PENTATONIX’S CHRISTMAS BLITZ; PLUS, MEET THE FILHARMONIC

Besides releasing their second EP, in time for the holidays Pentatonix decided to augment their Christmas album by adding two new tracks.  The first Christmas track they decided to add is a cover of “Little Drummer Boy”.  This cover took a lot of risks–first, they deviate from the usual martial beats associated with this carol and converted it into a soulful pop song with dubstep rhythms; second, there are some role switching going on in the song, as bass man Avi sang solo lines in a higher register (close to tenor) and there are moments Scott harmonized with Avi singing in a lower range; third, Kevin was given a full solo line to sing in the song, showcasing a pleasing tenor; and fourth, just like in their original track “Natural Disaster” there is a moment where they incorporate hand clapping and foot stomping.  All these elements showcase new wrinkles in the group’s deep arsenal of talents and it did result in a thrillingly innovative and triumphant track that easily went viral (almost 23 million hits as of this writing) and propelled their Christmas album PTXmas to the Top 10 (a No. 7 peak so far) and allowed them to also garner their first Billboard Hot 100 chart hit with a No. 13 debut.

Their second new track for the album was “Go Tell It On The Mountain”.  It’s not as innovative as “Little Drummer Boy”, but it’s a delightful treat to listen to–it started out solemnly with Mitch’s awesome solo, and then it then turned into this upbeat Southern Baptist gospel ditty.  It makes me want to unleash my inner Southern Baptist gospel girl and holler “AMEN!” and “HALLELUJAH!”.  It might sound like something another Sing-Off champion would’ve sung (I was thinking Committed), and it’s easy for Pentatonix to have guest stars join in with them to sing along with this song (though the intro must remain a Mitch solo).  It’s a booty-shakin’ church barn-raisin’ number worth relishing.

But instead of promoting the second track above, the next video PTX released is the opening track from the original Christmas album, “Angels We Have Heard on High”.  They have been performing this all around since last year, but I suppose with a better set up they can finally promote this song to the fullest.  Anyway it is worth the hype, with their trademark tight harmonies and ability to create awesome buildups.

Now, I’m so pleased that The Sing-Off  is revived for a fourth season, and I’m glad to see 90% of the show we recognize are still there.  Sure there is a new female judge in Jewel, and despite initial trepidation from Sara Bareilles fans on how this lady would perform, in my opinion Jewel is actually a major improvement–she knows how to be keen and critical, but still keeping a feminine charm about her; I could dare say from the six episodes we’ve seen thus far, she could be the Best. Female. Reality. Competition. Judge. Ever.  Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman are still on their “A” game, and host Nick Lachey makes his mark with his trademark puns.  The 10 acts competing for this season are expectedly a diverse mix, and one act that caught my eye was an expressedly all-Filipino vocal group called The Filharmonic.  Sure, last season’s Kinfolk 9 was heavily peppered with Filipinos (most of us are familiar with Antonette Taus, who was for a while a major TV star in our shores, though her role in this group during their brief stay was only as a backup singer), and there may be one or two Filipinos peppered across the competing groups in Seasons 1 and 2 but I wonder how strong would a group that defines itself with a nationality would perform–I was apprehensive that even if they might be competent vocalists, I wasn’t sure if they could go far.

The FilHarmonic, from L-R: Barry Fortgang, Joe Caigoy, Niko del Ray, Trace Gaynor, VJ Rosales, and Jules Cruz

Then, I discovered a familiar face in the lineup of the Filharmonic–the stocky burly guy, named Joe Caigoy.  Why is he familiar?  Because Joe Caigoy has a Pentatonix connection–he was with the college group Fermata Nowhere with Avi Kaplan, and they were the 2009 winners of the ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella).  Not only was he present, he was a standout performer, as besides his terrific singing he is a gifted comedian and dancer–check out his dramatization of Kanye West’s “Heartless” and how he dances to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and then sings (and navigating the fast Portuguese lyrics) and dances to Sergio Mendes’ “Magalehnha” in the videos below:

I know there are already a significant amount of Filipino Pentaholics clamoring for Pentatonix to come to our shores–I think it would be nice to have the Filharmonic as opening act , and in a special one-time treat when they both perform in concert, they have to reprise “Magalenha”–I can fantasize Kristie and Mitch harmonizing with Joe and Kevin providing some fresh innovative beats.  Or, (a more obvious proposition) when PTX does their “Evolution of Beyonce” number, Joe would crash their number and perform some Beyonce dances.

Let me give a brief note about the other members besides Joe:  there is the main lead singer and tenor VJ Rosales (best known for his high hair), beatboxer Niko del Ray, bassist Jules Cruz, and backup tenors (and cuties) Barry Fortgang and Trace Gaynor.

Anyway, after watching their first perfromance, I realize that the Filharmonic do have what it takes to go far, as they made a great splash with Bruno Mars’ “Treasure”.  Even Michael Slezak of TV Line raved about Joe in his brief review: “Cute one’s cute. Burly one’s voice is magic! Charisma: 10; Vocals: 7.”  Though I see two cuties in the group, I wonder who Michael is referring to…

Their subsequent performances were solid, but in my opinion did not top their opening splash, until Top Six Movie Night when they had to be in an “Ultimate Sing-Off” with the country a cappella quintet, Home Free, and in my opinion, they came up with what was the biggest highlight performance thus far of this season of The Sing-Off with their rendition of Kenny Loggins’ theme from the Chevy Chase comedy Caddyshack, “I’m Alright”.

They had a great run, but unfortunately they stopped at Top Four and did not advance to today’s finale.  Still, they can still remain a viable band and probably carry on–and perhaps we Filipinos can help be the fuel to keep them going.  I have a feeling I know who this season’s Sing-Off champion would be, and I’m most likely going to write more about them in-depth in my next blog, as they have so much parallelisms and similarities with Pentatonix…

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

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