Pentatonix (often abbreviated as PTX) is an American a cappella group of five vocalists originating from Arlington, Texas. Their work, mostly in, but not limited to, the pop music style, consists of covers of existing songs, sometimes in the form of medleys, and some original material. Their music is defined by their own arrangement style, a strong presence of low bass vocals, and a diverse range of vocal percussion.
Pentatonix formed in 2011 and came to prominence the same year by winning the third season of The Sing-Off on NBC, their victory earning them $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony Music. After being dropped from their label (Epic Records) after The Sing-Off, they formed their popular YouTube channel and distributed their music through Madison Gate Records, a small independent label owned by Sony Music that distributes movie soundtracks. They also made effective use of social media to interact with their fan base. Having now eclipsed 7 million subscribers and more than 738 million cumulative views, the PTXofficial YouTube page is currently the 12th most subscribed-to music channel (as of 12 December 2014). Their music video for "Daft Punk" recently surpassed 110 million views.
Their debut EP PTX, Volume 1 was released in 2012, followed by PTXmas the same year, with their third release, PTX, Vol. II, debuting at number 1 on Billboard's Independent Albums chart and number 10 on the Billboard 200 in 2013. In May 2014, Pentatonix signed with RCA Records, a "flagship" label of Sony Music Entertainment. 2014 saw the release of PTX, Vol. III, and their two first full-length studio albums, PTX, Vols. 1 & 2 (a compilation of Vol. 1 and Vol. II) and That's Christmas to Me.
In December 2014, That's Christmas to Me was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and became the group's first accredited release in the US. The album is the highest charting Holiday album by a group since 1962. Pentatonix also received a nomination at the 57th Grammy Awards in the Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella category for their "Daft Punk" medley from PTX Vol 2.
That's Christmas to Me is the fourth best selling album in the United States in 2014 with 1.02 million copies sold (as of December 24, 2014). This album is just the fourth album to sell a million copies in the U.S. in 2014, following the Frozen Soundtrack , Taylor Swift's 1989 and Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour.
Background and formation:
Pentatonix began with three friends who grew up together and were schoolmates at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas: Kirstin "Kirstie" Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, and Scott Hoying. 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.
Hoying and Maldonado both graduated from Martin High School in 2010, Grassi in 2011. Hoying went off to the University of Southern California (USC) to pursue a bachelor's degree in Popular Music, while Maldonado pursued a Musical Theater major at the University of Oklahoma. 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. Then the trio found Kevin Olusola on YouTube, where, one of his videos in which he was simultaneously beatboxing and playing the cello (called "celloboxing"), had gone viral. Kevin was born in Pasadena, California and graduated pre-med from Yale. He 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. 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, hip hop, and classical music.
The Sing-Off (2011):
Pentatonix performed the following songs on The Sing Off. 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 & PTXMas (2011-2013):
Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, 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, having signed with Sony-owned label Madison Gate Records, the group began working on their first album with producer Ben Bram. During that six month period of picking covers and writing originals, Pentatonix released covers of both 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 number 14 on the US Billboard 200 chart and number 5 on the 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 performed on "Coca-Cola Red Carpet LIVE! @ The 2012 American Music Awards" Pre-Show on November 18, the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and 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 Christmas album was re-released on November 19, 2013 as a deluxe edition containing two additional tracks. One of these, "Little Drummer Boy" charted in several Billboard categories including peaking at number two on the "Streaming Songs" chart and number one on the Holiday 100 chart, receiving a number of Billboard awards. PTXmas reappeared on the Billboard charts again in November 2014, placing No 24. on the Billboard 200 and number 4 on the Holiday charts, giving Pentatonix three albums on the Billboard 200 at the same time. On Billboard's 2014 Year-End charts, PTXmas was No.8 on the Catalogue Albums chart and No.119 on the Top Billboard 200 Albums chart, with Pentatonix ranked as No.46 on the Top Billboard 200 Artists chart.
PTX Vol. II (2013-2014):
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 over 28 million views. The group also promoted PTX, Vol. II 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. The video went viral, garnering more than ten million views in the first week, and as of November 2014, has 100 million views. The medley was later nominated for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or a Cappella of the 57th Grammy Awards.PTX, Vol. II 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", released near the end of November, garnered more than ten million views in the first week and reached number ten on the iTunes top songs charts worldwide. The song both debuted and peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week ending December 21, 2013. The video has over 40 million views as of November 2014.
In May 2014, Pentatonix signed with RCA Records, a "flagship" label of Sony Music Entertainment. On July 30, through the new label, the group released their first official album PTX, Vols. 1 & 2 in Japan, containing all of the songs from their two namesake EPs and four additional tracks, previously released as singles. It was released in Australia on August 15.
PTX Vol. III and That's Christmas to Me (2014-present):
On August 7, 2014, Pentatonix announced that their third EP PTX, Vol. III would be released on September 23, 2014. The EP went up for pre-order on iTunes on August 11, 2014 and included a download of two tracks from the EP, "Problem" and "La La Latch".PTX Vol. III debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200.
The group also revealed on August 7 that they would release their second full-length Christmas album, That's Christmas to Me, titled after the title track of the album, an original song that was penned by Pentatonix themselves. The album was released on October 21, 2014 and peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200, and number 4 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart. A single from the album, the group's cover of "Mary, Did You Know?", both debuted and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 26, at number 7 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, and at number 44 on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 chart. Another single "That's Christmas To Me", the title track from the album, also peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. During the holiday season, 7 songs from That's Christmas to Me charted on Billboard's Holiday Digital Songs chart. In December 2014, That's Christmas to Me was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and became the group's first accredited release in the US, having sold 823,000 copies (as of 17 Dec 2014) according to Nielsen SoundScan. Pentatonix is the first act to top both the Holiday Albums and Holiday Songs charts simultaneously since the Holiday 100 launched as a multi-metric tabulation in December 2011. The album is also the highest charting Holiday album by a group since 1962. On Billboard's 2014 Year-End charts, Pentatonix ranked as number 46 on the Top Billboard 200 Artists chart.
Along with their own albums, the band has also collaborated with other artists. In March 2013, Pentatonix and violinist Lindsey Stirling released their cover of the Imagine Dragons song "Radioactive", which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in the classical digital songs category and won "Response of the Year" at the YouTube Music Awards. In July of the same year, along with American Idol contestant and fellow Arlington Texan Todrick Hall, they released "The Wizard of Ahhhs", which mashes up several songs to create one song. The music video follows the story of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz with the artists dressed as its numerous lead roles. They have also since collaborated with singer/songwriter Tori Kelly in a Christmas mash-up of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and "Winter Wonderland".
Several singles have also been released by the group including covers of A Great Big World, Pharrell Williams, Lorde, and others.
Pentatonix 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 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.
In 2014, Pentatonix undertook an extensive tour that included the United States, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom, and South East Asia.
In 2015, Pentatonix will undertake the North American leg of their "On My Way Home" tour, which begins February 25, 2015, in California and ends at Grand Prairie's Verizon Theatre on March 29. Additional tour announcements will be forthcoming during 2015.
In November 2014, Pentatonix were invited by Baz Luhrmann (director, producer and writer) to be involved with the Holiday Window display at Barneys in New York City. Each window had a theme such as "love," "beauty," "truth" and "freedom" with its own soundtrack, recorded by Pentatonix. Pentatonix also performed at the opening night, as well as the "after party" for invited guests.
On 27 November 2014, Pentatonix participated in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, performing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" on the Homewood Suites float. Pentatonix also performed during NBC's annual Christmas in Rockefeller Centre special on December 3, 2014, performing "Sleigh Ride" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". Pentatonix returned to The Sing-Off, performing a medley of songs from That's Christmas to Me during the Season 5 holiday special, which aired on December 17, 2014. Pentatonix is also scheduled to perform as part of ABC Television Network's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2015, performing from the Billboard Hollywood party hosted by Fergie.
In December 2014, Pentatonix were invited to perform on the final episode of Wetten Dass?, a longstanding entertainment show in Germany, performing a medley of songs from artists that have been on the program over the years.
Appearances and Presentations:
Pentatonix were presenters at the 2014 American Music Awards, introducing a performance by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. They were also part of the "YouTube Rewind 2014" video, as one of the most subscribed YouTube music channels.
Pentatonix have a cameo role in the upcoming Pitch Perfect 2 sequel, scheduled for release in the spring of 2015, as competitors to the Barden Bellas.
Awards and nominations:
YouTube Music Awards
Response of the Year
"Radioactive" (with Lindsey Stirling)
Best Cover Song
The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States.
Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella
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 Public service announcement. 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, who are both openly gay.
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, The Dartmouth Aires, North Shore and the Dear Abbeys from Boston University) in an effort to raise funds for the Mass General Cancer Center.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license