Release Date: September 10th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Happy Now
- Love Me When I Don’t
- Coffee In Bed
- Be My Eyes
- A Little Space
- Exit Signs
- Never Gonna Cry Again
- It’s Different Now
- The Lucky Ones
- Midnight In Tokyo
- Easy Love
- You’re Out
- A Little Space (feat ATEEZ)
- Midnight In Tokyo (feat. Little Glee Monster)
Acapella has probably been, most likely is, and definitely will be, one of the most skilful and equally impressive crafts to master- in the music industry. What I believe is that with determination and with effort and with time; anyone can play the piano, guitar, or drums. And anyone can sing. I reckon these talents can be taught and learnt. But acapella- making instrumental noises with your mouth and have it sound good, sound professional, sound album worthy… well that’s another level of brilliance in and of itself. As a site, there haven’t been that many acapella artists that have captured our attention and impressed us greatly. Apart from Peter Hollens (whom we blogged about here) and Pentatonix (who we blogged about here), I’d say that acapella genre of artists who are popular, respected and are either influential or becoming influential is rather bare. But for me, it only takes one artists or a couple of artists for me to fully enjoy and appreciate a genre. And for the specific genre of acapella, I have thoroughly enjoyed the discographies or both Peter Hollens and Pentatonix. There’s something about music that is different that captures your attention and imagination, and can make you feel emotions beyond your capabilities and comprehension; and that is what these artists have invoked in me over the years. But while Peter hasn’t released a full-length album since Legendary Covers Vol. 2: Inspire in October last year; Pentatonix on the other hand have been chugging along and have benefited the genre of acapella music through their new album The Lucky Ones. Released in February this year, we reviewed the album and praised the ingenuity, creativity, heart and soul. I think we even gave it an almost perfect score. Anyway, here we are in September 2021. It’s the 20 year anniversary of 9/11… and the world is in shambles in relation to the ongoing Afghan war and rising COVID-19 cases. The world couldn’t be in any more turmoil… and people are crying out for help, for hope, for inspiration, for comfort and for reassurance. Well, what if I told you that hope and help can through the form of Pentatonix and their new album?
Well… it’s not a new album, per se. The Lucky Ones (Deluxe) released yesterday with 7 brand new tracks. and since Jon has reviewed The Lucky Ones as well as blogged about Pentatonix (links for both present earlier in this ‘review’), let me just quickly make the first portion of this review brief. Pentatonix sing acapella but they also beautifully sing in harmony and try to create the sounds of ‘drums’, in order to deliver the fullest experience of acapella songs to us. Of which each song of Pentatonix’s is crazily awesome, and cannot be praised enough! Winning The Sing-Off competition a while ago is no mean feat, and ever since then, these guys have been wowing us with their stellar covers of both iconic classics and modern pop songs. Original songs slotted in between the covers throughout the years- and while I won’t delve into the intricacies of how the band came to be (because you all can read about it in Jon’s Momentous Mondays post!), I will direct you to their Wikipedia page, and you can peruse at your own leisure about the band’s history!
Personally, of the ‘more familiar’ tracks from the standard portion of the album released in February, “Happy Now” is a song that has impressed me greatly and has amplified my respect for these guys. Probably the first original song I’ve heard from these guys (I haven’t heard their 2015 debut album of all-original songs yet!); “Happy Now” is a joyous 3-minute ball of fun and excitement, that gets our toes tapping and our spirits lifted, as we dwell upon what it truly means to be happy. And as I quote verbatim what the song means to each of the members (according to the annotations on Genius.com!), let us watch the vibrant and energetic music video, and be blessed by a hopeful and inspiring melody about being thankful and grateful for everything in our lives, and choosing to be happy in the midst of trials and tribulations.
(Scott) This song represents hope, new beginnings, togetherness, excitement, relief. I think everyone who hears it will be able to connect with it in one way or another and… it’s a great excuse to DANCE!
(Kirstin) Happiness is freedom, it’s not a controlled substance. It knows no bounds, pops up in the most random places like a flower peeking out of concrete. It comes in jolts. It fades in seasons. It’s the comfort of a snuggly blanket. It’s getting a text or call from your loved ones when you needed it the most. It’s acceptance for who you are and the freedom to live it!
(Matt) This lyric sticks out to me so much because it’s a true depiction of the relationship and family that has been cultivated within this group. It’s truly like traveling the world with crazy talented friends. We laugh soooo much until we cry and it’s based in safety and love.
(Kirstin) We’ve all been evolving – individually and as a group – and I think we’ve really leveled-up in terms of seeking out our own happiness. So, to me, this song is a little bit about us turning the page and being ready for a new chapter.
(Scott) I’ve had instances in my life where I surrounded myself with toxic people and it definitely took a toll on my mental health. I’ve learned how essential it is to stand up for yourself and assert your needs.
(Mitch) I think happiness is a sense of inner peace and strength — a self-assuredness that you can really conquer anything you put your mind to. It’s being comfortable in your skin. It’s a contentment that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
(Matt) Happiness to me is knowing that I’m choosing to wake up every day and be the best light I can be to the world. People tell me all the time that they don’t understand how I’m always smiling or how I can be so consistently happy. My answer is that I get joy every morning, waking to the thought of bringing light and joy and life to someone who needs it. I feel like that’s part of my purpose and nothing brings me greater joy!
(Kevin) Happiness to me means that no matter what’s going on in my life, I’m going to choose contentment and joy. I used to think that this reaction had to be based on circumstance, but I now know that it’s a choice that I can make for myself, regardless of any and all external factors.
(Scott) To me, happiness is gratefulness. It’s about looking around and appreciating what you have and who you get to share it with. Health, shelter, food, family, friends, laughter, potential… It’s all so miraculous and beautiful. There’s so much power in reminding yourself of these things every day!
(Kirstin) Sometimes, when we would sing Happy Now on stage, I would tear up during the chorus after really thinking about the lyrics because I felt finally at a secure, loved, and trusted place within myself and the people that surround me.
(Kevin) This song makes me think of a butterfly finally breaking free from its cocoon and the elation of coming into a new world, with a new sense of self. It’s an exhale and it’s a sigh of relief. The journey that “Happy Now” captures is a perfect way to introduce our new original music, and more than that, it represents our collective and individual journeys.
Apart from “Happy Now”, “Coffee In Bed” is another powerful anthem and a standout, as the quintet passionately and fervently relay to us the reality of a situation whereby the persona offers to bring coffee in bed to another person (be it a platonic relationship or a romantic one!)- a welcome gesture to someone in need, and one practical way of being the hands and feet of Jesus; while “Bored” is a synth and effects driven track about wanting to be present with the other person (again, either a platonic or a romantic relationship) even if you are ‘bored’- a reminder that having all of the nice things with no one to share the lavish life with isn’t a good life at all. The title track is a celebration of gratitude where the band fervently sing about the fact that they’ve all come so far and that they’re all considered lucky in how everything panned out and how they became a band; while “Be My Eyes” is a prayer of sorts, a plea and admission of need and devotion to someone (perhaps God?)- with Kristin fervently asking ‘…stranger that I call joy is who you are when I’m too far down, when there’s so many inside voices calling, where do I, where do I run right now? Be my eyes, be my eyes, be my eyes, be my eyes when I can’t see…’. “Love Me When I Don’t”, another powerful and compelling highlight, speaks to the innate part of us who desires and longs for love, appreciation and affection, with the band emotionally and honestly singing out to a friend or a partner ‘…when all my sanity’s gone, the demons are strong, I put you through hell, you know me too well, and you bring me home, ’cause you always know, how to love me when I don’t, when I’m too hard on myself, I don’t ask for help, when I’m not okay, I push you away, but you pull me close, ’cause you always know how to love me when I don’t…’, and reminds us all that we can and should ask for help when we need it- it isn’t a sign of weakness to admit that we’re not okay.
Yet if you’ve read our review of The Lucky Ones or if you’re familiar with the standard edition of the album… then I guess my brief musings of some of the album highlights might bore you- or you might find yourself agreeing to them. And thus, can I now skip to the brand-new melodies and my thoughts on the tracks that did release yesterday as opposed to what we’ve already heard? “Midnight In Tokyo”, a vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic pop song, celebrates the vibe and atmosphere of the city of Tokyo in Japan- kind of a love-letter to the city; and features the group singing in Japanese in the bridge, relaying to a friend or partner ‘…let’s leave behind everything we love, wanna see all eyes on me, oh-no, let’s leave behind everything we love, you and me, let’s go, midnight in Tokyo…’. It’s a song that is catchy, happy-go-lucky, contagious in danceable tempo, and simply a BOP; while the addition of J-pop girl group Little Glee Monster on the remix version of “Midnight In Tokyo” adds another multilingual layer to this melody- with virtually the entire version of this song sung in Japanese. “Anchor”, a heartbreaking melody led by Mitch, sings about the persona’s devotion to their partner and their insistence that they’d be an anchor for that person, even when the other person doesn’t feel the same way and rejects their friendship or relationship for whatever reason- “Anchor” is a pre-‘break-up’ song; while “You’re Out”, led by Scott and Matt, is a track calling out the haters and the people who didn’t believe in the band from early on in their career- the quintet fervently relaying to their ‘trolls’ that ‘you’re out’, presumably an allegory for ‘we’re now famous, so in your face!’.
“Petals”, an out-and-out R&B track, is musically and stylistically something that Pentatonix has normally never done before, and features the members of the band reaffirming a positive relationship in their lives, and singing their praises about their partner. While “Easy Love” champions a stable relationship (albeit one that has come out of the blue!) and speaks about an easy love, a love that makes you feel safe, whole, wanted and needed. Yet for me the track that grabs at my heart and stirs my soul, out of the new tracks; is “A Little Space”, with guest vocals ATEEZ. With the original track being a pop tune that speaks about the persona realising that a relationship they’re in is dysfunctional and toxic, and asking the other person for a little space the clear their head; what K-pop boy-band ATEEZ add to this melody is a multi-lingual depth that we haven’t heard before. For me, this song is a joy to listen to, and is a reminder to never surround ourselves with people who bring us down; and Pentatonix need to be congratulated here, as The Lucky Ones (Deluxe) is an album that is enhanced greatly by its deluxe edition tracks.
If you don’t know about Pentatonix, should you listen to The Lucky Ones (Deluxe) first, or At Home EP or the 3 Christmas albums, or their 2015 self-titled debut of all original material, or their various covers all across Youtube, or their best of Christmas project? For me I’d recommend The Lucky Ones (Deluxe), because that will bring a smile to your face even while we are still in quarantine waiting for restrictions to be lifted. Yet no matter which way you choose though; you’re going to be blessed, I guarantee it! And though these guys aren’t classified as a Christian band (and we’re not sure of the faith of any of the members!), I reckon it doesn’t matter- because we know that God can use anything and anyone to point glory to Him, so too can Pentatonix even if they do not know Him yet. So without further ado, I will end my review by showing you guys the album playlist below. Listen, be amazed, and transfixed by the sheer fact that there’s no instruments. It’s definitely crazy and surreal at how these guys can be a light in a dark, dark world- crazy in a good way. Pentatonix are a once-in-a-generation band, and they’re not done yet. It’s only just the beginning! So what are you waiting for? Let’s get into music again and let Pentatonix be the first to fully convince you of the power of the written, spoken and sung words! Well done Scott, Mitch, Matt, Kristin and Kevin- I can’t wait to hear what’s in store next!
5 songs to listen to: Happy Now, Be My Eyes, The Lucky Ones, Midnight In Tokyo, A Little Space (feat ATEEZ)
RIYL: Little Mix, Tauren Wells, Peter Hollens, Hollyn, Carly Rae Jepsen