Ben Folds Kicks Off NBC’s ‘The Sing-Off’

There are a few key things you should know about NBC’s a capella singing competition show “The Sing-Off,” which premiered Monday night (December 14). First, it’s not very good. Unless you’re one of those people who are super-enthusiastic about the Whiffenpoofs, singing groups get pretty grating after a few minutes — even the good ones. On the bright side, the talent assembled to judge the competition is a top-shelf group of folks who could use the work. Plus, it’s hosted by the always-charming Nick Lachey, who should really have his own talk show (or perhaps some sort of outward-bound experience type of thing — like “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations”).

The judges include Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, but the highlight of Monday night’s episode was Ben Folds, the manic piano player and former frontman of the Ben Folds Five. Folds is one of the most underrated songwriters of his generation, responsible for high-profile hits like “Brick” but also some fantastically melancholy tunes like “Evaporated” (from Ben Folds Five’s 1997 album Whatever and Ever Amen) and “Fred Jones, Pt. 2″ (from Folds’ 2001 solo album Rockin’ the Suburbs). He’s no stranger to a capella music either, as he oversaw the recording of a bunch of his songs by college groups and often lead voice-only versions of his songs during concerts. This happened most often with the song “Army,” the first single from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner and a good summary of Folds’ entire world view.

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“The Sing-Off” continues tonight — here’s hoping some Folds tunes will sneak into the broadcast.