Pentatonix's A Cappella Cool Proves the Future Is Now
Photos by Ivan Guzman
Pentatonix Bayou Music Center March 25, 2015
As Pentatonix performed to a filled Bayou Music Center on Wednesday night, they barely ever took their microphones from their faces. This wasn't because of nerves or lip-syncing (I would re-think my entire life) or anything of that sort, but simply due to the sheer volume of singing each member constantly had to do in order to make their sound what it is.
And after being taken aback multiple times last night by the mind-bending harmonies and brilliant arrangements of their cover songs, I'm more than content sacrificing some forced choreography break for the sheer vocal acumen that was delivered by the group. The only things Pentatonix's stage consists of is a set of stairs, some lights, and a screen to display graphics and whatnot, all of which shows a sort of something-out-of-nothing, cutting-the-fat philosophy that the a cappella group has maintained their entire career and seem to thrive off of.
Pentatonix was formed in 2011 in Arlington, Tex. by high-school best friends Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kirstin Maldonado. They later recruited the deep-voiced Avi Kaplan and beat-boxing cello-player extraordinaire Kevin Olusola before competing in and winning the TV singing competition The Sing-Off in 2011. After getting dropped from their record label, the group took to YouTube where they posted videos of them singing a cappella covers of popular songs and eventually garnered over 7 million subscribers, got signed to a new record label, released a couple popular EPs, a platinum-selling Christmas album, and recently won a Grammy.
With such success, you may wonder what makes Pentatonix so great, and after watching them live and in their element Wednesday night, I now see that there are many reasons that make Pentatonix the real deal. It seems they've perfected the formula of what makes a singing group work, what with the amount of diversity, chemistry and ability to stand alone that each member has. Everything that makes a singing group great is there, but it takes more than that to gain the level of success and fandom that they have.
Every a cappella group runs the risk of seeming mediocre and becoming redundant, but the main reason Pentatonix is so successful is because of how strong of a grasp they have on what is current and what people want to hear. They do this not only by picking the most current songs to cover, but by knowing that people are over boring, Autotuned music and are interested in listening to complex, genre-defying art for a change.
This was showcased multiple times Wednesday, like when Kaplan had a full-on opera solo or Kevin performed his song "Julie O," which only consists of cello and beat boxing, or when they sang multiple songs in different languages, or when the group's cover of Imogen Heap's obscure tune "Aha" became the standout song of the night. Pentatonix showcased sides that no other singer or group today is capable of doing, all while still seeming "cool." Add in a few enjoyable original songs in that mix, and you have a potential worldwide phenomenon.
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When you think about it, Pentatonix is really the first a cappella group to ever break through the mainstream. It's an understatement to say they are wildly successful at bridging the gap between college-choir side project and big-time pop stars, and considering all of these factors and the main factor that audiences in 2015 are ready for a singing group of this caliber, Pentatonix is really proving that it is their time.
Personal Bias: I've followed Pentatonix on YouTube for a while, and I watch Scott and Mitch's personal YouTube channel Sup3rFruit religiously, so I was pretty excited to see them.
Overheard In the Crowd: As they were about to serenade the girl they brought on stage with "Let's Get It On," her friend from the audience yelled, "SHE'S GETTING MARRIED IN 2 DAYS."
The Crowd: Lots of teenagers and young adults. Further proves how much they appeal to the 18-49 demographic.
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