A five-person a cappella group originally from Arlington, Texas, Pentatonix first found a national spotlight by winning the third season of NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2011. With a decidedly contemporary spin on the format and unique strengths at each position in their lineup, they followed the appearance with a string of Top Ten albums, multiple Grammy Awards, and international chart success.
Formed by high-school friends Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, and Scott Hoying, the group got its start after its version of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” recorded for a local Glee-related contest, started garnering attention on YouTube. The band then added members Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola, renamed itself Pentatonix, and auditioned for The Sing-Off. Standing out for their unexpected stylistic range, which found them covering songs in such styles as electronica, reggae, R&B, dubstep, and more, Pentatonix ultimately won The Sing-Off performing Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
They relocated to Los Angeles and released a debut EP, PTX, Vol. 1, in 2012, featuring versions of “Starships” by Nicki Minaj and “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. The inevitable PTXmas and their debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno followed later that year. Another EP the next year, PTX, Vol. 2, featured versions of hits by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Calvin Harris, as well as “Daft Punk,” which won a Grammy Award in the category of Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. PTX, Vol. 3, released in September 2014, included three originals and four covers, including “Problem” by Ariana Grande and a version of Disclosure’s “Latch” called “La La Latch.” The next month brought their second holiday release, That’s Christmas to Me. Subsequently awarded a platinum certification from the RIAA, its “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” won the group a second Grammy.
In 2015, Pentatonix delivered their fourth studio album, an eponymously titled release of all-original material that topped the Billboard 200. The album’s lead single, “Can’t Sleep Love,” landed in the Hot 100. In the meantime, they also had a cameo in the hit musical film Pitch Perfect 2. The following summer, they reworked Ray Parker, Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme for the 2016 reboot of the film franchise, and in September 2016 the group released a version of “Jolene” featuring Dolly Parton. The latter ultimately won them a third Grammy, this time for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. That October, they issued A Pentatonix Christmas, which became their second number one, platinum-selling recording, given an extra boost with the NBC-televised A Pentatonix Christmas Special in December. It featured a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that hit the Top 25 in the U.S. as well as Canada and parts of Europe, where it topped the singles chart in Austria.
Pentatonix returned with more music early in 2017 via PTX, Vol. 4 – Classics, which featured “Jolene” as well as a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The EP made the Top Ten in Canada, Australia, and the U.S., reaching number four on the Billboard 200. The following year, they delivered another covers album, PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1, which featured their take on Camila Cabello’s hit single “Havana.” ~ Matt Collar & Marcy Donelson