The Absolut A Cappella annual group singing competition was held Friday, February 18 and hosted by our very own USC Sirens, who just so happen to be the first and only all female a cappella group on campus. Competitors included the USC Sirens themselves, Khoir Practice, Troy Tones, SoCal VoCals, Trojan Men, UCLA Scattertones and Caltech’s Fluid Dynamics.
Despite the rain, which typically tends to scare off Southern Californians with the slightest drizzle, there proved to be a good turnout in addition to an interesting series of performances.
The organizers of the evening kick-started the festivities with an angelic rendition of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”. Both numbers were beautiful and delicate. However, they didn’t leave a lasting impression. They were nice and that was the extent of their effect.
The Sirens then went on to perform Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love” and while their efforts were valiant and there were indeed some beautifully harmonic moments, the strain in the lead soloist’s voice was evident. When compared to Florence Welch’s brilliant, artful and incredibly unique, power-house voice, most will unsurprisngly fall flat.
The Sirens ended with a modern Katy Perry medley, which was catchy given that its core featured one of the most polarizing pop stars of our generation, yet the vocals were quite ordinary. Though the performance was respectable, it never rose into the clouds of greatness.
There was, however, one particular Siren song that stood out – a cover of Crimson Doves’ “Running Away”. The lead vocalist conveyed extreme emotional depth and you could feel the sentiment pouring out of her, while the backup vocals expressed feelings of perfect melancholia. The Sirens gave a fine overarching performance but their decision to close with this beautifully desolate ballad revealed them as capable performers – far more than a gathering of pretty voices.
As for the other competitors, Troy Tones, SoCal VoCals, Trojan Men and Scattertones stood out above the rest. Troy Tones took home the award for Best Choreography, while Olivia Peet of SoCal VoCals won for Best Vocalist as she whole-heartedly embraced “Hold My Heart” by Sara Bareilles. For Best Arrangement, the Trojan Nights performed a powerfully harmonic, emotionally moving lullaby featuring a soloist reminiscent of Andrea Bocelli. Lastly, to the pain of many present, the UCLA Scattertones took home Best Vocal Percussion and Best Overall Group.
All of the winners were indeed deserving. The Troy Tones provided an enthused, charismatic and stylized jazz performance, featuring coordinated chair dancing, which amused the audience with the idea of intensely dancing while simultaneously singing. As for SoCal VoCals, Olivia Peet’s voice is so emotionally charged that you can’t help but hold out to see her on some sort of singing competition or perhaps even Broadway. And though the Scattertones gave a commendable performance and emerged as the leaders of the pack, the Trojan Men gave a similarly entertaining and exquisitely rendered set.
Of course, there is some bias to be expected, seeing as we are on Trojan territory, but the power of our enthused and energetic, all men’s a cappella group is extraordinary. Plus, it’s nice to have a group of classy gentleman dressed in suits around who aren’t fraternity pledges.
The two leading groups coincidentally both sang “Wavin’ Flag (Forever Young)” by K’naan and while the competitors had different takes on the World Cup number, the Trojan Men had that power-house effect that should have placed them on top.
Awards and prizes aside, the event promoted philanthropy and the organizers held a raffle which raised a couple hundred dollars for a Dominican child whom the Sirens sponsor in an effort to promote his love of music. The musical ensemble had its ups and downs, but the show was certainly a valuable experience for those present. Keep your eyes peeled for future showcases of all the a cappella groups USC has to offer, in order to get the best comprehensive exposure to our homegrown musical talent.