At some point in the past few years you’ve probably seen someone on your Facebook timeline share a YouTube video of five people singing a cover song with no instruments. Well, those five ‘self proclaimed choir nerds’ are Pentatonix, an a cappella group who found fame after winning season three of American reality show The Sing Off. The band is made up of “the Trio” – Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, and Kirstin Maldonado – who met in high school in Arlington, Texas and have been friends since childhood, and the ‘Meat and Potatoes’ more commonly known as bass Avi Kaplan and cello boxer (yes, cello boxer – more on that later) Kevin Olusola.
Pentatonix have become an online phenomenon with their YouTube channel gaining more than nine million subscribers by 2015. Their most recent video release, an original song called ‘Sing’, features celebrities such as Maisie Williams, Anna Kendrick and Hailee Steinfeld. But how have they gained such success?
Pentatonix were contestants on The Sing Off, an American reality show similar to The X Factor, but with one big difference – all the acts use only their voices; meaning they sing a cappella. The judges and the public grew to love Pentatonix each and every week, as their arrangements became increasingly complicated and risky. The risks eventually paid off, with Pentatonix going on to win the competition and a recording contract.
Their happiness was short-lived, as they were quickly dropped by their label. The band then took to YouTube to post videos of their cover arrangements – the most well known of which is Daft Punk, a medley of songs by the band of the same name. In 2014, it was announced that Pentatonix were nominated for a Grammy Award for their arrangement, and in 2015, they won.
Their Grammy win was the cherry on top of the success they had already gained with their album “That’s Christmas To Me”, a holiday album of covers and one original song. The album went on to sell over one million copies and became platinum certified. Not only that, but it was the fourth best selling album in the U.S. in 2014 losing out only to Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’, the Frozen soundtrack, and Sam Smith’s ‘In The Lonely Hour’.
In 2015, Pentatonix have proven that they have staying power, and are not to be reckoned with. The fandom, known as Pentaholics, came out in force to back the band’s first full album of original music – the self titled, ‘Pentatonix’ – which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, beating Demi Lovato’s ‘Confident’ to the top spot by less than 300 copies. By doing so, the band became the first a cappella act to ever have a number one album on the Billboard chart.
Outside of the band, the members also have their own individual projects. Kevin Olusola, a Yale graduate, released the Renegade EP earlier this year consisting of five celloboxing songs – three covers and two original compositions.To those of you who don’t know, ‘celloboxing’ means he can beatbox and play the cello at the same time. (Yes, really. Check it out below!)
Kirstin Maldonado runs her own website, which includes a blog that she updates regularly with heartfelt posts that keep her connected with her fans. Avi Kaplan often collaborates with other artists, the two most notable of which are his cover of ‘All About That Bass’ and his appearance on ‘Ring of Fire’ by The Sing Off season 4 winners Home Free.
Undoubtedly, the most successful project outside of the band is Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi’s YouTube channel ‘Superfruit’, which they update each Tuesday. The pair have gained a massive following with 1.7million subscribers. Their channel mostly consists of chatty videos such as Q&As or collabs with other YouTubers, but the duo also post their own cover music.
After touring for two months with Kelly Clarkson earlier this year, the band are on the road again, and are currently in Japan promoting their album. Their schedule is busy and tight, as they have to return to the States this week to perform the Star Wars theme at the American Music Awards on Sunday.
2015 has been a massive year for Pentatonix, but 2016 is set to be even bigger. You might have seen Pentatonix on your Facebook newsfeed, but now get ready to see them everywhere.