It's so glaringly obvious that the a cappella vocal competition "The Sing-Off," which premiered its second season this week on NBC, was created to capitalize on the runaway popularity of "Glee," I'm surprised the show's producers didn't cast a tracksuited Sue Sylvester lookalike and a faux-hawked Puck stand-in as the resident mean judges. But despite my resistance to the cornball concept of a bunch of wannabe "Glee" students happily harmonizing in snowflake sweaters and school-uniform kneesocks while host Nick Lachey looks on benignly from the stage wings, this week I found myself guilty-pleasurably glued to "The Sing-Off 2's" premiere, just as I was last year.
There were two reasons for this: resident non-mean judge Ben Folds (one of the best reality judges ever, a guy who so knows his stuff, he really should have been given Simon Cowell's "Idol" job instead of J.Lo), and tuxedo'd Yale gentlemen the Whiffenpoofs, whose standout surprise performance set them apart, at least in my never-humble opinion, as the ones to beat.
The Poofs come from a venerable Yale tradition, as they were founded in 1909 and are ostensibly the world's longest-standing collegiate a cappella group. This old-school (no pun intended) background, plus those prim penguin suits, lead me to assume that the Whiffs would be all stiff and stuffy. But no. Instead, their Ben-described "sassy" performance of Mika's "Grace Kelly" (complete with off-the-scale high notes shrill enough to shatter Ben's spectacles) brought a little bit of much-needed edge to the show's proceedings. The Whiffenpoofs, along with Ben's wry and thoughtful critiques, almost made "The Sing-Off" seem cool. Almost.
So, will the Poofs prevail? Well, they have strong competition from Nashville good ole boys Street Corner Symphony, Gaga-inspired viral sensations On The Rocks, and Talk Of The Town featuring Persuasions veteran Jerry Lawson (whose heartstring-tugging comeback story and a cappella pedigree give him a major, and some might say unfair, advantage). But I suggest the Whiffenpoofs keep their tuxedos pressed and dry-cleaned, because they may very well need them when they go out and celebrate after winning on finale night December 20.