as it is to see the performances themselves.

Since what I watched was actually the season’s 10th episode I can’t reveal much about what I saw but I will say that the talent on display is remarkable! After watching the final four teams perform I had absolutely zero envy for the judges who had to decide who should be sent home.

“That is of course the really hard part,” said Lachey, “as the host I find myself constantly encouraging and embracing them along the way so its hard to see them go.”

On top of more episodes the show also boasts a new judge this season to sit alongside Folds and Shawn Stockman of Boys II Men fame. Recording artist Sara Bareilles has joined the panel to replace Nicole Scherzinger who has moved on to be a judge on FOX’s The X-Factor. Together, the three judges bring a wealth of knowledge and experience as a cappella artists and can act as true mentors to the competing teams.

On a personal note Lachey confirmed that he has just returned to the recording booth to start work on his upcoming third solo album called ‘Soundtrack of My Life’ featuring cover songs from all of the movies that have touched him over the years and Folds will be releasing a compilation album of his greatest hits next month called ‘The Best Imitation of Myself’ that encompasses his solo work along with that of his trio Ben Folds Five.

The Sing-Off begins this Monday, September 19 at 8/7c on NBC.

Images courtesy of NBC.