April 9, 2018 Pentatonix – PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I (Album Review)
You know them as those a cappella sensations who are great at everything they put their to-die-for harmonies to, and they return on Friday, April 13, 2018, with PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I thanks to RCA Records.
At this point in time, the Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum Pentatonix (abbreviated PTX) are a household name! The Texas group got their start in 2011 and quickly went on to win the third season of NBC’s The Sing-Off, earning themselves $200K and a nice little recording contract with Sony Music. Despite being dropped by Epic Records shortly thereafter, the group would soldier onward and become, well, musical royalty! With over 14.5 million subscribers and 3 billion views, Pentatonix’s YouTube channel is currently the 50th most-subscribed-to YouTube channel. They have toured with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, won three Grammy Awards (amongst many other accolades), had 2 holiday TV specials, and gone on to release five albums (or 2 Eps and four albums, however you wish to splice it) over the past four years, including two Christmas collections (2014’s That’s Christmas to Me and 2016’s A Pentatonix Christmas).
On their sixth studio offering, PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I, Pentatonix – Tenor Mitch Grassi, Baritone Scott Hoying, Mezzo-Soprano Kirstin Maldonado, Vocal Percussionist/Cellist Kevin Olusola, and Vocal Bassist Matt Sallee – offer up an eleven-track collection of covers. With the album, the group place their talented spin on some of the most popular tracks streaming today, including hits from the likes of Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato and Kesha, to name but a sampling. Sadly, the album marks the group’s first without founding member, Vocal Bassist/Percussionist Avi Kaplan, who departed in September 2017.
PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I begins with the scrumptious bass of “Attention,” the quintet’s take on Charlie Puth’s hit, followed by a dazzling display of R&B pizazz on Bruno Mars’ “Finesse.” The group’s flawless vocal harmonies are never on better display than on their original mixes, such as “New Rules x Are You That Somebody?” where they pair Aaliyah’s classic “Are You That Somebody?” against Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.”
They inject their fine, sultry vocal wine into Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” then go on to tango with a cello on their gentle, impassioned take of the highly-lauded love song, “Perfect,” by Ed Sheeran. Similarly, Zedd and Alessia Cara’s beautifully minimalist “Stay” seems a fitting selection for the group, who are able to absolutely shine on their purely vocal rendering of the hit.
Newest group member Sallee is allowed to come front-and-center to shine with his deep, vocal bass on “Feel It Still,” a cover of Portugal. The Man’s rebellious hit. Meanwhile, though the pairing of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” alone is purely brilliant, it is the cross-language vocal bliss that Pentatonix expertly inject into their unique creation that displays why they are always a step above the rest.
For a cover of Julia Michaels’ “Issues,” Maldonado takes her turn front-and-center, moving the quintet into a beautifully stirring cover of Kesha’s “Praying” that builds to a glorious finale. Ultimately, payback is a bitch and Pentatonix dish it on their album closer, “Sorry Not Sorry,” a deliciously feisty cover of Demi Lovato’s sassy revenge hit.
It is oft hard to believe that the accompaniments here are minimal, that Pentatonix can execute all of these massive, multi-layered sounds with just their voices. Considering we live in a time where many of Pop’s greats could not carry a tune with a bucket (thank you, auto-tune), it seems almost cruel that one group alone could possess so much vocal might. That is how the cookie crumbles! Pentatonix do it all with a class and sophistication that puts them leagues above the rest, while proving that even the most played-out hit single can still have a deliciously catchy second-life. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Pentatonix’ PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I 5 of 5 stars.