I missed it last night, but Michael J. West is on the case:
As beautifully as they performed it, Afro-Blue‘s take on Tom Petty‘s “American Girl” on last night’s The Sing-Off was misguided from the start.
The group’s intro video reminded us that the judges have called out the Howard group repeatedly for overcomplicating their arrangements. But from the moment they began their rock submission (for “Rock and Country Week”), it was already apparent they hadn’t done much to simplify. The women in the group sang a multipart harmony over the men’s double bass and double percussion parts; it settled briefly into repeated vamps behind Danielle Withers‘ effervescent lead, but as they built to the chorus the harmonies swelled and became something close to fugal, and their turnaround incorporated an extended quote from “The Star Spangled Banner.” (“The land of the free, and the home of the…American girl.”)
That, as Ben Folds pointed out, was their most obvious mistake. “Keep your eye and your ear on…what the song’s about,” he admonished them. “The national anthem bit didn’t have anything really to do with the song.” But then came deeper and more integral criticism: While they shouldn’t dumb themselves down, he said, “You don’t want to underestimate the power of a simple song.”
Read the rest at Arts Desk.