All The King’s Men Reign In VF-UK Final

In tonight’s sensational Final of the Voice Festival UK, London-based all-male group All The King’s Men fought off some stiff competition to become the first group outside of Oxbridge to become the Voice Festival UK Champions.

The boys, who qualified from the London Regional Round, the very first Regional, also won the award for Outstanding Musicality for their arrangement of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, and were our reader’s favourites to win the competition, ahead of Out of the Blue, The Other Guys, HotTUBBS and The Sons of Pitches.

Although nothing has been confirmed by VF-UK or Varsity Vocals, the boys are now expected to be invited to compete in the ICCA Finals in New York later in the year, like their three previous predecessors.

Congratulations to the boys, and commiserations to all the other groups. Better luck next year!


5 thoughts on “All The King’s Men Reign In VF-UK Final

  1. Before I begin this rant, please note that I am thrilled that ATKM won (given that I’m a native at ICL). My issues here do not lie with that decision.

    However, I think the whole awards fiasco has become ridiculous. For those who weren’t there:
    Outstanding Musicality: All the King’s Men for ‘Hallelujah’
    Outstanding Performance: Out of the Blue
    Outstanding Arrangement: Richard Phillips of The Other Guys for ‘Skinny Love’
    Outstanding Stagecraft: Sons of Pitches for ‘Club Medley 2’

    Now, all 4 of these awards are absolute jokes. And here’s why:

    Hallelujah was great, really. Blend and tuning were amazing. But it was very, VERY cliche. The arrangement was uninteresting as hell (and definitely closer to Rufus Wainwright than Jeff Buckley) and the entire thing just reminded me of Out of the Blue’s Lullabye from 2010 (granted I’ve only seen this on Youtube). But the award was “Outstanding Musicality”. It would’ve been completely justified, had Out of the Blue not come out with Lippy Kids in the same competition. I have never in my life heard such creativity. The arrangement was absolute genius and the juxtaposition of a sextet with a full block was just beautifully mindblowing. I was not surprised to learn via Twitter that they are releasing this as a charity single soon as recorded live at Childish Things 8. I was however surprised that this song did not get a single mention in the awards. It definitely had the most enthusiastic applause. Heck, I would’ve put this as the closest thing to being a viable winner of the Ward Swingle award for originality in the last two years at least. In the video of this on Youtube in the Oxford round, the applause that follows is at least 30 seconds long. SURELY that says something in it’s favor? Yet it wasn’t mentioned there either. Hallelujah for “Outstanding Musicality”? Please.

    However, as much as I loved “Lippy Kids”, I still don’t think Out of the Blue should’ve won the “Outstanding Performance” award (a dubious award in itself; why does it exist? The ICCAs don’t seem to see the need for it). This award was awarded on the night to the “Best Overall Performance”. Surely that would be the winning group then? Nope. It was given to the group who, on the night, were the most tense and nervous on stage. The most obvious choreographical errors of the night were all in their set. The whole 12 minutes reeked of nerves and unfamiliarity (it was like they’d not even seen the stage before that evening!). I feel very strongly that these two awards were awarded the wrong way round that night; All The Kings Men’s performance was far tighter than Out of the Blue’s at the end of the day (unsurprising as they’d just come straight off of their tour).

    But there were more than two groups in the competition (in my eyes, it came down to those two for the winnings and ATKM deserved it, but only just). The Other Guys were given “Outstanding Arrangement” for “Skinny Love”. Now, I’ve already expressed my displeasure with regards to “Lippy Kids”. But this award was just insulting for everyone involved. I genuinely thought the judges were being sarcastic with this one. They took Skinny Love, applied a mediocre soloist with a bizarre accent and made yet another cliche slow-song arrangement. And then threw hip-hop style beatboxing on it! I almost laughed out loud when it came in in the performance, but then realised that they were serious. Don’t get me wrong, The Other Guys oozed of charisma, (much like the Sons of Pitches) and seemed to have almost as much energy as the HotTUBBs, but they made a massive error with this one – made me wish The Accidentals were back again with their Adele soloist from last year instead.

    And then there was “Outstanding Stagecraft”. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I figured it was just another name for “Outstanding Choreography”. But then I looked at the VFUK website. They literally made up an award. On the night. It was definitely deserved, don’t get me wrong! (I especially loved the marionette style in “Somebody I Used To Know”). But, where do you draw the line? If the judges are going to just make up awards on the night, then what’s to say that in 3 years time, there’s not going to be an award for the craziest outfits? (Which they would also have won, orange jumpsuits were not what I expected, I’ll admit). The ICCAs religiously sticks to Outstanding Arrangement, Outstanding Vocal Percussion, Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Choreography. VFUK not only made up their own awards, but then can’t even award the proper ones properly! In my eyes, I definitely would’ve given Outstanding Soloist and Vocal Percussion to the same song; Domino, simply because they were both so technically brilliant, whilst maintaining some of the best choreography of the night (I still rate the marionettes as more outstanding, but it was the most technically difficult choreography of the night). Heck, I would’ve given Outstanding Soloist to Gotta Get You Into My Life as well, simply for how ridiculously high it was (and how much he sounded like Phil Collins; I’m now desperate to hear him do the Tarzan soundtrack).

    But maybe that’s the problem. VFUK seem hell bent on spreading awards around as thinly as possible (case and point: Oxford round 2012), compromising what seems to be their integrity for the sake of making the UK’s only national a cappella competition more appealing to the younger and less able groups. A cappella is certainly growing in the UK, but at what cost? Frankly, I can only begin to imagine how embarrassing it was last year for Cadenza to appear in the ICCA finals when I would’ve sent ANY of the other groups in their place. I’m not surprised they didn’t show their face this year.

    I know it’s easy to sit here and criticize, particularly as I’m not actually part of a group, so I’ll finish off with this: I realize VFUK have worked incredibly hard to put this competition on every year, particularly with it growing so fast. Their efforts have shown with the sheer numbers of groups that signed up and the sizes of the audiences involved. I just hope next year that the judges start taking the awards more seriously. Next year will probably be the final time I’ll be able to attend the final, so I hope it’s a good one.

    • …Do you actually know the first thing about a capella? I’m assuming you’re one of those hanger-ons who knows absolutely bugger all about singing but enjoys judging others when in the safety of cyberspace to feel a completely undeserved sense of self-superiority caused by having been bullied at school…

      The judges were bang on with all of those awards.

      Hallelujah may be a cliched song, but that arrangement was incredible. Not only was it amazingly performed with a musicality that could rival the King’s Singers, but the arrangement was incredibly intricate. The award was outstanding musicality, not outstanding arrangement. Lippy Kids was also a brilliant arrangement, but Hallelujah had the advantage of literally every note being perfect. It’s not often that a middle song makes someone’s set, which makes this all the more incredible. But yeah, you’re right. Length of applause definitely constitutes a better performance. That’s why Stalin should have won VFUK.

      Out of the Blue gave an amazing performance. That means that overall, everything that they did was good. It’s true, they did give an awesome performance. There may have been one or two little slips, but that doesn’t equal “the whole 12 minutes reeking of nerves and unfamiliarity .” All The Kings Men won because they did certain things incredibly. However, Out of the Blue did everything well. But hey, you probably know better.

      As for Skinny Love, the arrangement was interesting. The Other Guys had clearly actually thought musically about this one. Rather than just doing what many a capella groups do and trying to make an a capella song sound as much like the original as possible, they actually did something cool with it. It may not have been to your taste (which is, as we have already discussed, questionable at best), but it was certainly an interesting and good arrangement.

      WOW. The judges decided that something deserved recognition that wasn’t on the original awards list. LYNCH THEM IMMEDIATELY. I’m a member of the Sons of Pitches so I don’t want to spend time dwelling on this one for fear of any kind of arrogance, but you’re just wrong.

      You’re right about one thing though. It is easy to sit there and criticise. Congratulations on that front. If there were an award for largest prickstain of the competition, you would have it hands down. I’m glad that next year will be the last time you attend the final. The world of a capella singing, and arguably the world in general, will be a much better place without nasty pieces of work like you around.

  2. Before adding to the debate, I have to say I find the above reply entirely out of order. ‘Anonymous,’ you use crude language, take an accusatory tone, and are generally very unpleasant to someone who has posed a carefully reasoned and well-thought-out point of view. You probably ought to think about that whilst accusing someone of being a nasty piece of work.

    Having taken part in the competition for several years now I do agree that the awards often seem arbitrary and spread out in a bizarre manner – and although Sons of Pitches were fantastic this year in a formal competition it is inherently wrong to create an award at random. Had I been judging, I would have awarded them the Overall Performance award as no part of their set let them down, they did everything well. Also, there is a ‘highly commended’ category for a reason – the judges could easily have awarded highly commended arrangement to Lippy Kids if they genuinely believed that the Other Guys deserved the outstanding arrangement award.

    This year at voice festival I think the judges made the right call with the winners of each round and with the final winner, which I do not necessarily believe was the case last year. That, then, is progress. I still think, however, that they’re dishing out of the various awards was at times highly arbitrary and seemed to be of the ‘everyone wins a prize’ school of thought rather than considering what was actually outstanding.

    UK a cappella is growing, and the competition is growing to suit it. It’s a challenging event to run well, and I do think that whatever we think of the judging system credit has to be given to the organisers for doing such a good job.
    Next year, however, they simply have to find a better venue for the final. A low perforated ceiling in a concrete room with a small stage is not at all acoustically appropriate for the national final of what is essentially a vocal competition.

    • I’m inclined to agree with you (Anonymous number 2). I suppose the issue in many respects falls back to previous comments about the ‘mission statement’, if you will, of the Voice Festival.

      Acapella in the UK is still very much in its nascence, and whilst it is tempting to make comparisons with ICCA (from which the voice festival sprang, of course), ultimately we should admit that we don’t have the same breadth of quality as in the US. As such, I feel that a rigid competition in the manner of ICCA might stifle the development of the newer groups. I know from personal experience that it is extremely demoralising to have poured your soul into a performance and not receive any recognition. However, I do take your point that an ‘everyone gets an award’ attitude is less appropriate in a final round.

      I think on the whole I would agree with the awards that were handed out, and I think ATKM richly deserved their victory (I say this as the MD/founder of the Sons of Pitches). They really took the judges’ comments from the final last year to heart, improved upon their performance greatly and managed to carve out an excellent niche for themselves stylistically. As a member of an all male acapella group, it is rather difficult to not just copy OOTB because they’re so awesome, but I feel that ATKM have really found their own sound, so Kudos, I guess 🙂

      Having participated in the voice festival since its first year, organising the first rounds in Cambridge and Birmingham, I can tell you that participating in the festival generally improves the quality of any given group, so in that respect VFUK are doing something incredibly right, even if it is just providing an environment in which groups can learn from watching/interacting with one another. The standard of the Birmingham round this year was much higher than the year before, and I think recognising and encouraging new groups at the regional round, perhaps with awards/commendations is healthy for the development of UK acapella. However, with 4 out of 5 of the participants in the final winning something, I do see the potential problem. However, with the current growth of VFUK, hopefully we’ll have more groups in the final soon anyway, so it won’t matter!

      Sorry for the ramble, it’s my first ever blog post


      Tom Johnson, Birmingham

  3. Apparently The Other Guys have taken the comments of the first poster on-board. From what I hear, the soloist has been kicked out of the group and sent to an elocution coach. The arranger has had his sibelius software deleted and piano confiscated. I also believe that they’re even going to post back their certificate, give up a cappella and quit university.*

    *The poster cannot guarantee that any of the above is true

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