Just before his performance on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” on Monday night, Portland’s Michael Odokara-Okigbo looked into the camera and related that his mother had “raised me on Freddie Mercury.”

It turned out to be a prophetic bit of child-rearing on his mother’s part.

Odokara-Okigbo and his a cappella group, the Dartmouth Aires, went on to wow the show’s judges with a rousing medley of Queen songs. The medley’s closing song — “Somebody to Love” — was especially powerful, with Odokara-Okigbo belting out words that Mercury had made famous.

“That was my favorite performance of this entire competition up to this point,” said singer Sara Bareilles, one of the judges. “Michael, you are a superstar.”

Another judge, Shawn Stockman of the R&B group Boyz II Men, said the whole performance was “amazing.”

He went on to praise Odokara-Okigbo specifically.

“All the leads were amazing,” said Stockman. “Michael, golly. You really took that song and made it your own.”

The performance helped the Dartmouth Aires advance to the next round of competition. Odokara-Okigbo and his singing mates are now one of just six groups left — out of the 16 groups that started the season — vying for the grand prize of $200,000 in cash and a Sony Music recording contract.

“The Sing-Off,” a voice-only singing competition, will continue to air weekly on Monday nights until the winner is announced Nov. 28. The Dartmouth Aires will sing on the show again next week.

For their medley, the Dartmouth Aires also sang Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Killer Queen.” When Odokara-Okigbo sang “Somebody to Love,” he not only showed power and range in his voice, but a gift for theatrics as well. At one point he was down on his knees, bent backward, with his head just about touching the stage.

During the two months in which the Dartmouth Aires have been on the show they have consistently won praise, with Odokara-Okigbo singing most of the leads.

Odokara-Okigbo, a graduate of Waynflete School in Portland and a former member of the Boy Singers of Maine, is currently a senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He has said that his experience on “The Sing-Off” helped convince him he wants to pursue a career in music.

Being on the show has already allowed Odokara-Okigbo to be featured on a nationally distributed album.

Today, Sony Pictures Television is scheduled to release an album titled “The Sing-Off: Songs of the Season.” The album includes holiday songs by competitors on the “Sing-Off” and features the Dartmouth Aires singing “Up On the Housetop.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]


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