Once cluttered with reruns, December is suddenly full of new shows and specials and such. That includes "Sing-off," returning Monday after missing a year. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Singers seem to spend their lives with instruments looming
Sometimes it’s just a couple guitars; sometimes it’s a brigade
of strings and horns. One exception is NBC’s returning “The Sing-off,” where a
cappella groups compete.
“A cappella singing has meant a great deal to me throughout
my life,” said Nick Lachey, the host.
It was key when his group (98 Degrees) auditioned. Andre Harrell,
the Motown president, “asked us to sing a cappella in his office and we sang a
Boyz II Men medley …. He signed us on the spot.”
Lachey still gets to sing without instruments … but mostly
to an audience of one. That’s at home, when he and his wife (Vanessa Minnillo,
a former Miss Teen USA who has been a TV personality on MTV, “Wipeout” and more)
croon to their 1-year-old son. “There is a little a cappella happening in our
house every day,” he said. ,It’s usually in the lullaby form.”
Now he’s surrounded by the music again. “Sing-off” is a
quickie competition – seven shows in 15 days – for 10 groups. Shawn Stockman of
Boyz II Men judges alongside Ben Folds and Jewel.
The competitors range from Ivy Leaguers to California
teen-agers. “They kind of reminded me of my own history,” Lachey, 40, said of
the teens. “They come from a performing-arts school in the Bay area. I had a
soft spot in my heart for them, coming from a performing-arts high school
At a time when many schools cut back on the arts, that
background seems important. “It’s a real motivating (factor) in wanting to go
to school every day,” Lachey said. “I never wanted to miss a choir practice,
because I loved what I was doing. I loved the guys I was singing with.”
That led to a summer job at the King’s Island amusement
park, “singing a cappella barbershop music, walking around the park and singing
Without that arts-school background, Lachey feels, “I
wouldn’t have had the courage to jump in my car and drive from Cincinnati,
Ohio, to LA, to sleep on the floor and try to get a record deal.”
Big things followed in record sales (10 million copies of
their second album), high-profile marriages (Jessica Simpson, then Minnillo)
and reality shows … where his arts school was again helpful: That’s where he learned
“Flight of the Bumblebee”; the song – done a cappella – gave the group he
conducted the win in “Clash of the Choirs,” beating (among others) Blake
Then things evolved: “Clash” was followed by “Sing-off,” with
Lachey hosting; it did fairly well for three seasons … Shelton joined NBC’s
“The Voice,” which did so well that the network no longer needed “Sing-off” …
The show vanished for a year and now returns, with “Voice” producer Mark
Burnett taking over.
There are adjustments under Burnett, Lachey said. Jewel was
added … competitors have more interaction with the judges and host … and the bottom
two acts will compete for survival, doing the same song. “If you’re going to
have a show called ‘The Sing-off,’ you probably should have a sing-off.”
And everything will be packed together. Two weeks after it
debuts, “Sing-off” will have a winner.
“The Sing-Off,” 9-11 p.m. Monday, 8-10 p.m.
Wednesday, 8-10 p.m. Thursday.
Same days next week, followed by Dec. 23 finale,
with last year’s winners, Pentatonix, performing,