Clash of the Choirs rocks with Oklahoma

Review:  This one snuck up on me.  Maybe it was the fact that last week’s ice storm left me without television reception, but I knew nothing about NBC’s Clash of the Choirs when I accidentally came across it last Monday night.  Though generally not a fan of reality shows (with the exception of America’s Next Top Model, which I have committed to never watching again after they eliminated Heather and chose Saleisha as the winner in an obvious case of cheating), I am a huge sucker for a really good choir.  To me, a great choir transcends almost any other musical experience. No other musical genre gives me the sense that I’m flying, that feeling of pure joy mingled with goodness.  Sounds corny?  Think again!

Clash of the Choirs showcases famous musicians going back to their hometowns, putting together a choir, and competing live for charity.  The choir leaders include Michael Bolton, Kelly Rowland, Patti LaBelle, Nick Lache, and Oklahoma’s own Blake Shelton.


Monday night’s show profiled the leaders going into their hometowns, having auditions ala American Idol, and putting together a choir.  Each choir then sang live for telephone votes, with the choir with the least votes being eliminated on Tuesday’s show.  To me, the two standout choirs were Patti LaBelle’s and to my surprise, Blake Shelton’s.

Not being a fan of country music, I wouldn’t recognize a Shelton song if I heard it, but last night’s show made me a fan.  His Oklahoma City choir sang “Life is a Highway,” and to quote Patti LaBelle, “they brought it.”  In addition, Shelton is the most ruggedly handsome and charming of the choir leaders, making Nick Lache look like a little boy and Michael Bolton like a soft-spoken girl. 

Nick Lache’s choir was pretty good, but not quite up to the standard of Shelton and LaBelle.  Kelly Rowland and Michael Bolton’s choirs were disappointing.  I was bored during Rowland’s performance, and Bolton’s choir was like his personality—lackluster and uninspiring.  They sang “Living on a Prayer,” and they needed a prayer.  I always felt people were unfair to Bolton—he seems to have always been a target of a lot of ridicule, as many male singers are when they gain a proportionately huge female fan base and sing a lot of love ballads.  Fans of Office Space will remember the Michael Bolton tirade. But after watching this effort, I understood the ridicule.  I was surprised Bolton could do no better. 

Shelton’s choir, on the other hand, was everything a choir should be—beautiful blended harmonies accented by tremendous energy and emanating happiness. Fantastic sound and excellent choreography, making one want to jump up and just start dancing and singing along.  In addition, he has a few uniformed members of the Armed Forces in his group, and that only seems to add to the level of inspiration.  I was almost tearfully proud they are from Oklahoma. 

Patti LaBelle is the Mistress of Music.  It would be a shock if her choir were anything less than ethereally amazing.  And they were all that and more. 

Tuesday’s show revealed the first choir to be eliminated.  The show began with revealing the choirs who had the most votes.  Shelton’s came in first, a revelation which could restore the faith in reality shows I lost when Heather was voted off ANTM.  Patti LaBelle’s came in second.  To be truthful, that had to have been a close vote.

Nick Lache’s team was next.  Then the bottom two were revealed to be Rowland and Bolton’s teams.  I was pretty sure Bolton’s group would get the axe, so I was surprised when it turned out to be Rowland.  Her group wasn’t great, but they were better than Bolton’s.

Tuesday night’s performances were a repeat of Monday in terms of quality.  Team Shelton kicked it when they sang the Doobie Brothers’ “Taking it to the Streets.”  His soloists are of the highest quality, and the choir itself was every bit as great as last night.  Lache noted, “Last night you sang “Life is a Highway.”  Tonight you sang “Taking it to the Streets.”  If you don’t sing “End of the Road” tomorrow, I’m going to be disappointed.”

LaBelle and Lache’s performances were also consistent with last night’s.  Lache’s crew sang “Friends in Low Places,” but it had the feel of people imitating country music.  I wasn’t convinced, even by the guy with the black cowboy hat and vest.  Michael Bolton’s crew sang “Ain’t No Mountain.”  To be fair, it was quite a bit better than Monday’s performance, but still, at best, he might be able to compete with Lache. 

The best choirs are definitely Shelton’s and LaBelle’s.  As a Tulsan, I am proud that I can support Shelton’s choir, not because they are from Oklahoma, but because they really are the best.  Nobody should be giving Patti LaBelle a run for her money, but Blake Shelton is doing it and doing it with style. 

Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., we find out who will be the second group to be eliminated—please, goddess, let it be Team Michael.  And in the meantime, I feel inspired to go buy a Blake Shelton CD.