By: Brian Mangan
You didn’t have to be a fan of a cappella music last week to encounter the incredible new release from Pentatonix, a five person a cappella band originally from Arlington, Texas.
Pentatonix, the winners of Season 3 of NBC’s The Sing Off, released a compelling, visually stark and musically wonderful video mashing up over half a dozen hits from French electronic music duo Daft Punk. In less than a week, the Daft Punk mashup has received over TEN MILLION hits on YouTube, making it a legitimate cross-over hit. Watch the video here:
Whether you are a fan of a cappella or not — you’ve got to admit, that’s pretty cool.
For those unfamiliar with what a cappella is, it is a rapidly popularizing form of music where the artists make all the music with only their voices [FN]. All of the sounds you hear in the video above are voices — no drum machine, no bass, no synthesizer (a little help from computers, auto-tuning and whatnot, but for the most part completely natural). When you break down what you’re listening to, it’s pretty incredible.
[FN] Although contemporary a cappella is fairly new, it goes without saying that the style of unaccompanied singing is not new. The Yale University Whiffenpoofs were formed in 1909. However contemporary a cappella, which focuses more on pop songs and mashups, uses choreography, and leans heavily on vocal percussion (or beatboxing), has exploded in the last two decades.
Although a cappella has been gaining popularity across college campuses, few groups experience any level of commercial success. Well, before Pentatonix anyway. Pentaonix’ new album, PTX, Vol II is currently #3 on the iTunes US Charts, and Pentatonix themselves have helped to usher in a new era for the art form.
Prior to Pentatonix, the world’s most popular and famous a cappella group was Rockapella, best known for the theme song to “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. Rockapella was incredibly talented, incredibly popular, and blazed a trail for all the groups that have followed. Pentatonix, however, is taking it to another level and, daresay, even making it cool.
In addition to the Daft Punk mashup above, Pentatonix has also released several other videos which have approached cross-over success, such as a ridiculous Beyonce Medley and a collaboration with YouTube sensation Lindsay Sterling on a cover of Imagine Dragons’ hit “Radioactive.” Their Radioactive cover won YouTube Response of the Year at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards.
Subscribe to their page (I do) and you’ll be treated to stuff like this all the time. It’s always a treat to see and hear, not only their incredible performances, but their creative new ideas for the art form. They’re doing things that have never been done before, and that combination of creativity and talent is what has made them into a mainstream success. For your enjoyment, I’m going to link a few of my favorite Pentatonix stuff (including a few live tracks) below.
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Brian Mangan sang in and directed an all-male a cappella group at Marist College known as Time Check (www.time-check.net) and hasn’t been able to kick the bug since then. You can catch him and friends in the Callbacks, an eleven person co-ed group based in New York City.
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1. “Evolution of Music” Studio Version
2. “Beyonce Medley” live on Ellen
3. “Radioactive” live in Concert