Pentatonix "That's Christmas to Me" Album Review


Prime Cuts: That's Christmas to Me, Mary Did You Know, Winter Wonderland/Don't Worry Be Happy

Trailing just behind Taylor Swift's "1989" on Billboard 200 this week at a lofty #2 position is Pentatonix's "That's Christmas to Me."  In a climate where record sales are sloughing as if they were stately monuments, "That's Christmas to Me" fluidly moves thousands of copies each week, easily making "That's Christmas to Me" this year's best-selling seasonal album.   So, what's the buzz with this album?  After all, a cappella groups like Pentatonix are not novelties, think Manhattan Transfer.  And Christmas offerings by a cappella groups are by no means avant-garde. However, if you listen to just the opening track of this album, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" all the mystery will unfold.  Featuring just layered of voices seamlessly parlayed one on top of the other before breaking out into a Sister Act frenzy type of Gospel fun, what you get is the best of both worlds.  Goosebumps traditional a cappella singing coupled with a modern rock sensibility that few together can muster. 

Pentatonix is a quintet comprising of Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kristie Maldenado, Ari Kaplan and Kevin 'K.O.' Olusola.  "That's Christmas to Me" is the group's 2nd album (the first one being PTX Vol. III) within a month and 4th in less than a year to debut Top 10 on the chart.  Pentatonix currently has more than 6.7 million YouTube subscribes (besting Beyoncé and Avicii) and 650 million cumulative views. The group recently collaborated with world-renowned director Baz Luhrmann and Barney's on their Baz Dazzled Christmas experience.  "That's Christmas to Me," apparently their debut festive offering, is the most successful of their bunch of releases.  Featuring one original the title cut, the rest of the selections fall under secular Christmas favorites ("Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" and "Sleigh Ride"), Christian hymns ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night") and some lesser known gems ("White Winter Hymnal").

From the cozy fireplace to children playing angels in the snow to mom and daddy sharing a kiss underneath the mistletoe, the title cut "That's Christmas to Me" covers all the basis for a romantic Christmas.  Featuring the quintet's soaring harmonies over a gorgeous melodic tune, "That's Christmas to Me" will certainly melt the iciest hearts with its warm romantic seasonal flames.  If you think you have heard enough of "Winter Wonderland," you haven't Pentatonix's version yet.  Meshing "Winter Wonderland" with Bobby McFerrin's carefree "Don't Worry Be Happy," the two-song medley has a contagious Caribbean vibe that will get our feet tapping. 

To appreciate the artistry use of rhythm and vocal nuances take a listen to Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" which by itself is an intricate piece of sonic art.  Already going viral across the net is their take of "Mary Did You Know."  Giving this modern-day classic a calypso beat, Pentatonix brings to life again the wonder of how a tiny baby can be the Savior of the world.  Depending on how one feels about the Frozen's theme song "Let It Go," the group's cover can be a blessing or a curse.  Nevertheless, when it comes to a cappella Christmas, "That's Christmas to Me" is a delightful effort of merging tradition with ingenuity.   



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