Here is my take on the tracks from Pentatonix’s eponymous album, particularly their quality and radio-worthiness.  I have already previously written about “Can’t Sleep Love” (track 2), “Sing” (track 3), “Cheerleader” and “Where Are Ü Now”

“Na Na Na”.  As Avi and Kevin acknowledged, they were inspired by the Bangles’ 1986 smash “Walk Like an Egyptian”, and it makes for a peppy opening for the album.  Mitch’s lead is particularly very slinky in this number.

“Misbehavin'”.  In song previews, most people will assume the song is a conventional doo-wop number that evokes Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me”.   It might sound old-fashioned, but if you listen to the full track, Kevin provided contemporary beats after the first verse.  It makes it actually another radio possibility.  The song’s sentiments about life on the road touring made me think that this could easily segue into ABBA’s 1980 song “Super Trouper”–it makes thematic sense since the song employs the same lyrical themes, and could be a fun multi-generational mashup.

“Ref”.  Many music critics found this the highlight of the album, especially with the edgy synth-like sounds generated by Avi and Kevin.   It’s indeed an impressive sassy, edgy highlight, though I personally l connected better with other songs than this.

“First Things First”.  This tune is squarely in the R&B pocket, and it fits current radio trends.  Another possible single you can consider servicing to radio.

“Rose Gold”.  Many Pentaholics fell in love with this tune as it was previewed in the On My Home documentary.  But as nice as the echo-ey “aw-aw-aw” harmonies are, and how it resembles like Pitch Perfect 2‘s “Flashlight”, well, I fret that as nice as that Jessie J single was, it didn’t really click with the American public.  It’s a good ballad, though.

“If I Ever Fall In Love” (with Jason DeRulo).  When this song was previewed, I was disappointed why they resorted to a remake, and the preview portion seemed to indicate that they didn’t even put a twist to Shai’s 1992 original smash (stuck at No. 2 because of the unstoppable Whitney Houston juggernaut from The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You”).  I also thought, if they need a boost from an established superstar, they could’ve used him on another original song instead of a remake.  Listening to the full track, it turns out after the first verse and chorus, there are indeed wonderful twists employed with Kevin’s jazzy beats making it more than worthwhile.  A little trivia about the Shai original–the main music video actually had these beats and instrumental that albeit minimalist, didn’t put the song in the best light.  Radio actually played the a cappella version more often, and that was what most audiences like myself remember–who says radio can’t play a cappella?  If they used to do it with Shai and Boyz II Men over 20 years ago, it’s time to also play a hell lot more Pentatonix!  If Shai wants to try featuring instrumentals on their song again, maybe they should consider the beats Kevin used…

“Cracked.”  The intro reminded a bit of the Animals’ classic “House of the Rising Sun” mashed up with Pentatonix’s own “Hey Momma/Hit the Road Jack”.  It has that ominous, almost gospel-ly tone that is mixed with a ferocious, danceable beat.  They have been performing this live in various TV appearances, so I hope this also could get a radio push.

“Water.”  We barely hear a lead vocal from Kirstin throughout this album (with the exception of a brief passage on “Ref”), but at least we get this song.  It’s not “radio-friendly” but it’s a beautiful “deep cut” co-written by Kirstin, Kevin, and Audra Mae.  I can imagine this mashed up with Stevie Wonder’s 1986 single “Overjoyed”.

“Take Me Home”.  Though the opening lines melodically remind me of Toto’s “Africa”, this track is the most resolutely “a cappella”-sounding track in this album as with the exception of finger snaps there is barely any percussion sounds to this song.  It’s not “single-worthy”, but a great “deep cut”.

“New Year’s Day”.  The song has an anthemic feel, which is fitting as it’s about looking forward to new beginnings.  I wish they push this song just in time for the year-end, or it can be a fitting anthem post Holiday.  How about a push for this tune on the radio?

“Light In The Hallway”.  Scott wrote this about his nephew, but he entrusted the vocal duties to Avi, who delivered the appropriate solemnity evoked by the song.  Another worthy “deep cut”.

“Lean On”.  It’s a great cover by this group, as usual, of Major Lazer & DJ Snake (featuring Mø)’s smash hit.  They converted the synth lines into harmonic “eh-oh” vocal that is as hooky as the original.

“To The RIver”.  This song is exclusive to those who purchased the album through Target.  I just wonder why this is relegated to a bonus track as it’s a modern pop number that seems more “single-worthy” than, say, “Light in the Hallway” or “Take Me Home”?  A worthwhile listen.

Overall, I do think Pentatonix fielded a strong set of originals, and I do believe they got what it takes to have that non-holiday radio breakthrough–I have my bets on “Misbehavin'”, “New Year’s Day”, “Cracked”, and maybe even “First Things First” or “Ref”.





Since signing with RCA Records, Pentaholics like myself are wondering how RCA will take this group to the next level.  We know they conquered Christmas last year with their platinum That’s Christmas to Me, so we waited in bated breath  how their music can gain inroads in the pop realm–especially promoting original songs to radio.  What gladdens me is that there is indeed heavy amount of publicity in media for the album, along with guest appearances on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the Today show, both on NBC, among other promotions.  They particularly did a terrific version of the intro to Jimmy Fallon’s show, check it out below:


The only peeve I have about how the media wrote up about the release of this album is that some of them created the impression that this is the first time they sang original songs.  This is definitely not the case, as from their first EP, PTX Vol. 1 they have featured original songs.  And several of those originals were terrific, like  “Show You How To Love” from PTX Vol. 1; “Natural Disaster”, “Hey Momma / Hit the Road, Jack”, “Love Again” and “Run to You” from PTX Vol. 2; and “On My Way Home” and “Standing By” from PTX Vol. III.  The only disadvantage was for the first two EPs, they were handled by an indie label who don’t have the marketing muscle to push those songs to radio, and for the third EP, well, let’s excuse RCA for just starting to figure out how to promote an act that is associated with a less-regarded genre, though they squanderedsuch a big opportunity in giving “On My Way Home” a push, especially with the release of their tour documentary last June.  But there are outlets who got it right that this is their first album of almost solely original music (with the exception of their Jason DeRulo collaboration on the standard version, plus the three covers on the deluxe version).

During their tour with Kelly Clarkson, they debuted a new cover, Omi’s summer smash “Cheerleader”.  It was fun listening to the festive beats employed by Kevin, but the highlight was they added a breakdown featuring three-part counterpoint.  It was a treat to hear live, but the studio version is enjoyably silky smooth.  The video is a simple affair, set in a school gym and the five members in collegiate black-and-white hooded jackets.  There is a nice homage to their classic formation in their “Evolution” and early videos in the middle, too.

The end of the above video features a teaser of their first single.  Towards the latter part of Kelly Clarkson’s tour, they debuted their original song and first official single off the album, “Can’t Sleep Love”.  The song is an R&B romantic ditty.  I liked it, but at first listen in my opinion it paled compared to “On My Way Home”, “Natural Disaster”, and “Love Again”.  But I have to say, on further listens it won me over with its charms–and Scott’s “Uh-huh”s and Mitch’s “Yeah”s are a fun touch.  The video is pretty lush and stylish, with the gimmick of vibrant backdrops, backup dancers painted to blend into those backdrops, and the five members clad in printed haute couture fashions.  My only quibble was Kirstin’s hairdo–in my opinion it’s not a good look on her.  The first thing that pops in my mind when I was watching the visuals was “K-Pop”.  I think Korean (and Japanese) music videos  have a whole host of these visuals.  I think I started liking this song more when I heard the version that added rapper/singer Tink–just like a good dish, a little seasoning could make it go to the next level, and that’s what Tink’s contribution did to this song–she added some spice and that extra “something” that made this a more delicious and memorable treat.  It’s such a shame she’s obviously a tack-on in the video version; I wish they integrated her more in the video ending, at the very least.  Below is the “featuring Tink” version of their song, which just made a chart bow at No. 99 this week.

When I saw the track list of the deluxe version, I was stoked to see Jack Ü (aka Skrillex and Diplo) with Justin Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now?” in the tracklist.  I was intrigued how they’ll do the instrumental hook and will they do a vocal “jump” like in the song’s intro?  I was a bit surprised that they stripped it down–but this arrangement showcased the song’s lyrics better and it made for a more emotional, heartbreaking rendition.  I also love the disembodied vocal effect on the “I need you” line–it undercuts the desolation the singer feels.  They did bring the electronic instrumental hooks later in the song, and it’s a treat, especially how Mitch mimic the instrumental hook.  This, for me, is one of their masterpieces.  My only quibble–after they did a rave-up and one run of the instrumental hook, it then abruptly ended.  Well, on one hand, it undercuts the frustrated feeling expressed in the song’s lyrics.  But on the other hand, it felt like listening to the Beatles’ 7-minute-11-second “Hey Jude” and cutting off after the first “Na na na na” coda.  I wish they have another go-round of the raveup and instrumental hook, and let Scott do more runs.  In fact, just like “Hey Jude”, I can fantasize them making the song even much longer by repeating the rave-up and hook, and add more ad-libs and perhaps tack in mash-ups of other songs–I thought of Loreen’s Eurovision winner “Euphoria” and U2’s “Beautiful Day” as mash-up possibilities, though the way the lyrics of those two songs contradict the sentiment of the main song would result in an effect that the singer became lost in a delusional reverie.

On the album release date, they released the video of their second single, “Sing”.  Two weeks prior to the album release they let fans hear a snippet of the song as they have a promo that some of the home videos they would submit singing along to that snippet would be included in the final music video.  The Pentaholics delivered in full force as the video is a great collage of those home videos (plus several celebrity home video contributions like Today Show‘s Hoda Kotb, Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, not to mention YouTube friends/stars Tyler Oakley and Todrick Hall) interspersed with Pentatonix filmed across various Los Angeles locations. One of my favorite shots was Pentatonix walking on a street crosswalk reminiscent of the Beatles’ classic Abbey Road album cover–it’s so apt as at this point Pentatonix could be regarded as the a cappella Beatles.  This upbeat, uptempo jam is for me an immediate charmer.  My only quibble is that Kirstin didn’t have a solo part–yes, Scott is the main lead singer here, but Avi and Mitch each had a solo line, and Kevin got a rap verse.  Why no room for a line by the girl in the group?

Pentatonix’s main competition on that release date for the No. 1 album honors was Demi Lovato.  Demi had more significant inroads into radio over Pentatonix, especially since she already has “Cool for the Summer” on the radio, and the title track from her album, “Confident”, was given a splashy push.  With the Billboard 200 now factoring individual track sales and streaming, it is highly possible that Pentatonix may be tops in true album sales, but may be pipped off the Billboard 200 number one–it happened earlier this year with Madonna’s latest album versus the Empire soundtrack.  But to the relief and delight of Pentaholics like myself, Pentatonix officially topped both the Album Sales chart and the Billboard 200–in album sales it beat Demi Lovato by 11,000 units, 88,000 vs. 77,000, but though Demi obviously caught up with streaming and individual track downloads factored in, Pentatonix still pipped Demi by 200 equivalent units.  And with that, Pentatonix made history as the first a cappella group to make it to No. 1 in the album charts.

This breakthrough is indeed an achievement worth celebrating.  However, Pentatonix has a long way to go.  There is still radio resistance towards a cappella music, though some of that was worn down by “Can’t Sleep Love”.  Hopefully the big sales can convince radio stations that their songs are worth playing, and I hope there would be more streams and spins for their follow-up, “Sing”.  There is also thhe international market to think of–though they did make the charts in other territories, they were not as big as in the US.  Well, Pentatonix has already hurdled one major obstacle with the Billboard 200 achievement, so the other challenges ahead are achievable, and it looks like this group is up for them.




While Pentatonix was on the Asian leg of its On My Way Home Tour, they still maintained their prominence online, what with consistent weekly antics from the Superfruit duo of Scott and Mitch, but there are other things that are abuzz, too.

Let’s start with Superfruit.  Prior to departing for their Asian tour, Superfruit posted a video featuring the duo in drag, with the help of Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 4 contender Willam Belli.  The results were fabulous with Scott looking like a fabulous, angular model, and Mitch resembling a cross between Lea Michele and Penelope Cruz.  World, meet Deb and Lulu!

Scott and Mitch then got inspired to reinvent 12 hip-hop numbers as Broadway songs, to buzzworthy results.    I like how Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” sounded perky with their twist, ILoveMakkonen’s “Tuesday” sounded sprightly and bright, O.T. Genasis’ “Coco” turned into a dramatic piece, Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” sounding like a good fit for Les Miserables, Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” given a flamenco-esque treatment, Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” sounding like a 1950s ditty, Nicki Minaj’s “Pills & Potions” turned into a wistful ballad, along with Drake’s “Just Hold On We’re Goin’ Home”, and finally giving Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” a lilting melody.  They also covered Jamie Foxx and T-Pain’s “Blame it on the Alcohol”, which got a tweet of approval from T-Pain.

Todrick Hall actually goes a very long way with Pentatonix besides the two collaborations he did with them, going all the way back when the core trio were in Arlington, Texas.  So, when he did a parody tribute of them (with a medley of two medleys, the Swedish House Mafia and Daft Punk medleys), it’s inevitable there are in-jokes thrown in for good measure.  He nailed their tics very well–Kirstie’s side-mouth singing, Scott’s height and proclivity for melisma, Avi’s body rolls, Kevin’s beatboxing tics, and most especially, Mitch’s queen-iness, which got pretty extreme coverage during the Daft Punk portion of the medley.  The only thing that Scott and Mitch noted that they would never do, as they reacted to the video (due to fan clamoring) is Mitch uttering “Toots subscribes-ies”.  There were some watchers who weren’t aware of Todd’s deep connection with the group and thought he was throwing shade at them.  But Pentatonix immediately aired their nod of approval, so all is good, and it can be enjoyed as it is–a very creative and amusing treat.

Immediately after their tour, they then proceed to promote their On My Way Home documentary.  It focused mainly on their North American leg of the tour of the same name, but it touches on where they came from, where they are at this point, and their ambition to have an album of all original music.  Admittedly I have not yet purchased the video on Vimeo, but once I have my budget in order, I’ll purchase it, and I know I’ll enjoy it.

But while we wait for their new all-originals album, the group gave us another staggering video treat–the “Evolution of Michael Jackson”.  Though I might quibble that they didn’t include “Scream”, and his last album “Invincible” (like “Butterflies” and “Your Rock My World”), well it’s still a very comprehensive overview focusing on Michael’s truly best moments.  It’s not strictly chronological as they placed 1983’s “P.Y.T” after 1987’s “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, and 1995’s “You Are Not Alone” was placed as a counterpoint while they were singing 1992’s “Heal the World” before launching into “Will You Be There” from the same album, but I suppose it’s more of an arrangement sense that is why they didn’t strictly follow chronology.  I also quibble a bit that Scott sounded a bit winded in “Beat It”, but that’s just a minor note I’ll make in an otherwise A+ masterclass performance.  My favorite moments were Kirstie’s lead parts in singing “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “Billie Jean” (though one might quibble it doesn’t quite make sense for a girl to sing that song considering the subject matter–but then again, hearing Candice Glover and Malaya Watson cover Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” in American Idol without changing the gender made me accept hearing Kirstie sing this classic better) and “Black and White”, Avi’s lead parts in “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and “Dirty Diana”, and Kevin’s singing in “The Way You Make Me Feel”.

Well, I suppose the next time we’ll hear from Pentatonix, it will be their all-originals album.  I’m looking forward to hear it.