With the Grammy’s in the recent past, it’s time to look back on one of the lesser-known winners who took center-stage with legend Stevie Wonder. Some of you may already know them, but for the newcomers, I’m talking about the acapella sensations Pentatonix. Although they have been growing in popularity most notably since 2014, Pentatonix is still fairly unknown to the public. So, from a long-time fan to those just discovering PTX, here are three reasons to love and listen to them:
In a world where representation matters as much as talent, it is rare to find a group where diversity and talent are equally present. No matter who you are you will be able to relate to at least one member of the group. Kevin Oulsola is a Yale graduate, son of a Nigeria-born psychiatrist and Grenada-born nurse, and he is part of the first generation of his family born in America. Olusola shows the world that it is possible to be sophisticated, intelligent, laid-back, cool, and all-around black excellence. Mitch Grassi is of Italian-American descent, part of the LGBT+ community and tends toward gender-neutral representation of himself (such as sporting dress on several occasions and suits on others).
Scott Hoying is also a part of the LGBT+ community (neither he nor Grassi have officially stated their sexuality, therefore, no assumptions are made beyond LGBT+). Hoying and Grassi are also comfortable enough with themselves to explore wearing drag makeup in their show SUP3RFRUIT on YouTube. Kirstie Maldonado is Hispanic, and living proof that you can be both a living Disney Princess and Fierce Queen; she often goes from cuddly photos with her dog Olaf on Instagram to knocking us all dead on the red carpet in designer dresses. Finally, there’s Avi Kaplan, a Jewish-American who grew up in California, believes in dragons, loves "Lord of the Rings" and all things fantasy and studied classical music in college.
Where to begin with the talent shown in this group? Simply in vocal ranges they are astounding. Mitch Grassi, the countertenor of the group has a range of A2-B7 which is over 5 octaves wide, not to mention he is able to sing whistle notes and rap. Scott Hoying is a baritone with a range of 4 octaves, G#1-G#5. Kirstie Maldonado is a mezzo-soprano, which means she can sing either as a soprano or an alto, she sings whistle notes like Mitch and has a range of 4 octaves from E3-B♭7. Avi Kaplan is the bass or the group. His range is E♭1-C#5, and he is able to sing overtones which is the act of singing two notes at once. Kaplan also plays the guitar. Kevin Olusola is a tenor, beatboxer, rapper, cello and saxophone player. Olusola has also created what he calls “Cello-boxing” which is the act of playing the cello while simultaneously beatboxing. All of the members write their own music, freestyle often in YouTube videos and are proficient in different styles of singing.
Pentatonix won the TV show "The Sing-Off" back in 2011, when Grassi (the youngest) was a recent high school graduate. After that, they became YouTube sensations because they were dropped from the record contract that was their prize. In 2014, Pentatonix went platinum with their album "That's Christmas to Me" which also became the fourth best-selling album of the year. In 2015, they were awarded their first Grammy for their song "Daft Punk," in the category Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella, and they just won that same category again for "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy." Along with all of this they have gone on a world tour and released a documentary and a self-titled album of mostly original songs in 2015.
Their performances include not only the collaboration with Stevie Wonder at this year’s Grammy’s, but also a solo performance at last year’s Grammy’s, a performance at the AMA’s and CMA’s. They’ve done all of this in a mere four years, and before the oldest of the group (Olusola) has turned 30. They’re a testament to what can be achieved if you only go for what you want out of life.