The Best of British 2012 is our unofficial countdown of the top ten UK a cappella tracks of the past year. Over the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas period, we will be counting down, from ten to one, what we believe have been the best tracks on show this year, ranging from awesome arrangements, sensational solos, marvellous mash-ups, punny parodies and everything in between.
In order to determine which tracks were to be considered for this accolade, we decided to restrict our selections to songs that fell under ONE or BOTH of the following categories:
a) A song that made its live debut in 2012
b) A song that was featured on a 2012 album
For example, although all of the tracks featured on The Accidentals‘ EP made their debuts at the 2011 Voice Festival, because the album was released in 2012, all of the tracks on the album were considered. Also, several tracks were considered that were not released on albums, for example songs by The Oxford Belles or The Sons of Pitches from their 2012 repertoire.
We made a list of all the eligible songs from all the eligible groups, and then picked the top three tracks from each group, where possible. We then narrowed this shortlist down to 25, before picking our 10 favourite tracks. Opinions were divided, scores were combined, and in the end there was only one winner. But who will it be?
The countdown continues here:
10. The Other Guys – St Andrews Girls
9. The Sons of Pitches – Club Medley 2
8. The Oxford Gargoyles – Fields of Gold
7. The Accidentals – Rolling in The Deep
6. The Oxford Gargoyles – Dancing in the Moonlight
5. The Oxford Belles – Jar of Hearts
4. Out of the Blue – Got To Get You Into My Life
3. The Techtonics – Earthquake
2. The Alleycats – Titanium
Awards: ‘Outstanding Vocal Percussion’, Voice Festival UK 2012, St Andrews Regional
Prowling in at number two is a hard-hitting ballad from St Andrews’ mixed group, The Alleycats, from their latest album, We’re Not Kitten. The track, a cover of David Guetta ft. Sia’s Titanium, debuted at the St Andrews Regional Round of the Voice Festival UK but, according to Musical Director Brendan Macdonald, the group weren’t quite up to the standard they had hoped for that night. “We were a bit nervous and weren’t as satisfied with that performance of ‘Titanium’ as we have been with others, but nevertheless, we were still told by friends and family that they absolutely loved it.” The song was such a hit that it featured prominently on their Edinburgh Fringe setlist, and was an instant crowd-pleaser during their BBC Choir of the Year Section Final set.
The arrangement itself was a little rushed, but had very original intentions behind it. According to Macdonald, the group were looking for “a track which would not only highlight Cammy [Dobbie]’s incredible vocal percussion skills, but change the idea of what a slow a cappella ballad sounded like. We only actually decided on Titanium in January.” Having mentioned the premise of their ballad to fellow group member Annie Faichney, Brendan received a response almost immediately. “A few days later she messaged me with the idea of Titanium. It was the perfect track. I started coming up with different parts for the song, and quickly wrote out an arrangement that could work for the group.” As for where Brendan got his inspiration from, a specific Alleycat alumnus is to thank for that: “Lizzy Weintz’s arrangement of Violet Hill for our ’08-’09 litter really influenced how I came at arranging Titanium. Violet Hill is a complete departure from its original, and does what I think any great cover should do: gives the listener a completely new understanding of the song. We wanted to do the same thing with Titanium.”
Since its debut, the song really became one of the favourites of the group as the a cappella season progressed, but Macdonald claims the complexity of the song also helped the group improve as an entity. “The arrangement forced us to adopt better singing habits, and as such, really strengthened us as a group.” Macdonald went on to reveal why the song was so enjoyable for the group to perform. “The dynamics of the song, with the ever-growing crescendo until the very final chorus, are so enjoyable to execute. And of course, any chance to get to hear Heather [Robertson, the soloist on the track]’s unbelievable alto voice completely commit to that solo is worth taking.”
Having been asked about how they would tackle the song now the soloist, Heather Robertson, has left the group, Macdonald made a poignant point. “There are, in my eyes, two soloists in Titanium – Heather (obviously), and Cammy as well, because the beat-boxing is relentless, and drives the entire emotional arc that we intended to create.” Having said that, “Heather’s haunting rendition of Sia’s part is so powerful.” With regards the future of the song, Brendan suggested the emotional ties to the original soloists would not be released so readily. “To me, I still think of the song as Heather’s and Cammy’s, and so at the moment we’ve decided to put it on the shelf for a while.”
So, Titanium charts at Number 2 on our list, a track which can be found on their album, We’re Not Kitten. But who will chart at Number 1? Stay tuned…