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Pentatonix Break ‘After Thanksgiving’ Rule With Christmas Album
by Eileen Kao

October 22, 2014

It is not even remotely past Halloween yet, but get ready because Pentatonix have come out with That’s Christmas to Me, a new album filled with all the “Christmasy” joy that one could ask for.

If one is a fan of a cappella groups, then he or she likely knows of Pentatonix. One of the most well known a cappella groups in the country, it has taken the charts by storm ever since appearing and winning first place on The Sing-Off and then making its way to YouTube fame, receiving millions of views on their covers. In traditional a cappella style, the group uses its voices to make the sound effects and background tracks for their main singer. Vocally, the group consists of four men with very different ranges and one exceptionally versatile woman. As its name suggests, the members of a group make up a “pentatonic” scale.

Its new album is full of classic Christmas jingles like “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” “Silent Night,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Although, at face, this album does not sound interesting at all, the full package might change your mind. Pentatonix’s Christmas selections start off almost universally with a more traditional, spiritual tone—but then Pentatonix throws in its own twists to the songs. Beatboxing, elaborate harmonies, and even pop-ish tunes can be heard melded into these Christmas classics, and it works very well together.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the album’s first track, starts off with a somber, slow tone—very much the song you remembered it to be—but then, as the song transitions to the second verse, the beat suddenly picks up. The track evolves into a Broadway musical scale production, with a more theatrical sound weaving its way into the song production. The cover continues to build on the original, adding in beatboxing and wide range of notes, developing the understated Christmas classic into one of the most upbeat songs on the album.

Pentatonix collaborates with Tori Kelly, a popular singer on YouTube, for “Winter Wonderland.” It’s another great track, with soulful tunes and lots of sonic space for Kelly to showcase her voice. Added trills spruce up the conservative melody, giving the piece modern appeal while keeping with the wintery tone of the original.

Pentatonix brings pop culture appeal to classics, but still is capable of capturing the traditional feel of what it is covering. This especially comes across in songs like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “Silent Night” and “Mary, Did you know?”

“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” for example, maintains its classical roots, with the familiar instrumental twinkle of the song emulated in the background vocals. A melody, ordinarily carried by string instruments, is easily reimagined for purely vocal performance. The power and talent of the group comes out in these challenging translations of very familiar soundscapes.

Included in the album extras is a cover of “Let It Go,” Frozen’s renowned anthem originally sung by Idina Menzel. Although the song has been revisited many times before, Pentatonix does a great job of capturing the intensity of the song while using background harmonies to paint a mental image of the snow and the feeling of the film.

As the snowflakes settle, it becomes clear just how definitive of a Christmas album Pentatonix produced. It’s a less-than-typical holiday record, filled with twisted, that manages to show off just how dynamic the group can be. Although it might still be a bit soon to think about Dec. 25, That’s Christmas to Me might just get you in the mood.