(Hulu) — Season 3 of "The Sing-Off" is shaping up to be as feel-good and glamorous as always.
This week, we got to meet the final eight a cappella groups that will compete, along with last week's top six, for the prize: $200,000 and a Sony Music recording contract, along with the chance to serenade America week after week. Contestants in "The Sing-Off" re-imagine familiar songs without the aid of a single instrument -- but it's the energy, emotion, and attitude brought to the task that makes for must-see TV, and wins the respect of the judges: "musical mastermind" Ben Folds, singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, and Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman.
Six groups hit a high note with the judges this week, and two groups were sent home after falling flat: Soul'd Out, a self-proclaimed "Glee"-like high school choir, and Messiah's Men, a group of former Liberian refugees, failed to stack up against the superb competition. From a diversity of geography and generations, here are our Top Five:
(5) Sonos, "Wicked Game"
One of the smaller groups this week, their challenge was performing without their usual vocal-effects pedals, which give them their signature electronic sound. Despite the adjustment, Sonos managed to pull off a slow, enchanting, and ambitious performance with strong female vocals that were sparse and seductive, all backed up with unexpectedly energetic beat-boxing. They took a risk, and it worked.
(4) The Deltones, "Feels Like Home"
This posse of friends from the University of Delaware featured another strong female lead, and had a classic and mellow sound carried almost entirely by their soloist. This bunch is all about home, acceptance, and the warm and fuzzies -- in that spirit, we hope to see some of their other singers in the spotlight in the coming weeks.
(3) The Collective, "Rolling in the Deep"
The Collective is the second group so far that was assembled by a performer from last season, Jeremy Lister. Hailing from Nashville, a tough town for musicians, they want to represent Southern a cappella music with a team comprised entirely of solo singers. Ruby, this week's featured soloist, has major star quality: When she sings, people pay attention. She brought an unexpected sensuality to an already-powerful tune, and was backed up beautifully by her friends. They did lose some steam after getting started, which resulted in criticism from the judges, but were given another chance to come back next week.
(2) North Shore, "Runaround Sue"
North Shore threw the judges into a frenzy of nostalgia with their old school doo-wop. This playful group of older men from Boston brought a wealth of experience to the table, along with a good-natured, lighthearted feel. They had the judges reminiscing and the audience tapping their feet with their charming cover of the classic song. This IS your grandpa's a cappella, and we love it.
(1) Dartmouth Aires, "Higher Ground"
"Higher Ground" was a genius pick by these Dartmouth College Ivy Leaguers, who poked fun at their traditional background with quirky cardigans and bow ties. Although their vocals were superb, in large part due to the personality and talent of frontman Michael, their choreography really set them apart. These guys can really dance, and their energy is adorably electric.
Aside from the groups' performances, the highlight was the group number that opened the show. It's heartwarming to see the contestants come together from their diverse walks of life and jubilantly combine their talents -- these goose bumps are why we keep coming back to "The Sing-Off."
"The Sing-Off" airs Mondays at 8pm ET on NBC.
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