The Sing-Off season premiere recap: Music To My Ears

Eight a cappella groups take the stage, but only six survived the night.
Ep. 01 | Aired Sep 19, 2011

JUMP JIVE AN' WAIL: The Mormon boys of Vocal Point delivered an extra-high pitched razzle dazzle number that impressed both the audience and the judges.

Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

The Sing-Off premiered its third season last night, and despite all my worrying that the show would lose its charm in the transition from quaint December surprise to fall season anchor, everything felt just right.

Nick Lachey brought the puns, Ben Folds showed off his stupendous musical vocabulary, and Shawn Stockman donned a bright purple sweater. All was well in the world. New judge and former a cappella performer Sara Bareilles fit right into the mix as well. Though she maybe focused a bit too much on the "story" and "journey" of some groups for my taste, she provided clear, helpful insight, and was refreshingly sincere compared to the consistently inauthentic-sounding Nicole Scherzinger. Bareilles was a bit nervous in her first episode (Who else loved when she told Cat's Pajamas they are a "super huge package," and then clammed up and tried to recover with a dignified queen wave?), but as she loosens up, I think she'll become a major asset on the show.

Oh, and let's not forget about the music -- that's the whole reason we're here! Eight remarkably talented a cappella groups performed last night, proving that The Sing-Off really has some of the best singing on national TV. There were times when I was watching the performances, and I'd completely forget that there were no instruments on stage. Every single sound was being made by someone's mouth. I say this as a former college a cappella singer -- these groups are incredible.

The show kicked off with a rainbow-colored performance of Pink's "Perfect," which was just that. Sure, I'd seen the clip on NBC.com about, I dunno, 47 times before the premiere, but I still loved watching it again. With so many people onstage, it was definitely a lot to take in, but I did have a few general impressions. To the Kinfolk 9 singer who belted, "They don't like my hair," you're right! To the phalanx of yellow up front, you're looking sharp! To the slightly mullet-y girl who sang, "To MEEEEE!" at the end, your tone is amazing. Basically, it was a gigantic group singing a big ballad in tune. I was chuckling with giddiness.

Nick announced that the winner of this season of The Sing-Off would receive $200,000 and a Sony recording contract. (WHAT?! No Sing-Off trophy?!) He also explained that this year, because there are 16 groups, the show will be divided into two brackets for the first four episodes. The first bracket would be whittled down from eight to six groups this week, and then the other bracket would do the same next week. In week three, the first bracket would eliminate one group, and in week four the second bracket would do the same. All 10 remaining groups will unite for episode five. Got it? Good.

Because we've got some performances (and eliminations) to get to! Here they are in order:

NEXT: Grading the first four performances...

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