Pentatonix is an a cappella group consisting of five members (that’s the “penta” part of their name, for those of you who aren’t fluent in Greek prefixes. You’re welcome) from Texas. The group formed in 2011 and came into the spotlight after they won the NBC singing competition, The Sing-Off. Their winnings included $200,000 in cash, as well as a recording contract with Sony Music. Later, though, they were dropped from their record label, but gained stardom through their YouTube channel. The group has since attained over 7 million subscribers on their channel, and cumulatively hundreds of thousands of views on their videos. They are now signed with RCA Records, and have since been releasing their compilations through their new record label, including their most recent Christmas compilation, “That’s Christmas To Me.”
It is no doubt that the members of Pentatonix have untouchable talent, with their ability to emulate real instruments with their vocal chords, as they have demonstrated not only on this record, but in everything else they have released in the past. This album is unlike any other Christmas collection that has ever been released in the past, not only due to the fact that it is entirely a cappella, but also in the fact that it has a certain homey and comforting feeling that their velvet voices provide. No collection of instruments could match the cozy snug feeling you get when listening to this record. As a whole, the record feels like warm blankets and hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, and instantly brings the holiday to the hearts to even the Grinch-iest of people.
Their sharp and skillful harmonizing isn’t the only thing that makes “That’s Christmas To Me” unlike any other Holiday compilation released previously, but also the simple song selection and their smart combination of spirited and spiritual. The songs range from the lightheartedness and innocence of “Sleigh Ride” to the solemness of “Mary, Did You Know?” – which has now become one of my favorite Christmas songs after listening to their rendition. The creativity does not stop there, though. The group took the risk and combined two seemingly unlike songs – “Winter Wonderland” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – to create a bubbly upbeat mash-up that surprisingly kinda works. The group then takes things a step further and provides a rendition “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” a song originally comprised entirely of instrumentation, with simply their voices – and pulls it off with the same grace and integrity of the original. Finally, the group includes an a cappella version of Frozen’s “Let It Go.” While the inclusion of this song on a holiday album by anyone else would cause so many pairs of eyes to roll to the back of people’s heads, Pentatonix effortlessly brings the true spirit of the holidays in their version, with their perfect harmonizing and unattainable vocal abilities.
While a cappella is a style of music that has hardly seen the light of day in the past, groups like Pentatonix (and the Barden Bellas also, I suppose) are the driving force that are starting to make it a norm, refining already existing genres with a new subgenre. Pentatonix gives the definition of music a complete face lift, providing clean and simple vocals, removing the manufactured vibe that pop music typically gives off. If you’re still looking for a great collection of holiday music to get yourself through a crowd of angry holiday shoppers, the remaining days of the work week leading up to Christmas, to ease the tension that comes with sitting in holiday traffic, or to simply have relaxing background music at a Christmas party, “That’s Christmas To Me” will be sure to accomplish all of those things.
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope listening to this album will make your holidays a bit cheerier!