Back to Pentatonix
Pentatonix knows harmony

Joe Lawler
March 5, 2013

The vocal group Pentatonix is best known for winning the NBC reality series “The Sing-Off” in 2011. The quintet road to victory on songs like “Piece of My Heart,” “Video Killed the Radio Star” and “Eye of the Tiger.”

Pentatonix has kept the cover train rolling on its YouTube page, which has racked up 50 million views thanks to covers of “We Are Young,” “Somebody That I Used to Know” and “Thrift Shop.”

But the band’s first EP, “PTX Vol. 1,” wasn’t solely covers. Sure, it had the group’s take on the Gotye hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” Nikki Minaj’s “Starships,” Jasmine Sullivan’s “Love You Long Time” and Imogen Heap’s “Aha!,” but it also featured two original tunes, “The Baddest Girl” and “Show You How to Love.”

Bass vocalist Avi Kaplan said Pentatonix is moving in the direction of more original tunes.

“We’ve definitely been writing more original music; on our next EP the majority of it will be original music,” Kaplan said. “Eventually the goal is to have a fully original album, but we’re still trying to figure out our sound.”

While the novelty of a cappella covers is appealing, it doesn’t really differentiate Pentatonix from any other act on “The Sing-Off.” It’s similar to contestants on “American Idol.” People wouldn’t be paying to see Carrie Underwood in arenas without “Before He Cheats.”

It was 25 years ago that Bobby McFerrin had the first a cappella song to hit No. 1, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Of course, the song meant McFerrin is forever labeled as a “one hit wonder.” Pentatonix is hoping to exhibit a bit more staying power on the charts.

Vocal groups often feature more than a dozen members, which makes Pentatonix somewhat unique with only five. Pentatonix operates more like a band than an ensemble, but that also means the group is limited to the sounds it can make with five voices.

“Sometimes when we’re recording, it can be a little limiting because we can only do five parts and five tracks and we’re competing with groups that can use thousands,” Kaplan said. “But one of the strengths of this group is everyone can do two things at once while singing. It’s why we have such a full sound.”

While Pentatonix’s goal is an original album, the crowd-pleasing covers (and the YouTube hits they bring), will likely always be a part of the group’s act.

“Oh yeah; they’re such a fun thing to do,” Kaplan said. “We love doing that.”