Pentatonix is an American a cappella group of five vocalists, Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola, originating from Arlington, Texas. The group won the third season of The Sing-Off on NBC in 2011, singing an a cappella arrangement of "Eye of the Tiger" which was originally performed by the band Survivor as their victory song. Pentatonix won $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony. Their debut EP, PTX Vol. 1 (2012), charted at #14 on the Billboard 200 and their second release, PTX Vol. 2 (2013), debuted #10 on the Billboard 200. Pentatonix is currently preparing for their worldwide tour in 2014.
Background and name:
Pentatonix began with three friends who grew up together: Kirstin "Kirstie" Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, and Scott Hoying at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. Hearing of a local radio show hosting a competition to meet the cast of Glee, they arranged a trio version of "Telephone" and sent it in. Although they did not end up winning the competition, it sparked attention around their school, where the group began performing. After their version of "Telephone" gained attention on YouTube, they continued performing.
Scott Hoying and Kirstie Maldonado graduated from Martin High School in 2010. Hoying went off to the University of Southern California (USC) to pursue a bachelor's degree in Popular Music, while Maldonado pursued a Musical Theatre major at The University of Oklahoma. Grassi, the youngest member of the trio, was still in his senior year of high school. While at USC, Scott Hoying joined an a cappella group called SoCal VoCals. He found out about The Sing-Off from another member of the group, Ben Bram (also their arranger, producer, and sound engineer) and was encouraged to audition for the show. He persuaded Kirstie Maldonado and Mitch Grassi to join him, but the show required at least four members. Hoying met Avriel "Avi" Kaplan, a highly recognized vocal bass in the a cappella community, through a mutual friend and the trio found Kevin Olusola on YouTube, as one of his videos where he was beatboxing and playing his cello at the same time went viral (called "celloboxing".) Kevin graduated from Yale, Pre-Med, and also speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese after spending a year studying in China.
The group met the day before the auditions for the third season of The Sing-Off began. Mitch Grassi skipped his high school graduation ceremony in order to arrive on time for the auditions. They successfully auditioned for the show and eventually went on to win the title for 2011 (season three).
Pentatonix, as suggested by Scott Hoying, is named after the pentatonic scale, a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave. The group believed that the scale's five notes matched their membership. They replaced the last letter with an x to make it more appealing. The quintet derives its influences from pop, dubstep, electro, reggae and hip-hop.
The Sing-Off (2011):
Pentatonix performed the following songs on The Sing Off. Note: they did not perform in Episode 1 or 3:
"Your Love is My Drug"
"Piece of My Heart"
Erma Franklin (credited to Janis Joplin)
"Video Killed the Radio Star"
Medley of "Oops!... I Did It Again", "Toxic" and "Hold It Against Me"
"Born to be Wild"
"Stuck Like Glue"
Usher (featuring will.i.am)
"Let's Get It On"
"Forget You" / "Since U Been Gone"
Cee Lo Green / Kelly Clarkson
"Dog Days Are Over"
Florence and the Machine
David Guetta (feat. Usher)
"Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)"
98 Degrees (sung with host Nick Lachey)
"Eye of the Tiger"
PTX Vol. 1 (2012-2013):
Scott Hoying and Kirstie Maldonado dropped out of college in the hopes of winning The Sing-Off. After they won, all of the members relocated to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career as recording artists. The main goal of the group is to become the first mainstream a cappella group in recent times.
In January 2012, they began working on their first album with producer Ben Bram. During that six month period of picking covers and writing originals, Pentatonix released videos of covers of popular and classic songs on YouTube. In interviews, the members mention that it was a way to stay relevant to their audience that enjoyed their work on "The Sing-Off", in addition to gain new fans. Almost all of their covers, including "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra, "Gangnam Style" by PSY and "We Are Young" by Fun, went viral on YouTube.
Their first EP, PTX, Volume 1, was released on June 26, 2012, charting at #14 in the US Billboard 200 chart and #5 digital chart. It sold 20,000 copies in its first week of release. They promoted their album through press appearances on Access Hollywood, VH1 The Buzz, Marie, and local television shows. Pentatonix were also featured on the Chinese version of The Sing-Off as guests where Kevin showcased his fluency in Mandarin. Pentatonix also embarked on their first national headlining tour in Fall of 2012. The tour was sold-out and spanned 30 cities. Openings acts consisted of Alexander Cardinale and SJ Acoustic Music.
The group released their Christmas EP, PTXmas, on November 13, 2012. They released their video of an original arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" the following day. They were featured performers on "Coca-Cola Red Carpet LIVE! @ The 2012 American Music Awards" Pre-Show on November 18, performed on the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and were the main opening act for the "94.7 THE WAVE Christmas Concert Starring Dave Koz and Kenny Loggins" on December 16. They were also featured guests on Katie Couric (ABC), Home and Family (Hallmark), The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Big D NYE. Ryan Seacrest's website named Pentatonix the 2012 "Featured Artist of the Year" for their expansive growth online in just one year.
The band has collaborated with other artists. In March 2013, Pentatonix posted a cover with violinist Lindsey Stirling of the Imagine Dragons song "Radioactive", which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in the classical digital songs category.
Pentatonix uploaded a cover of Lorde's "Royals" to YouTube on October 2, 2013. It currently has more than 28 million views.
PTX Vol. 2 (2013-present):
The band went on their second national headlining tour from January 24, 2013 to May 11, 2013, and simultaneously wrote additional original material for their second EP, PTX, Vol. II. They released the first single, a cover of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Can't Hold Us" on August 20, 2013 which to date has almost 17 million views. The group also promoted PTX, Vol. 2 on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November 2013, after the success of "The Evolution of Beyoncé" mashup on YouTube. That week, the band was featured on "Around the World with Diane Sawyer" and were named "Persons of the Week".
The album was released on November 5, 2013 in conjunction with their second album single on YouTube, a medley of Daft Punk songs. It went viral, garnering more than ten million views in a week, and as of February 17, 2014, has more than 50 million views. PTX Vol. 2 debuted at number ten on the Billboard 200 and number one on the Independent charts, selling 31,000 copies in the first week. Pentatonix subsequently re-released a deluxe version of PTXmas on November 18, 2013 with two new tracks, "Little Drummer Boy" and "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Their YouTube video of "Little Drummer Boy" that was released on November 25, 2013,1 garnered more than ten million views in the first week and reached number ten on the iTunes top songs charts worldwide. The song debuted at number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 13, 2013. The video version went viral and currently has over 28 million views.
During The Sing-Off, Pentatonix visited the administrative offices of The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization founded in 1998 and the leading national organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The group shared their experiences of overcoming bullying and recorded a PSA. A 60-second spot about The Trevor Project aired during the live finale, but it was met with considerable controversy as the producers edited out LGBTQ references and failed to acknowledge the orientations of Grassi and Hoying, both gay and out members.
Pentatonix performed two shows in Rochester, New York, on December 11, 2011 in support of the University of Rochester YellowJackets' "United We Sing" Kenya project. The event, which also featured all-female octet Delilah, was hosted by the YellowJackets at Kodak Hall at the university's Eastman Theatre. Pentatonix was also invited to the A Cappella Palooza fundraiser in Boston in April 2012 (together with Ben Folds, Delilah, Dartmouth Aires, North Shore and the Dear Abbeys from Boston University) in an effort to raise funds for the Mass General Cancer Center.