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The Sing Off

The Sing-Off is an American television singing competition featuring A Cappella groups. It premiered on NBC on December 14, 2009, and was cancelled for a couple years after its third season.

A Cappella groups are chosen by audition and advanced in the competition based on judges' eliminations until the finale, where the winners are determined by viewer votes. The winning group receives a cash prize and a Sony Music recording contract.

Unlike many other music-based TV competitions, auditions aren't part of the show, so all the groups viewers see are made up of excellent musicians. The entertainment value comes from the music itself rather than schadenfreude over poor performers. The judges (especially Ben Folds) often offer in-depth musical critiques, making the show a treat for knowledgeable musicians as well as general fans.

It's hosted by Nick Lachey (formerly of the Boy Band 98 Degrees); with judges Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman (of the R&B vocal group Boyz II Men), and various women in the third seat: Nicole Scherzinger in Season 1, Sara Bareilles in the second and third seasons, and now Jewel in Season 4.

Its fourth season finally premiered on December 9, 2013.

Needs Wiki Magic Love.


This show contains examples of:

  • A Cappella: The show features only these groups.
  • Author Appeal: More like Judge Appeal; most of the judges have a background working with A Cappella (Ben produced an album of covers of his songs done by college A Cappella groups, Sara was in a college A Cappella group, and Boyz II Men still regularly perform songs this way).
  • Basso Profundo: Many, but season 3's Avi Kaplan from Pentatonix and season 4's Tim Foust from Home Free are the most prominent examples.
  • Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Nick describes Jewel, Ben, and Shawn as the beauty, brains, and brawn in season 4. Nicole and Sara could also qualify as the beauty in their respective seasons.
  • Brain Bleach: In season 3, Shawn says he needs this after the Yellowjackets perform "Wannabe" by Spice Girls.
  • Breakout Character: Season 3 winners Pentatonix have become very popular in their own right, and are part of the reason why the show eventually did end up being brought back for a fourth season.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The members of each group are given coordinated outfits each week, though they switch it up so as to prevent people from identifying the group with just one particular color. Though groups with colors in their names (e.g Afro-Blue, The Yellowjackets) tend to wear the same color each week.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger
  • Consolation Prize: Averted in the conventional sense, but while Season 3's finalists sang in the finale with the judges (and Nick Lachey), almost-finalists Afro-Blue got to sing with Smokey Robinson. That's got to count for something.
  • Coordinated Clothes: The members of each group are given coordinated outfits each week, though they switch it up so as to prevent people from identifying the group with just one particular color.
  • Constructive Criticism: The preferred method, by far, for the judges' criticisms.
  • The Cover Changes The Gender: Done whenever applicable.
  • Crowd Song: The opening number each week is a number done by all of the groups (in the first part of Season 3, this was changed to all of the groups in that week's bracket).
    • Happens literally when Ben Folds and the Dartmouth Aires perform Ben's song "Not the Same" in season 3.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The "Swan Song" invokes this trope, particularly when the group being eliminated isn't likely to outlive the show; even though they are already eliminated from the competition, you can still expect a heartfelt performance as they walk off the stage.
  • Dramatic Pause: Go ahead, time Nick when it comes down to seeing which of the bottom two groups is to get eliminated.
  • Elimination Catchphrase: Variations on "And now please raise your mics one final time for your Swan Song."
  • Elimination Statement: In seasons 1-3, each eliminated group gets to perform a "Swan Song," one last tune as they leave the stage.
  • Follow the Leader: While much different in tone, plus the A Cappella gimmick making it distinct, it's unmistakably following in the mold of American Idol.
    • In an in-show example: after Season 4's Home Free made a big impact with their Basso Profundo, Tim Foust, a lot of their competitors started tapping their basses to do similar things.
  • Funny Background Event: After the first elimination in the first episode of Season 3, while Nick Lachey is introducing the next four musicians, Shawn Stockman and Ben Folds start waving and posing for the camera behind him.
  • Genre Shift: Can happen during the ultimate sing-offs in season 4, due to the groups singing two halves of the same song, each in their own style. Calle Sol's battle with the acoUstiKats had the song shift between calypso and pop, and Filharmonics battle with Street Corner Renaissance had the song shift between pop and doo-wop.
  • Guilty Pleasure: The theme of a Once a Season episode, giving the groups a chance to perform some slightly embarrassing favorites (such as pop hits from The Eighties).
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Nick spouts one in his introduction for every performance, normally relating to the song's title. He'll often pull another once the song is done.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Michael from the Dartmouth Aires managed to belt out a high A-flat for so long it messed his own group up. Doubles as a Crowning Moment Of Awesome since this performance was in a literal sing-off with another group to help the judges decide who got to go to the finals.
  • Judge Stock Phrases: "Pitchy," "beatboxing," "you did your thing," and any instance where the singers are described like non-vocal instruments.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: This can happen with some of the more exotic groups. Pentatonix and Urban Method from season 3 were notable examples, with Pentatonix using electronic influences and Urban Method's "rapapella" style (mixing rapping and A Cappella singing, which worked surprisingly well).
    • Season 4 sees the show's first A Capella Country group, Home Free.
  • Once an Episode: After about three episodes, you'll know roughly when Nick is going to say "This is a vocal competition using only their voices" and his other stock phrases.
  • Once a Season: Although you can't always exactly predict when, you'll also see Nick bemoan the fact that nobody wants to sing a 98 Degrees song (usually after someone does a song by a different Boy Band).
    • Finally subverted in the finale of season 3, when Nick joined forces with Pentatonix to perform (you guessed it) a 98 Degrees song, "Una Noche."
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Ben Folds is probably the worst offender, but all of the judges use words that sound like they're either music industry insider lingo or ones they just made up ("pitchy," borrowed from American Idol, seems to be the most popular).
  • Piss Take Rap: While remarking on a performance by "rapapella" group Urban Method, Ben Folds improvisednote  some extremely nerdy freestyle. Hilarity Ensued.
  • Power Trio: The judges.
  • Product Placement: They are not shy about notifying folks as to when any of the judges are about to have another release.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ben Folds sometimes employs it for laughs. "Thumbs aloft, gentlemen."
    • He even lampshaded it in Season 4: "Are you calling me a sesquipedalian?"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Any high school group is going to be greeted with some comparison to Glee.
    • In Season 3, Sonos chose Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday" as their Swan Song upon elimination. Shawn was visibly embarrassed.
    • In Season 3, Michael from the Dartmouth Aires shouted "Sing-Off!" in three of their performances. Four, if you count their audition video.
    • The Princeton Footnotes paused their performance to sing, "We love you Ben!" during season 4.
  • Shown Their Work: Ben Folds in particular will show off his familiarity with the mechanics and techniques of A Cappella singing, the other judges as well if less frequently.
  • The Sixties: The subject of another one of the theme episodes.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Some elements of this, particularly with various college groups falling under the "technician" umbrella.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Sara Bareilles has a few "why did I just say that" moments in the first episode of Season 3.
    Bareilles [regarding Afro Blue]: ...and I also wrote down that you're all very attractive, so... [general laughter] ...maybe I need to work on taking notes, but you're all very good looking in addition to sounding amazing — [to Ben Folds, leaning over to read her pad] — it's on there, it is on there. I know. Get over it.
  • Title Drop: Season 3 introduced the first official "Sing-Off," in which the two lowest-ranked groups battled each other for elimination, each performing the same song for the judges.
    • This becomes the new method of elimination in season 4.
  • Un-Cancelled: After taking a year off, it was brought back for a fourth season in 2013.


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