The YellowJackets can now be considered our very own primetime celebrities. On Monday night, the 15 singers kicked-off the third season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” Competing for the chance to win $200,000 and a Sony Music recording contract, the YellowJackets earned their place in the season premiere and advanced to the next round.
In honor of a recent trip to Africa, the YellowJackets sang “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan, the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men commented that the performance was powerful, had range and was full of energy. Singer-songwriter Ben Folds agreed, but said that the tempo fluctuated too much. Thirdly, Sarah Bareilles — also a singer-songwriter and the show’s newest judge — noted the sense of brotherhood among the members, yet explained that she wanted to hear a more intricate counterpoint in terms of arrangement. Bareilles did admit, however, that she was unsure whether the song called for that.
Now allow me, your resident fourth judge, to weigh in. Counterpoint is defined as the simultaneous movement of multiple lines that possess different shapes and rhythms. The YellowJackets employed this crucial element of musical arrangement, but the full harmonies were the glue, which is why there was no need for anything more “intricate.” That being said, it would have been nice to hear more projection on those existing contrapuntal lines.
Unmentioned by the judges was the addition of a key change to the YellowJackets’ arrangement. The task of changing keys is incredibly challenging, especially when not present in the original song. Yet, when executed properly, a key change is comparable to a suspended cymbal roll released at the peak of a symphony. UR alumnus Danny Rubenstein ’11 brilliantly led the ensemble into a higher key so that the closing phrases sounded absolutely epic. Audience members on the show couldn’t resist throwing their hands up and waving them along with the group.
Lastly, the song selection was perfect. For the first performance, it’s difficult to captivate audiences with a slow ballad, yet groups cannot fascinate the judges with a purely gimmicky show. This song was both emotional and exciting. Tune in to NBC on Monday, Oct. 3, to see how the YellowJackets fare in the next round.
Seligman is a member of the class of 2012.