Pentatonix has a new member
I noticed that I've never written a lengthy article about Pentatonix on this blog. I thought I'd take the current album of the same name as an opportunity to change that. An a cappella blog without a Pentatonix hardly deserves the name. 😉 So today there are seven facts about the quintet, which are also seven arguments why the hype about the group is justified in my opinion!
- In 2011, Pentatonix won the third season of the a cappella talent show The Sing-Off. Kirstin Maldonado, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi knew each other from school. However, at least four group members were required to participate in the show. So they contacted the bass Avi Kaplan, who was already well known in the a cappella scene. They became aware of beatboxer Kevin "K.O." Olusola through his cello & beatbox videos on Youtube. One day (!) Before the casting for the show, the group sang together for the first time.
- 83 YouTube videos (+ 89 more on their second channel PTXVlogs), four albums and four EPs (although there is an overlap), several tours, live appearances in leading TV shows (e.g. Wetten dass ... ?, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen DeGeneres Show), the documentary "On my way home" and an appearance in the film "Pitch Perfect 2": With this list of facts and figures, I want to say that someone is diligent as a bee and works hard for success. Anyone who thinks that everything has flown to them is mistaken.
- Pentatonix are true masters when it comes to self-marketing via social networks and YouTube. You currently have over 9.2 million subscribers and more than 1.8 billion clicks on YouTube. The band says they wouldn't be where they are today without YouTube. The remarkable thing is that they intuitively got everything right from the start. The Facebook account was launched shortly before The Sing-Off and by the end of the season they already had 31,000 Facebook fans. (Meanwhile there are 2.5 million.) In the first few weeks they uploaded short videos (in mobile phone quality) in which they addressed the fans and received cover requests. The first YouTube video, a cover of "Moves like Jagger", was uploaded in early 2012. They have now won several awards for their channel, including the Youtube Music Awards for “Artist of the Year 2015”. Among the music channels with the most subscribers on Youtube, Pentatonix ranks 14th.
- They can really do something and call themselves “choir nerds”. The Oberstimmen trio had a solid musical education as part of their high school's music program, played in musicals, had singing lessons, and all three were members of the Texas-All-State Choir, an ambitious selection choir. After high school, Scott began studying pop music and joined the a cappella group SoCal VoCals at his university. Kirstie decided to go to musicals. Both interrupted their studies, however, after winning The Sing-Off. When he joined the three, Avi Kaplan was already a much sought-after member of the a cappella scene. He sang in the groups Fermata Nowhere and Sincopation and later studied classical music and opera singing. Avi was the first bass to win the “Best Rhythm Section” award at the ICCA (International Championship of Collaboration A Cappella) - before that the award category was “Best Vocal Percussionist”. Kevin won several prizes with his cello playing before the Pentatonix era. He taught himself to beatbox. He is the first of the five to go his own way with a solo album.
- The Sing-Off juror Shawn Stockman once said about Pentatonix "I think you guys were sent back from the future to save a cappella and do it in a futuristic way!" I have the feeling that among us aca nerds, whom we have known Pentatonix for a few years, there are certain habits in terms of their way of arranging, but when I discovered them for me in 2012, what they were doing was already very special. I was particularly impressed by the strong focus on bass and beatbox, breakouts and other surprising elements from dubsteb, hip hop, electro and other styles that you don't expect when listening to it. The special thing is that most of the arrangements are relatively simple, because most of them are not composed on a piece of paper or on the computer, but are created through improvisation in the group. I would argue that this is far from being a skill that every ensemble has. Here you get a little impression (from 3.22 min.), How they work together on a song:
- You have a Grammy! Together with Ben Bram, an arranger and producer who is well known in the vocal scene and who has accompanied the group from the very beginning, they won a Grammy in the category “Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella” for their Daft-Punk medley at the beginning of the year . (Over 150 million clicks on Youtube!) In the past, some a cappella artists have already won Grammys in other categories, but of course this is an amazing award!
- For their first EP "PTX Volume I", which was released in 2012, Pentatonix already wrote two songs of their own.On the new album with the creative name "Pentatonix" are almost only originals. In my opinion, it is a little stronger in the USA than in Germany that a cappella groups predominantly cover, but Pentatonix also plays a special role in international comparison. You have managed to write vocal music that meets the taste of music listeners around the world - not just that of nerdy a cappella fans and cabaret lovers, but also the masses, especially the young target groups. Personally, I don't find the album particularly outstanding compared to other pop music albums, but there are some songs that turned out pretty cool. And let's be honest, when was the last time you thought an album was great from cover to cover? It was probably a bit ago for me and it doesn't really matter. With their Christmas CD "That’s Christmas to me" they already presented the fourth most successful album of the year in the USA in 2014. “Pentatonix” recently climbed to the top of the Billboard charts - world premiere for an a cappella album. (Even n-tv reports about it.)
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Both the individual members and the group as a whole had to take a lot. For example, Scott had already applied to various other casting shows before The Sing-Off, but never made it to the very front. After winning The Sing-Off, their first record label Epic Records dropped the five because no one believed in the group's success.
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For the typical Pentatonix sound, the vocals are also important, which are heavily influenced by R&B singers like Beyoncé, and of course the very charismatic voices (and personalities) that mix well nonetheless. (Of course we are not talking about a blending like the Swingles, but what normal mortals understand by it ... ;-))
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In just four years they have fulfilled their dream of becoming the first “mainstream a cappella band” and influencing many other groups with their music and their way of using YouTube and other social networks for themselves. And more importantly, they showed the world that a cappella music can be cool and thus (hopefully) pave the way for many others. The only thing I'm not sure about when it comes to Pentatonix is the question of whether the seemingly thousand covers of the daft punk medley, “Run to you” and other pieces are more of a curse or a blessing ... 😉 How do you see that ? I look forward to your opinions on the text and of course on the success of Pentatonix.
P.S: In the course of my research for this blog post, I came across a couple of interesting articles about the group, which of course I don't want to withhold from you:
Unfortunately, there are very few texts in German that are worth reading, I can recommend the following:
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