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Maine native’s a cappella group takes second place on NBC’s ‘The Sing-Off’

Posted Nov. 28, 2011, at 10:18 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 29, 2011, at 7:35 a.m.
Michael Odokara-Okigbo
Michael Odokara-Okigbo

The season finale of the “The Sing-Off” was broadcast on NBC Monday night, and the Dartmouth Aires, featuring Portland native Michael Odokara-Okigbo, took home second place. Pentatonix, a five-piece group from Arlington, Texas, won first place, garnering them a grand prize of $200,000 and a Sony recording contact.

From the beginning, Odokara-Okigbo was in the spotlight, for his powerful voice and his showmanship. On the finale episode, the Aires started off with a choreographed, high-energy rendition of Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Odokara-Okigbo took the male lead vocal for the song, dazzling the judges with his vocal pyrotechnics. He also took a major role in the all-male version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” In earlier episodes, the Aires and Odokara-Okigbo excelled at versions of songs ranging from “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” by Big & Rich to “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

“You guys stick out because you’ve got focus and a niche and a theatrical edge that makes you stand out from the crowd,” said judge Ben Folds, who later joined the Aires for one of his own songs. “And you’ve got an unmistakable lead in Michael.”

“You guys are just damn good. You’re good. Every time you’re onstage I can never take my eyes off you,” said judge Shawn Stockman, of vocal group Boyz II Men. “Michael, you’re amazing.”

Michael Odokara-Okigbo is a 2008 graduate of the Waynflete School in Portland and is currently a history major at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. His performance on the Monday, Oct. 31 episode was the first one that really showcased his voice, as he wowed both the audience and the judges panel with his solo during their performance of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” It was so good it prompted Bareilles to single Odokara-Okigbo out.

“That was my favorite performance of this entire competition up to this point,” said Bareilles, on that episode. “Michael, you are a superstar.”

Odokara-Okigbo has been singing since he was a kid — as he said, his mother raised him on Freddie Mercury — and at Waynflete he sang in the school choir and in the all boys and coed a cappella groups. He was also in the Boy Singers of Maine. At Dartmouth, he quickly joined the Aires, a longstanding a cappella group at the school. Earlier this year, the group decided to audition for season three of “The Sing-Off.”

“The Aires auditioned in Boston in the spring, and found out that we were on the show in June,” said Odokara-Okigbo, in an interview with the Bangor Daily News in early November. “The show has been such an incredible experience, and I am really happy to share it with my best friends in the entire world.”

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