most popular a cappella group, Pentatonix, returns to North Texas Saturday
By SARAH BLASKOVICH Staff
Published: 27 June 2014 09:54 AM
Updated: 27 June 2014 11:48 AM
They started out as “choir
nerds,” says Scott Hoying, one of five members of the musical
These choir nerds are popular now, though: Pentatonix has 5.8 million
subscribers on YouTube, just finished a 19-date tour in Europe in which
all but two dates sold out, and is appearing in next year’s Pitch
Perfect 2. The group specializes in singing covers from superstars such
as Beyoncé, Daft Punk, Maroon 5 and Lady Gaga. As an a cappella
group, Pentatonix uses its members’ voices as the only instruments.
You could call Pentatonix one of the most successful contemporary
a cappella groups in the world right now, says Ben Folds, a musician
and judge on the NBC reality TV show The Sing-Off. Trace Pentatonix’s
story back a few years and it begins in Arlington.
Hoying attended Martin High School with Mitch Grassi and Kirstie Maldonado,
and they became singing buddies. They unspectacularly called themselves
the Trio, but the music the 17- and 18-year-olds were producing grabbed
the attention of hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube.
The three decided to audition for Season 3 of The Sing-Off, but Hoying
and friends needed a minimum of five members. (And even with five, some
of the larger a cappella groups offer a significantly fuller sound than
such a small group ever could.)
With new additions Avi Kaplan (bass) and Kevin Olusola (beatboxer/rhythm)
and a lot of hard work, the group won Season 3 in 2011.
Judge Folds considers it “a serious, here-to-stay band.”
And what’s more, it has “brought a cappella to people who
might not otherwise have self-identified as ‘liking a cappella,’”
says Ben Stevens, president and director of the Vocal Foundation, an
Pentatonix has managed to harness continued interest in its music and
launch an international career — a tough task for many reality
TV show musicians. The group’s hook is to sing covers of popular
songs — and to “turn them upside down,” Hoying says.
Covers “kind of became our thing.”
Take the band’s “Daft Punk” video, which has been
watched more than 76 million times on YouTube. There are bright costumes,
feverish beats (all created with Olusola’s mouth, of course) and
interesting camera shots that make the four-minute video a feast for
the eyes and ears.
Creating the arrangements can take weeks, during which the members obsess
over harmonies and create “musical moments” that build and
smolder within a single song, Hoying says.
No genre is off-limits. Pentatonix made a splash with its silly take
on Asian rap song “Gangnam Style” but next offered a sassy
mash-up of Beyoncé songs, then a stirring rendition of “Little
Drummer Boy” near Christmastime. Pentatonix was even on Sesame