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September 15, 2014

'The Sing-Off''s Ben Folds: TV's Best New Judge

by Ryan McKee, posted Dec 15th 2009 12:00PM
A primetime NBC show about a cappella, a form of music usually reserved for street corners and Ivy League schools, seems as unlikely to succeed as Homer's barbershop quartet.

Nevertheless, if the only thing that comes from 'The Sing-Off' is America's increased familiarity with judge Ben Folds, then the show will still be an important cultural building block. Based solely on Monday night's premiere episode, the 43-year-old singer-songwriter is TV's best new celebrity judge. Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger do their best impressions of Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but Folds is Cowell's polar opposite. His criticism is insightful, not harsh, and delivered with wit and Southern charm.A primetime NBC show about a cappella, a form of music usually reserved for street corners and Ivy League schools, seems as unlikely to succeed as Homer's barbershop quartet.

Nevertheless, if the only thing that comes from 'The Sing-Off' is America's increased familiarity with judge Ben Folds, then the show will still be an important cultural building block. Based solely on Monday night's premiere episode, the 43-year-old singer-songwriter is TV's best new celebrity judge. Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger do their best impressions of Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but Folds is Cowell's polar opposite. His criticism is insightful, not harsh, and delivered with wit and Southern charm.

The best part is that Folds is a legitimate, critically acclaimed musician with a knack for establishing a dedicated fan base with his unique sound. In 1994, he founded the trio Ben Folds Five, which consisted of a piano, drums, and bass; no guitar in a grunge-heavy music scene was a brave start. Still, the group won fans by touring small clubs, lugging around the piano, and finally hit cracked mainstream with the 1998 hit 'Brick.' Since he's often praised as America's most underrated musician, these contestants may be more inspired by his praise than by winning. Plus, he actually knows something about great a cappella. This year, he released 'Ben Folds Presents University A Cappella,' an album of the best college groups covering his songs.

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