With finals season in full swing, snack food running scarce in my apartment and temperatures reaching absurdly-cold levels, I decided to compromise my misery with a refreshing dose of holiday music. The Pentatonix are back with their 2017 release of “A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe,” which was released on Oct. 20.
A notable difference in this year’s Christmas album from last year’s is that the signature quintet has lost vocalist Avi Kaplan, and now performs and creates music as a quartet. You could hear the sobs around the country when Kaplan made his heartbreaking announcement back in May, explaining that the rigorous Pentatonix schedule was taking time away from his family and his friends, and thus he decided to retire from the renowned a cappella group. Though fans will be disheartened at first, it’s obvious that his absence did not affect the group at all. Working together as a quartet is just as impressive, and the Pentatonix will have you binge listening to the entire album in one sitting.
The album begins with an immediate downbeat groove by beat boxer, Kevin Olusola, in the group’s rendition of, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Olusa sets the vibe for the entire album in one eight-count rhythm, and people who don’t know that the Pentatonix is an a cappella group might mistake Olusola’s talent for actual drums and snares. What makes this song so interesting is the combination of maintaining some qualities of the original ballad, while transforming it into a piece that has an African vibe to it – adding a playful energy to the start of the album.
I must admit that when I first saw some of the tracks on the album I was a little disheartened, as many of them are slow Christmas classics, rather than upbeat, dance on-the-top-of-tables, type jams. Who would have guessed that, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” would turn into my No. 1 shower blast. The song tricks the listener at first by starting off with what seems to be a classical rendition of the Christian ballad, only without the accompanying music. After the first verse, the beat of the song completely changes as the vocalists start singing notes that sound like bells before having the beat break down and drop into a double-time version of the song.
The most notable track on the album is the Pentatonix beautiful rendition of, “Hallelujah.” Even though I don’t necessarily think of “Hallelujah” as a Christmas song, I’m happy to see that the Pentatonix chose to include it on the album as it expresses both a raw vulnerability and a hopeful quality. Scott Hoying does a remarkable job setting the tone, and invests a sorrowful emotion when singing the first two verses of the song; however, the real “wow-factor” of this single doesn’t reveal itself – or I should say herself – until the third verse. Mezzo-soprano, Kirstin Maldonado, is a beast. She commits every ounce of her soul into this verse, making it impossible for the listener not to move their torso in an echoing rhythm, which I’m sure is the reason for the many uncomfortable glances I received at Einstein’s when I first listened to this song. This song alone should be the reason you purchase or stream “A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe.” It will be sure to give you the chills, make you tear up, or both.
“A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe” will provide your holiday parties with high-energy classics without the same over-used radio version. They released holiday songs perfect for all age groups, and for all occasions. Whether it be jamming with your friends at those last weekend Christmas parties, or winding down after a long day of studying, the Pentatonix have yet again provided fans with an album that is honest, fun and filled with extraordinary talent.
“A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe” received 4.5/5 stars on iTunes, and is available for streaming on stations such as Spotify and Pandora. The Pentatonix have already embarked on their holiday tour, and will be stopping at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10, with tickets starting at $71 on StubHub.