Out of the three singing competition shows that aired this week, surprisingly I did not find a performance from The Voice or The X Factor that stood out to me enough to go head to head with a past performance. Yes, Jacquie Lee on The Voice took on “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls, which has been covered quite a bit over the years, but I didn’t find her version very compelling, which is unfortunate because I think she’s had some great moments over the course of the season.
So if it’s not The Voice or The X Factor, it’s got to be the a capella series The Sing-Off, which makes its debut appearance in my music battles.
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As far as I can recall, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” has rarely been performed on these shows. But Home Free performed the hit this week on The Sing-Off, and it made me recall back in season 8 of American Idol when Adam Lambert brought his own style to the song, so that’s where we’ll begin.
Adam Lambert, as we all know by now, is one of the most talented, unique and original singers to ever be on Idol. He can do things with this voice that not many singers can do — the range that he has is unbelievable.
But then came Grand Ole Opry week during the Top 11. Adam Lambert and country go together like … I don’t know, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. They just don’t. So what’s he to do? Well, he did exactly what he should have done: he completely disregarded the country style, instead taking a country song and making it his own.
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The result was some sort of Middle Eastern style with a bit of rock. And boy, oh boy, was it polarizing. Opinions on this performance were all over the map, from those who loved it to people who hated it, and even some who were in the middle not sure what to make of it.
At the time, I was kind of in the middle: I thought it was a great song choice, but I thought it was very strange indeed. But the funny thing is, I’ve grown to really love his version. I ended up buying the studio track of that performance. He included this song on the set list of his Glam Nation tour, and I love listening to the live version on the Glam Nation Live CD.
And that brings us to this week when Home Free covered “Ring of Fire” on The Sing-Off. They are a country group, which is a nice departure from what we have usually come to expect on this show. The theme was My Generation, songs that spanned the generations/decades.
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Since Home Free is a country act, I’m glad they chose a song like this and stuck with the genre of the tune and their own musical style. And I have to say, this was a very enjoyable performance. I had a lot of fun listening to them.
Their version started off slow and intimate; one of the singers has a low voice at the start during “And it makes a fiery ring,” which for some reason reminded me of the haunting vibe of that “Misty Mountains” song in the first Hobbit movie. And even when the song picked up and became this honky-tonk sort of number, his low voice throughout was still fantastic and I kept smiling the entire time. To me, there wasn’t anything wrong with this performance.
So how can I pick a winner? Because both covers are very different from each other, and both are fantastic, it really comes down to preference. If you prefer “Ring of Fire” to stick to its country roots, then maybe you would prefer Home Free’s take on it. But if you’re a fan of originality and especially of Adam Lambert, you probably would side with the Idol runner-up.
Since I’m approaching it more that way, I’m going to choose Adam Lambert for the win. The originality, the unusual style, the vocal range, everything about it is crazy, exotic, outlandish, exceptional — and I love it.
Do you have a favorite cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”? Was Adam Lambert’s rendition too strange for your liking? Did it grow on you like it did for me? Vote in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
The Sing-Off continues Thursday night and the season 4 finale airs on Monday, both at 8pm on NBC.
(Images courtesy of FOX and NBC)