Melanie on Music: Pentatonix takes a cappella to new heights
Pentatonix is one of the most recent bands that I’ve found. They’ve been around for years, but already they’re one of my favorites. The first time I heard about them was when I saw their “Frozen Medley” video on Superfruit, a YouTube channel belonging to Pentatonix members Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi. The video only included three members of the a cappella band, and it was a light-hearted, goofy video they shot in their free time. But their personalities were infectious, and their vocal talents stood out immediately.
“Frozen Medley” singers Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kirstie Maldonado are lead vocalists and sing tenor, soprano and alto-soprano. Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola are the other two members of Pentatonix.
Kaplan is a vocal bass, and his range is unbelievable. He can hit low notes that genuinely sound more like an instrument than a voice, and yet he’s also had parts in various songs where he’s singing considerably higher. Olusola is a beatboxer, who also has a background in “celloboxing.” This means he beatboxes as he plays the cello, which is a skill he has been known to use for Pentatonix, such as in the group’s cover of “Say Something.”
Most of Pentatonix’s songs are set up to feature each member at least once. While one person sings the lead part, the others will sing back up. And with these backing vocals from the leads and the percussion from Kaplan and Olusola, you can barely tell there are no instruments.
The majority of Pentatonix’s music is covers, though they do have several original songs, such as “Run to You.” They’ve sung an extremely diverse group of genres, including pop, jazz, folk, indie, R&B, dubstep and electronica. And all of their covers are reworked to fit their a cappella style. It continues to amaze me how perfectly they reflect the original song with just their voices.
They also make videos for their songs on their YouTube channel. One of my favorite songs and videos by them is “Daft Punk.” It’s a medley of various Daft Punk songs, which gives Kaplan and Olusola the opportunity for some incredible backing vocals and beatboxing. And this video is in a completely different style than most. All of the singers are decked out in futuristic outfits, and their eyes are edited to glow a light greenish blue (except for Olusola, who wears futuristic glasses). Each singer is in a separate frame, and these frames are resized and rearranged into different arrangements throughout the video to highlight whoever is singing the lead part.
“Evolution of Music” was one of the first videos I saw of theirs, and it’s still one of my favorites. The title is very literal, as the four-minute song features more than 30 songs from the 11th century through present day. It begins with the Gregorian chant “Salve Regina” and ends with several hits from the 2010’s, such as “Baby” and “Some Nights.”
“Run To You” is one of Pentatonix’s original songs, and it’s also one of their most stripped-down. The lead and backing vocals are very minimal, and most of the song consists of the group all harmonizing the lyrics in unison. It has a much slower pace than most of the group’s music, and the beautiful harmonies are very relaxing to listen to.
Pentatonix started out as just the three lead singers, who performed together in high school after their cover of “Telephone” became popular. Hoying met Kaplan through a mutual friend, and the three leads found Olusola through his viral celloboxing video. The five singers came together to win season three of “The Sing-Off,” a televised a cappella competition. Since then, their popularity has soared, and they’ve gone on to tour throughout North America and Europe.
Pentatonix also has two studio albums, “PTX, Vol. 1” and “PTX, Vol. 2,” as well as various singles which are all available on iTunes.
Members: Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstie Maldonado, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola
YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/PTXofficial
McGinniss is a senior at Red River High School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.