It’s been said that all good things must come to an end. For the YellowJackets, it was their dream of winning NBC’s “The Sing-Off” — the group was eliminated from the show’s Monday, Oct. 31 episode.
Competing as one of the final two groups in the episode, they were pitted against Urban Method — a group focused primarily on rap and hip-hop. Unfortunately, the YellowJackets were eliminated from the competition and sung their way off the stage with a topical rendition of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping.”
The YellowJackets stayed true to their fun-loving spirit even on the way out with their swan song, changing the lyrics of the song to incorporate the judges’ names, their own group name and a shout-out to NBC. Dancing and smiling, the group did not end with a heartfelt ballad. Nevertheless, their pop-song exit was full of emotion.
UR students didn’t know the YellowJackets’ ultimate fate on the show until Monday night, but the members have had to keep this secret all semester.
“It was kind of tough to not say anything when we were asked about how far we made it on the show or if we had won,” sophomore YellowJacket Abhishek Sharma said. “But it was also kind of fun telling people that we knew just as much as them. It made for a lot of laughs and jokingly dirty looks!”
For their competition number, the ensemble chose three tunes from the repertoire of Billy Joel — “The River of Dreams,” “She’s Always a Woman” and “Uptown Girl” — to mix into a clever medley. Singer-songwriter Ben Folds said “The River of Dreams” was great because the YellowJackets brought in some of the African influence from their service trip to Kenya.
He also commented that he generally disapproves of vocal percussion that creates the sounds of cymbals, but he praised junior Jordan Fontheim for his skillful execution of the technique, making the cymbals sound like wind. Furthermore, he stated that each member was singing with “loads of heart,” but he worried that the YellowJackets only had a group personality, and not a character voice that audiences would be able to recognize with their eyes closed.
R&B artist Shawn Stockman enjoyed seeing a different, sweet side of the YellowJackets in “She’s Always a Woman.” Their soft and gentle singing contrasted the up-tempo, high-energy performances viewers and judges alike had come to love and expect. Singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles exclaimed after slamming her hands on the judging table, “I heart the YellowJackets, too,” making reference to the many bright yellow shirts in the audience with that slogan.
She thought the group blended extremely well, though contrary to Folds’ opinion, Bareilles would have removed the vocal percussion in “She’s Always a Woman.”
“Uptown Girl” was the most exciting piece of their medley and showed off skills such as a wide vocal range from soloist Aaron Sperber ’11 and beautiful harmonization on the part of every singer. The YellowJackets definitely employed the right sequencing of the three songs, placing the ballad in the middle and leaving the most energetic tune in everyone’s memory.
With two other all-male a cappella groups — Bringham Young University’s Vocal Point and Dartmouth University’s Dartmouth Aires — left in the competition, standing out became much more challenging than it had been in past episodes.
All three of the groups brought extraordinary energy to every performance, but the other two groups surpassed the YellowJackets this past week in carrying out a flawless performance and being more consistent overall throughout the competition.
It was Urban Method, however, that robbed the YellowJackets of more time on the show. Urban Method has been impeccable when delivering a rap or hip-hop song, but, when trying to feature melodic voices, they do not perform with the same caliber of musicianship. Some of Urban Method’s singing voices do not have the same level of control when breathing, reaching for
high notes, sustaining longer
notes or tuning with the rest of the group, which leaves them paling in comparison to the Yellowjackets’ many talented soloists.
“The moment right before eliminations is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences,” Sharma said. “Getting eliminated after all that anticipation was a mixture of sadness, confusing relief and a sense of gratitude.”
The YellowJackets were forced to relive their elimination for a second time this week when the episode finally aired. Despite the loss, the members also felt “a sense of gratitude for having shared something so exciting with all the people on that stage,” Sharma said.
“Watching our performances after the fact has been exhilarating, and it has made us reflect upon the judges’ input and incorporate all that we have learned into our current style and working processes,” he added.
While we may not be seeing much more of the YellowJackets on national television — except for when they return for the show’s finale performance in the upcoming weeks — there is so much more that we can expect from them here in Rochester and around the world. The YellowJackets have some upcoming shows on campus and are also in the works of establishing a system where each member will sponsor a child’s education in Kenya for the duration of his stay in the group. Although the YellowJackets did not take the top prize on “The Sing-Off,” they see the opportunity as an essential stepping stone to their ambitious goals for the future.
“Performing on ‘The Sing-Off’ was one of the greatest opportunities we could have ever hoped for, and we couldn’t have done any of it without the support of our friends, family and alumni,” Sharma said.
Seligman is a member of the class of 2012.