It’s safe to say there was a rise in appreciation for acapella music in the year 2012. Yes, the year of the famous “Cup-Song” from the movie “Pitch Perfect.” That little tune was stuck in everyone’s head thanks to Anna Kendrick, and if you didn’t know how to make the cup motions, someone was eager to teach you. There was another important thing happening in 2012, however. Five acapella singers out of Arlington, Texas, dropped their first official album as ‘Pentatonix’ just a year after winning NBC’s ‘The Sing Off’ and signing with Sony Music. There are five of them, and they’re named after the pentatonic scale—an “x” sounded cooler at the end. Not to be overlooked, the group’s sound is incredible. As of 2017, Scott Hoying, Kirsten Maldonado, Matt Sallee, Mitch Grassi, and Kevin Olusola make up Pentatonix. Each singer brings something entirely different to the table, which is why their latest album, “The Lucky Ones” was predictably a great listen.
This album felt like nothing short of a jubilant merry-go-round ride in the middle of the park. Let’s say it’s a sunny day, too, because the vibe is just that upbeat and positive. The established pop singers zealously inch toward finding their sound as this is only their second original album. Though they are routinely celebrated for their abstract covers of other hits, it’s a new year. Who are we to question change?
Lyrically, what Etta James would call “a Sunday kind of love” is radiant through songs on the project like “Coffee In Bed,” “Love Me When I Don’t” and “Bored.” There’s a reinforced and naturally pleasant theme of relying on a significant other for comfort. Musically, all three songs have little to no instrumental aid, and each beat is created through beatboxing and/or recorded harmonies. Watching the group’s music video for “Coffee In Bed” was a quick reminder of how extensive and fascinating acapella can be.
The video starts with showing the five vocalists in different bedrooms, each with a cup of coffee in hand. They sing a beat that favors “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes. Listening to Kevin beatbox will make you forget percussion instruments even exist, and Mitch’s high-pitched runs never fail to excite listeners. The lyrics: “You spend every Saturday morning / Stuck on replay of last night / I won’t take your words as a warning / And I’ll pick you up every time” point towards that theme of being there for your significant other. The camera cut from one singer to the next throughout the music video, and suddenly you see all the layers of the song in one listen as if you were right there in the studio when it was recorded. This emphasis set “Coffee In Bed” apart from the rest of the album.
Of course, no matter what day of the week it is, relationships are often complicated and filled with awkward silences and heated arguments––sometimes even a need for space or independence altogether. The sentimental track “It’s Different Now” starts with a soft piano playing as Kirsten Maldonado serenades listeners. The lyrics: “I rewind out conversations / Listen between every line / To relieve my superstition / I only reveal, it’s only a sign” set the tone for the singer’s breakthrough and the rest of the group comes together for the chorus. Their voices in unison paint the picture of the support they have for each other even through robust lyrics of independence, thus preparing listeners for the last track on the album “The Lucky Ones.” This song is all about looking back on the quintet’s progress over their last decade together.
As far as the album’s re-listenability goes, it’s not really timeless. Once again, this is just the beginning of Pentatonix writing and singing their original music. Some of these songs should be played on the radio multiple times, and some are to be enjoyed just once, like a tour of an art museum. Even though the songs are distinct in their production, there wasn’t much variety in their overall sound. A track like “Side” with a slower progression felt like a breath of fresh air after a lot of the same buoyant music. This exhale can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the listener. This doesn’t speak to the songs’ quality as much as it does the choice of songs on a project. Nonetheless, it still deserves the attention it’s receiving.
The best way to describe Pentatonix is a five-piece jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is carved in a way that is so unique and special, but when connected with the other four, it just makes more sense. “The Lucky Ones” artistry is truly a blessing to even the earliest Pentatonix fans—a reminder that the group is still committed to their musical journey and their repertoire.