For Filipino Pentaholics like myself, the most resounding news came during Maundy Thursday: Pentatonix will be touring Southeast Asia, and Manila is part of the itinerary–their concert is on 05 June. On top of that, they will be performing at the Araneta Coliseum. Now, in most of the venues Pentatonix has performed in thus far, they are generally from 1,000- to 5,000-seat venues. The Araneta Coliseum’s seating capacity is about 16,000. I’m not sure if there are enough Filipino Pentaholics out there who could fill out the Coliseum but you never know, considering Metro Manila has about 13 million inhabitants, bigger than most US cities or even entire European countries. I wonder if they’ll be seeing some sights while here in this country as this concert is two days after their scheduled Jakarta, Indonesia gig, and they will then go to Japan five days after this concert. Would they find time to promote their concert with noontime variety show appearances on It’s Showtime or Eat Bulaga?
This is also the perfect opportunity to do my long-belated update of the goings on with this group, and the past four months has been highly eventful. When I last blogged about them, their Christmas album That’s Christmas to Me has gone platinum and ended up the fourth biggest selling album for 2014. They capped the year with some notable TV performances. One is their medley of pop songs at the German variety show Wetten Dass..? in mid-December. The Wetten Dass..? medley basically was a tribute to previous musical guests on the show, as that episode was the last broadcast for that variety program. Many Pentaholics enjoy hearing them do more of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got A Feeling”, though mentally (including myself) couldn’t help thinking about them immediately seguing to those other songs from their famous “Evolution of Music” medley. and going “Baby, baby, baby, ooohhh….” (from Justin Bieber’s “Baby”). It’s also a treat to hear their versions of the Backstreet Boys’ “As Long as You Love Me”, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”, Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”, and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors”.
They later then performed at the Kennedy Center Honors, paying tribute to Tom Hanks by singing the song “That Thing You Do”. True, there was a band that came in halfway through their performance, but Pentatonix remained terrific here.
Then early February came and one big dream was finally fulfilled–Pentatonix won a Grammy! They won for best arrangement for “Daft Punk” (yes, it was a 2013 recording, but the Grammy eligibility period is from October 2013 to end-September 2014 and “Daft Punk”–and PTX, Vol. II for that matter–was released in November 2013), which is a great win. Actually having checked who the other nominees were, it was obvious this group will win. Now, let’s see if they’ll receive nominations for That’s Christmas to Me at the end of this year, or even perhaps their upcoming studio album. It’s nice how Scott noted in his acceptance speech that they recorded the song in a closet then filmed their video in a kitchen–but with more than 127 million views as of this writing, this now-YouTube video classic still looks and sounds stunning to this day.
It was reported prior to their Grammy win, they performed at Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party performing a medley of Bee Gees in tribute to the sole surviving member of the Bee Gees, Barry Gibb. I wish we have footage of that performance–the only footage I could find is the highlight reel below (you can hear them from 2:46 onwards to the end). I suppose another consolation besides the highlight reel is the group featured in Clive Davis’s annual all-star class photo.
Most of the group’s energies since then has been on the tour, but that didn’t stop them from branching out and pursue other musical pursuits outside of the group. The Superfruit duo of Scott and Mitch posted a Broadway-styled medley featuring three current pop songs–Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”, Nick Jonas’ “Jealous”, and Ariana Grande’s “Break Free”–and collaborated with singer/Broadway star Shoshana Bean and framed it as a love triangle story, It’s almost akin to the “Frozen” medley they performed a year earlier, and yes, Mitch was wearing the blonde wig again.
Superfruit continued on with their version of Nicki Minaj (featuring Beyonce) “Feeling Myself”. It’s really good, with both Mitch and Scott showcasing how well they can navigate rap rhythms. Though, I still am more impressed with their medleys of Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
Kirstie started to also branch out on her own. She played a muse on the acoUstiKats video for “I’ll Be Home This Christmas” (as she’s become the girlfriend of one of the members, Jeremy Michael Lewis). She is not heard here, not seen, but still it’s worth watching.
Finally, she got heard as she collaborated with high school a cappella group Forte on a cover of Ariana Grande’s “Why Try”. Though Forte is supposed to be the main artist, all the lead vocals here are done by Kirstie, and she, as expected, did a great job.
But the one who has the highest profile branching out is Kevin, as he released his own EP, The Renegade. This is of course a showcase/outlet for his cello skills and he released three videos promoting the album.
The first was a cover of Sam Smith’s mega-smash, “Stay With Me”. It was performed with Kevin starting some founding plucks, riffs and beats and then looping them as he then played melodic lines over the loops. It’s definitely a treat and a worthwhile instrumental cover.
The next video he put out was a cover of John Legend’s “All of Me”. This time, it’s about overlapping cellos and no beatboxing. It’s more a classical crossover showcase for this number.
He then featured his original composition, “Renegade”. If I’m not mistaken, he performed this in their previous tour, but I never realized the song starts with ethereal wordless singing before it went into rhythmic territory. I love it. The video can also serve like a sequel to Pentatonix and Lindsey Stirling’s cover of “Radioactive”, as it seems to be shot around the same desert setting.
The EP also featured two tracks that he previously recorded and posted on YouTube. There was his first famous piece, “Julie-O”, that was the first time the world has heard of him and his cello-boxing skills (and also by fate ultimately led him to become part of Pentatonix). The other track was his strinq quartet version of Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack”, which he posted on YouTube in July 2013. For a classical music album, it did pretty well, debuting at No. 53 in the Billboard 200 (but actually debuting at No. 20 if you only count album sales and not streaming and individual track sales). He also momentarily dislodged Lindsey Stirling at the top of the Classical Crossover chart. I think one of these days the Classical Crossover chart will be basically Kevin or Lindsey trading places at the chart summit.
Finally, to express his religious faith (he’s a devout Seventh-Day Adventist), he released a single, called “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”. No beatboxing for this number–just a single cello with differing musical moods and textures. The video also has a visual cue to a previous Pentatonix video–remember “Little Drummer Boy”? It seemed to be filmed on the same hilltop site overlooking the city of Los Angeles.
I just bought a ticket to watch their concert–it’s a bargain compared to, say, One Direction, as the price is bearable enough. I’m like the Filipino Pentaholics out there squealing with excitement and looking forward to Friday evening, June 5, to watch this incredible group live in concert. Two months might seem to be a long wait, but time will pass, and that moment will soon arrive. [In my fangirl mode] SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!