UK’s acoUstiKats on ‘The Sing-Off’ — Party Anthems

The University of Kentucky-based acoUstiKats perform on the second episode of Season 4 of NBC's 'The Sing-Off.' © NBC photo by Tyler Golden.

The University of Kentucky-based acoUstiKats show off their socks on the second episode of Season 4 of NBC’s ‘The Sing-Off.’ © NBC photo by Tyler Golden.

After rising to the top of the Season 4 debut of The Sing-Off Monday night, the University of Kentucky’s acoUstiKats found themselves fighting to stay in the competition Wednesday.

The Kats had to face down dance-heavy Puerto Rican ensemble Calle Sol in the show’s new Ultimate Sing-Off show-ending battle for survival. They did triumph in the performance of Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger, outclassing a smaller group that was more dance than vocally oriented and had some homesick members.

The acoUstiKats will continue on to the next episode, focused on chart toppers, at 8 p.m. Thursday.

The acoUstiKats got a little visit from home themselves.

If you are an a capella group in desperate need of a choreographer, well, it helps if a member’s mom is one of the best-known dance instructors in town. Diana Evans Pulliam, mother of acoUstiKat Evan Jennings Pulliam and owner of Lexington’s Diana Evans School of Dance, showed up to help the acoUstiKats prepare for their performance of OutKast’s Hey Ya. She was introduced as Mama Kat and later dubbed the acoustacougar by host Nick Lachey in a pronouncement that seemed to irk her son.

Overall, the University of Kentucky a capella ensemble got another round of thumbs up from the judges, with some reservations. The classical training that got kudos Monday was a bit of a trouble spot, with judge Ben Folds saying he was worried about it getting a little operatic, and timing was cited as an issue. At the same time, Ron Wilbur got more praise for his astonishing range, and the group was again hailed for a fun performance, this time with the distinctly-Diana moves.

Judge Jewel did allow that Hey Ya, “might not be in your wheelhouse.”

It really did seem the judges came down harder on New York’s all-female Element in their critique, and when it came to picking the bottom two, the Kats and Element were pitted against one another. But Element was spared. The other group in the bottom four was Oakland high school ensemble Vocal Rush, which was also spared.

Given some tweet heat and other criticism Monday for singing Robin Thicke’s controversial Blurred Lines, it may have been better from a PR standpoint for the all-male Kats to take the fall instead of the all-female group.

If we want to look for a good omen, Monday’s survivor, VoicePlay, did not make a return to the Ultimate Sing-Off. But a sign of trouble could be that the rest of Monday’s standouts — The Filharmonic, Ten and Street Corner Renaissance — had great nights Wednesday. So there will be some work to do to get back into the top tier of this competition. Another good thing may be that the guys are students, and they should know how learn from critiques.

Notes over morning coffee …

EW’s Jodi Walker was also surprised the acoUstiKats were tossed in the Ultimate Sing-Off saying, “with the Princeton Footnotes’ exit on Monday night, it feels a little like the show has something to prove about not showing favoritism toward the collegiate groups.” To be honest, I’m not sure why that would be an issue, but OK. She also declared acoUstiKat Jeremy Michael Lewis, “might be the prettiest boy to ever pretty on The Sing-Off.” Well, well!

My favorite post-show comment came from Kentucky.com Facebook commenter Penny Pennington Dailey who said, ”I think the same SEC refs who don’t like our UK ball teams talked to the judges tonight.”

And, of course, if you missed it, here’s the video:

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