Pentatonix

The group began hinting at the new release on social media weeks in advance with a Christmas-themed post.

There’s no better way to start the holiday season than with some a cappella Christmas carols.

Pentatonix continues its holiday tradition of spreading Christmas cheer with its new album “We Need a Little Christmas.”

The group began hinting at the new release on social media weeks in advance with a Christmas-themed post. It also announced the track list with a small trivia game on its Instagram story with questions involving the origin of each song.

The album opens with the classic carol “12 Days of Christmas.” Scott Hoying begins in a fast tempo, so listeners get a hint that this rendition won’t be like any other. The first five verses are each member having a solo without any backup singing. When they get to days six to 12, the beat is different for every verse. While the song usually has an elegant tone, each line has a more EDM sound to it from Kevin Olusola.

A few weeks prior to the album’s release, Pentatonix posted a music video for its cover of “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).” The song is graceful and emotional. This track might remind listeners of its cover of “Hallelujah” with the drama and strength in the members’ voices.

Matt Sallee opens with background vocals, and the track doesn’t have the same beatboxing sounds the others on the tracklist have. The video is subtle and simple but portrays the dramatic and beautiful feeling the song evokes. The group is set in an outdoor chapel to convey the idea of faithfulness.

While Pentatonix covers classic songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “We Need A Little Christmas,” it also adds an original called “Thank You.” Hoying provides the lead vocals for the song while the others keep harmony. It’s a love song about how his significant other is always there for him and he doesn’t know how to show his appreciation, so he simply thanks them. The chorus even ends with, “I'll never know / The right words to choose / So all I can say / Is thank you.” It’s a sweet Christmas song filled with love.

The group continues with the theme of holiday covers with its own rendition of Ariana Grande’s first Christmas hit, “Santa Tell Me.” The beat is simple throughout and there are several moments of harmonizing between Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kristin Maldonado throughout the song. Olusola does a nonstop beatboxing that gets listeners tapping their feet. 

For a fun Christmas tune, “Happy Holidays/The Holiday Season” is a joyful selection. It’s a cheerful song in general, so there’s no surprise the group made it an upbeat and catchy arrangement. It has its moments where it sounds like a doo wop version with Grassi and Maldonado’s backup vocals, along with the mix of Olusola and Sallee’s beats to wrap it together.

“White Christmas” is a little different than the other tracks. Instead of it starring just the five of the band’s members, they overlap their audio with Bing Crosby’s voice. They spend most of the song as a vocal orchestra for Crosby. It’s an interesting way to cover the song. 

Although this is a Christmas album, Pentatonix also covers “When You Wish Upon A Star” from “Pinocchio,” “Once Upon A December” from “Anastasia” and “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.”

“When You Wish Upon A Star” is a simple rendition. There are no extra beats, just the groups’ raw voices. Members take turns soloing while the others add a simple melody so there are instrumental sounds to keep the song on track.

“Once Upon A December” is originally from the Broadway musical “Anastasia.” Maldonado does a beautiful job with the lyrics while the others do a great job mirroring the orchestra portion from the original version. It has a dignified sound with some original flair.

The album ends with another Broadway showtune, “Seasons of Love.” The group keeps this a simple song instead of going over-the-top with the beat and background. It’s also a nice selection for the final song on the album.

While Pentatonix has several Christmas albums, “We Need A Little Christmas” is a great addition to its collection.

Contact Gracie Brogowski at brogowsx@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.