By Jeremy Michael Lewis, acoUstiKat
Well, we’re still here.
I was going to give you more opinions on how I felt the show went last night, but instead, lets make this a little more educational. (Please, contain your excitement.)
For those of you who believe that every group that makes it to The Sing-Off stage is a walking replica of Pitch Perfect, I’m incredibly sorry to spoil your dreams; we’re not. This show is not all “skittles and beer.” It takes some serious work. Let me break this thing down for you.
The show took about two months to tape, start to finish. Since commercials consume what seems to be like 95% of the show anyway, I will generously estimate that 8-9 hours of The Sing-Off are actually piped onto your screen. Do that math by yourself, because I’m certainly not going to. If you came up with the acoUstiKats sitting around in the hot tub waiting for the next episode to record just chatting about sorority girls… you’re only half correct.
I won’t spoil all the magic of the show because I legally can’t, and the last thing I need is to be sued for all $25 to my name. However, the magic would mean nothing without two necessary working parts that go into building this show: raw talent and hard work.
Starting with the openers:
The scores for these things are intense, and they don’t just come together overnight. The variables that go into having multiple groups (take the second opener, for instance, with nine), with a crockpot of learning styles and techniques, come together to establish a performance that blends, tunes, and also is entertaining? It isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
My personal background learning music started when I was a child; I played piano. I learned how to read music, and didn’t bother learning by ear until I was forced to in college because… I didn’t have to. Other individuals on the show couldn’t tell you where a middle C is on staff paper, but if you sang a part to them once, they’d already have it memorized. That’s partially what makes the group numbers so interesting to watch as a finished product.
Between 3-4 hours per day (yeah, that didn’t get boring) were devoted to just blocking, learning, and running opener choreography until it looked great from every camera angle to reach the finished product you see on TV.
Side note: Darian Mackey literally sang that opening riff perfectly every time… if anyone was wondering, she doesn’t make mistakes.
All right, let’s chat individual numbers:
I think it’s safe to say the acoUstiKats aren’t exactly pee-shy when it comes to performing. We have a scrupulous policy that basically mandates that we don’t perform something we aren’t 100% committed to (“Hey Ya” was our second song choice for Episode Two after we royally flopped on figuring out how to perform the first choice).
For those of you who live under a rock and only read blogs and don’t watch the show, we were sent to the battle last night after our performance of “Hey Ya.” I could critique the performance from a technical aspect all day, but you get on stage with 12 guys and sing Outkast (a cappella) full-speed ahead and let me know how it goes for you. Regardless of how the judges liked it, we threw down our personality, and if you liked it, welcome aboard the acoUstiBus, you’re in for quite the ride.
whine note: But Evan promised us the acoUstiPuns were almost over.}
What goes into an arrangement, you ask?
Perfect question. I’ll tell you.
Our arranger, Nick Johnson, says it takes him anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks to arrange a tune. Obviously on The Sing-Off, the latter doesn’t cut it. So when you don’t get a chance to start arranging for the next episode’s performance (since you never know if you’ll be there or not), there is really only one option: don’t sleep.
If you have specific questions on how Nick personally arranges, hit him up on Twitter. He’s a pretty personable guy @ndjohnsonn. He also arranges for all sorts of high school and college groups so in the country, so… (Make the check out to Jeremy Lewis, Nick.)
But I digress.
We rehearsed our individual number anywhere from 4-8 hours per day depending upon how comfortable we were with the progress. The ‘Kats learn the basics of the song so we can sing through it top to bottom, which usually takes about an hour depending upon how uncooperative we are that day. Then we record it so we can have a basis for what we want to do for choreography, and go eat or something.
The best rehearsals are always followed by sleep, and if you can get to bed after you’ve put a few good hours in on something, for some scientific reason I won’t pretend to understand, you’ll wake up knowing the piece better than you did before you fell asleep. (We never actually followed that logic and usually ran to the hot tub or bar after our rehearsals, but since I’m trying to instill good habits, I figured I’d appease some choral teachers out there.)
After we learn the basics of a new tune, we block and learn the condensed steps for our number, and rehearsals slowly start becoming less static until every time we rehearse the song, we’re dancing. (Or in our case, twerking.)
I’ve waited to the end to talk about my absolute favorite of the preparation (a disgusting amount of sarcasm):
The “Ultimate Sing-Off”
You might think a group of high-energy performers like the ‘Kats would love the intensity of having a battle to “save” us to the next round. No, in fact, we hated every part about them.
I’ll be honest with you when I say that I knew roughly 75% of my notes in our performance of “Stronger” against Calle Sol. You know why? Not in a cocky, “we don’t need to know it” way, but because we barely rehearsed it. We’re just 12 college guys and get lazy sometimes all right? Love us for who we are.
I watched cult favorite Pitch Perfect about a year after it came out with two of my best friends Nick Johnson and Jordan Lindsey, and the only thing I found more amusing than the feminism jokes was the “group battle” section. It’s an awesome idea… I think it is a platform of entertainment excellence, and bravo to whoever came up with it. They’re intense, fun, and people like watching emotions flair.
That being said, if I actually disliked someone, I promise you the last thing that would come to mind is rounding up the boys for a jolly ol’ rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” to belt in my enemy’s direction.
I’ll set the mood for you after we caught wind that’d we’d be up next in the little Kelly Clarkson throw down:
The moment I walked backstage and the cameras turned off (and I do mean a single moment because they never got those stupid things out of my face), Deke Sharon, music producer of the show, gathered us together to talk through who was going to sing what sections.
The first thing the ‘Kats did wasn’t stare them down, or listen intently and start strategizing our attack plan… we all hugged the other group. Not in a “oh, it’s okay, we’re all winners in our moms’ eyes” way, but in a… “I hate this because regardless of the outcome, this is the last time we get to make music together with our friends, and someone goes home” way. Much love to our friends Calle Sol. Your talent is only matched by your genuine personalities.
Enough sap… We’re still on the show.
Groups are starting to show their identities and comfort zones, so now the question is… Who is going to throw the first curveball?
When I say you DO NOT want to miss tonight (Episode 3), I mean it.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I can safely say tonight’s episode carries a huge emotional impact on everyone in the ‘Kats lives. The night of the performance was incredibly influential on my own life, and I hope y’all enjoy it.
I loved all your tweets from last episode — keep them comin’!
Check out my other blogs in this series:
AcaDirt: The Truth (or at least my version) of How “The Sing-Off” Works
AcaDirt: #SingOff Episode 1
AcaDirt: #SingOff Episode 3 (The Proposal)