A PENTATONIX UPDATE: THE PTX EXPERIENCE

I gotta get this out of my system before more stuff comes out from this group for me to keep up.  I was supposed to blog about this around two to three months ago, but I was caught up with work commitments, then there are those major events like the Bb. Pilipinas and Eurovision that I had to focus more on.  Now, before I get caught up with the start of another exciting pageant event (Mister World 2014), here is another update about my current favorite group, Pentatonix.

They just completed a sold-out US and European tour two weeks ago, and if only I have the time, visa, passport, money, and plane tickets  I would’ve wanted to watch one of their concerts.  As testified and documented by several concertgoers, the experience was mindblowng.

For starters, we finally got a clear answer on how their epic “Daft Punk” medley would sound live, as when their album and now-epic video (with almost 74 million views and counting) were launched last November, people wondered why they didn’t perform the song in promotional appearances.  And people understood that perhaps it’s because this medley is daunting and challenging to perform live.  To the delight of the audiences, they chose to open their concert with this song.  And not only did they sing it–they even have choreography!  Now, it turns out it is indeed daunting as in earlier parts of their US tour, one could notice they sounded uncharacteristically off-key in spots when performing this song–but fans are forgiving because they know this song has an intrinsically high degree of difficulty that is compounded further with choreography.  I know most fans would agree with me that it’s still a gold-medal worthy performance, just like Yuzuru Hanyu’s long program at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi, Russia.

Obviously even the members of Pentatonix themselves noticed their pitch issues with this so midway through the tour they tweaked their choreography a bit, and sometimes even perform the song without choreography like in the charity fund-raising concert Pinoy Relief for Typhoon Haiyan held in New York last March 11 (which also featured a scintillating performance by American Idol Season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez with half-Filipino EGOT*-winning composer Robert Lopez of the Frozen mega-smash “Let It Go”).  Pitch issues are minimized when they move less, so it reminds me of another gold-medal worthy performance, this time the routine by US skater Evan Kasparczak back at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.  People then criticized that he didn’t perform a quadruple axel in his long program, but I think it still didn’t detract the fact that it’s still a terrific gold-medal-worthy routine.

*EGOT – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards.

In early parts of their US tour, they featured an audience participation portion.  in their previous concert tour, it was just a three-part riff, but in this part of the tour, they made it evolve into a cover of the Lana del Ray song “Summertime Sadness”.  It’s such a shame that in the latter parts of their US tour (and their entire European tour), they decided to scrap the audience participation segment.

One stirring highlight of the tour was when they introduced a new cover, A Great Big World’s “Say Something” (hit version featuring Christina Aguilera).  It showcased Kevin’s cello-playing and Kirstie at primary lead vocals (with a lead verse also sung by Avi and Kevin singing a line at the song’send).  The video and studio recording that came out about a couple of weeks into their tour is one of Pentatonix’s masterpieces.  The sepia-toned video and the somber mood exhibited by the group members were such a perfect match for the song.  Their arrangement also gave a more cinematic, epic twist to the very spare and intimate original–who would’ve thought that five voices and a cello could sound fuller and grander than two voices, a piano, and a string quartet like in the hit recording?  Anyway, the band A Great Big World tweeted their blessings for this awesomely epic version delivered by this group.

While on a break in between the US legs of their tour, Scott and Mitch, under the Superfruit umbrella (you can think of them as a subgroup like the way it’s practiced in K-Pop, with Super Junior having several sub-groups, or AfterSchool having Orange Caramel, etc.) released a medley of all the tracks from Beyonce’s latest eponymous album that went viral and generated press coverage from Time Magazine and Huffington Post, among others.  It is indeed terrific, so it’s not surprising that the “Queen Bey” herself sent her blessings from her Facebook and Twitter page, describing them as “Flawless”.

It’s inevitable I suppose that Pentatonix also did their own cover of the ubiquitous hit of 2014, Pharrell’s “Happy”.  At first listen, I was not as enamored with it as I loved the version created by another a cappella group, the FilHarmonic (which I previously mentioned had a PTX connection as the burly singer Joe Caigoy was part of the 2009 ICCA champion group Fermata Nowhere with Avi) who released their version about two weeks earlier.  The FilHarmonic version has silky smooth harmonies and a tempo-shift twist mid-song.  But upon repeated listens, I started to appreciate PTX’s innovations to this song, like the four-part counterpoint and the false ending they gave to the tune.  Still, it’s tough to follow thes staggering awesomeness that was “Say Something”.

After they concluded their tour, they issued a press release that they have finally gotten a major label deal as they are signed to RCA Records. I’m hoping this would mean better radio promotion for their original recordings.  They also announced a tie-up with the platform “Patreon” to crowdfund their subsequent music videos.  Now there were some fans who wondered why would they still do a crowdfunding effort even if they are signed to a more lucrative record deal?  Well, for starters, one of the lesser known facts about most record contracts is that most of the time, the cost of creating a music video is often not shouldered by the record label–it is often charged to the artist.  So I’m not surprised especially since they have bigger ambitions for their subsequent music videos (though as they were, especially those created with Fifgen films, they were already terrific).

On top of announcing their deal, they also released their latest video, for their original song “Love Again”.  This shocked some fans as the makeup and costuming were extremely edgy and heavy, but then one must recall that they are inevitably heading this direction especially when you look at their “Radioactive” and “Daft Punk” videos–this is like the logical hybrid.  I think the concept of this video is that it is set in some post-apocalyptic futuristic rave party featuring this group.  Mitch is close to looking like Eurovision champion Conchita Wurst with the heavy makeup juxtaposed with his beard, Kevin looking fierce and a bit crazy with his bug eyed gestures, and an unblinking Avi reminds me of an Indian deity (or a shaman in a trance channeling an Indian deity).  I personally like the video–now I do hope this gets a radio push and boost more sales for their album (and then they release videos for their other two originals from the album, “Natural Disaster” and “Hey Momma”).  Another interesting note I have to say about this club-worthy track is that somewhere along the way, I hope they can turn it into a mashup with the 1976 dance classic by Vicki Sue Robinson, “Turn the Beat Around”.  The syncopated rhythm of the refrain (I’m referring to the opening lines) just melds well with this dance hit; I fantasize Kevin doing some flute sounds in parts of this song…

Most recently, Superfruit was at it again as they did an “Evolution of Miley”, featuring a medley of hit songs from Miley Cyrus.  It’s a solid, straightforward medley, and I enjoyed the segue between the two latest hits, “Wrecking Ball” and “I Adore You” and when they mash up all the songs at the end of the medley.  Definitely brilliant and of a high standard.

I’m of course waiting with bated breath regarding what the new phase of their career would be like.  Moreover, I do hope they would finally come to our shores and do a concert–before embarking on the European leg of their tour they actually stopped by in Beijing, China for a Hyundai auto show.  Hope they tour Asia soon…

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

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