Release Date: February 12th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan 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
‘…By definition, I don’t really see Pentatonix as an original-writing-music band- maybe that perception of them can change in the future, maybe not (considering they only wrote one album), but that’s beside the point. Everyone has their skills and talents, and Pentatonix’s is to create within the niche of Christmas music…but then, what happens if all the Christmas songs have been already recorded by the band? Dunno, maybe record more classic covers, but whatever the case, Pentatonix and their quirky style of making music through acapella (that frankly was popularised through the release of the Pitch Perfect movie trilogy) is something that is so far out there, that this quintet is as much needed in culture, music and society that their presence within it has created a new dimension to how Christmas music can look and sound like. They have made Christmas music fun again with their vocal talents- gone are the days where we think Christmas music is just slow and operatic hymnals found in a church hall. Pentatonix have set the bar very high for Christmas song quality, and if just one acapella group becomes inspired by what Pentatonix have done with their career, and aspire to become like them (and maybe, just maybe, they’ll succeed!), then Pentatonix’s role is a job well done. Pentatonix’s joyous acapella and upbeat style is nothing like I’m sure we have thought acapella to be- for once we thought of acapella to be just voices singing melodies and more voices joining in, like a choir in a church. But what was once thought of as being a lesser-form of a musical genre/style, is now considered to be a unique and very difficult art-form- Pentatonix, and maybe even to a lesser extent, the Pitch Perfect movie franchise with their viral video hit ‘Cups’, have led the way in a genre that is becoming more and more of an enjoyable way of listening to music. While for me it took some time getting used to, listening to songs without music, but still music-sounding nonetheless; Pentatonix have carved a bright future…we have been blessed to see a quintet with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. From pop to old classics, to slow ballads and heartfelt anthems; Pentatonix have created a brand that they themselves can decide where to go from here. Another Christmas album perhaps? Or maybe another album full of classic songs? Maybe tackling the genres of country or rock? Who knows? But whatever comes next, the world will be watching, and whatever it is, I’m sure the songs will be great. Because there is a need for acapella during such a time where the weird and wonderful, the unique and different, are often the ones that bring something new and much needed to the table of discovery of different music styles in this world of today…’
This above excerpt was one from a blog post that I did about Pentatonix, in March 2020. I wrote about their importance within the music industry, and how the resurgence of this artform called acapella music, has now been popularised by Pentatonix within the last 5-10 years. And now here as we sit in 2021, February 2021 to be precise. And what I said about, in the aforementioned quote above, about not seeing Pentatonix being an original-writing music band…well, that assumption has been thrown out the window. Because shortly after their 4th Christmas album (We Need a Little Christmas– the review of the album can be viewed here), Pentatonix have graced us with a full-length brand-new album that’s not Christmas-y, and that is an album that is written entirely by the band. So, I guess, I oughta eat my words. And I will. For this new album to release, is a great reminder that such a group is always constantly evolving and shaping to become one of the most unique and interesting groups I’ve heard in a while. The Lucky Ones features standout singles like ‘Happy Now’ and ‘Be My Eyes’, both of which were unveiled to us prior to this album release, and so Pentatonix have fashioned and moulded together, 11 tracks of hope, honesty, emotion and heart, as Scott, Mitch, Matt, Kevin and Kristen deliver some of the most powerful vocal harmonies I’ve heard in any group, ever since CCM group Avalon way back in the 1990s. While not every song here on the album is as joyous, upbeat or even flamboyant as other PTX releases before, what this five-piece have created, is a set of songs that can be played during a variety of circumstances, and evoke a feeling of hope, love, compassion and forgiveness, to ourselves and to one another, something that is very lacking in people right now considering the global climate. The Lucky Ones, the band’s first album of originally written songs since Pentatonix in 2015; is a great reminder to always be prepared to shatter expectations of any band or group that you may have placed in a box- Pentaonix is one such band that cannot be contained; and is a band that can be fully appreciated and respected by anyone who is a Pentatonix fan, an acapella music fan, or both!
‘Happy Now’ dropped digitally in August 2020; and is the first single from the band from this new album. A 3 minute pop diddy that speaks about happiness and longing for it, wanting to grasp such an elusive things, and believing that you don’t need someone else’s permission and approval to be happy yourself; ‘Happy Now’ is a moment of realsiation, that our happiness in our own life, ought not to be tied to something or someone else, for when we try to find happiness in our spouse, our kids, our things that we have, what we think about this or that…ultimately happiness will come back short, as we understand that true happiness is only found in identity and purpose, intentionally, and dare I say, serving someone greater than yourself- God Himself, as we understand that happiness, as the world may see it, can fade with the seasons, but appreciation, respect, joy and a deep-seated reverence, are much more permanent. ‘Be My Eyes’ is the second single from the album, and it is Kristen that sings this track solo, with the other members of the band taking up the mantle of backing vocals/instruments. This track is one of adoration and respect to your significant other (or even a thank-you to God), as we know that often when we’re blinded by what can be right in front of us all the time, we need someone to lift our blinders on our eyes, or even to be our eyes when we are to ignorant, arrogant, and upset, to see. For too often in our lives, we can live without clarity and direction, and it can take someone else not in our own echo chamber, to come and help us along in our lives. This song is an ateempt of a cry to someone, to help us as we navigate our lives, more often than not, blind to what we should see, but can’t, because of our proverbial blind spots.
Throughout the rest of the album, the band fuses together the worlds of radio-friendly pop, and the topics of mental health and self-care, as a lot of these songs deal with issues not necessarily discussed and talked about in society at the moment. Lively and jovial track ‘Love Me When I Don’t’ is about loving someone when they don’t necessarily even know how to love themselves, sung from the perspective of the person not being able to love themselves, for whatever reason. With the song alluding to all the mental health struggles the persona is having, we see the persona reaching out to someone (their significant other? God?), asking for help, something that is the first step to healing and restoration. A song that can hopefully become a radio single and maybe a song that people can turn to when dealing with their mental health, we see PTX singer Kirsten belt out the chorus of how ‘…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 this song fast becomes one of my favourite songs, not only on the album, but one of my favourite songs out of the whole PTX catalogue…ever. ‘Coffee In Bed’ continues along from the theme espoused in ‘Love Me When I Don’t’. Depression, anxiety and mental health is no joke, and this song presents a persona who is willing to meet their significant other where they’re at, even willing to bring them coffee in bed, if their significant other is feeling hurt, feeling depressed, or just feeling like not themselves in their life. For bringing someone coffee in bed (and then by extension, helping them in their daily routine) is love personified into action, as Pentatonix remind us what it means for us to take care of people in our lives that need it. Coupled with a powerful music video, this pop tune is so much more, as with a lot of the songs on The Lucky Ones.
Many other themes are brought to the fore in the rest of the songs, from needing space from a relationship and realising that it was unhealthy in a way that it was moving to fast, so much so that reevaulation and realignment needs to occur, apart from the other (‘A Little Space’), and questioning why a relationship has gone from perfect to toxic in such a short time, why the dynamic has changed and why they’re not on your side anymore in life (‘Side’), to just being in the presence of someone, not necessarily doing anything, and being ‘bored’ in a very good way (‘Bored’), and wanting to fix a on-agan-off-again relationship by not trying to point out the exit signs, but to rather, stay and fix whatever is the issue between two individuals that have a different perspective on how a relationship should be undertaken (‘Exit Signs’). The band also delve into themes of changing your persona for the internet in the song ‘Never Gonna Cry Again’, compromising your core beliefs and ethics, just to fit in and be noticed by…whoever it is online, I guess. For to fit into a mould that is determined by social media, can be detrimental to the mental health of people, and this song explores this very fact. ‘Never Gonna Cry Again’ showcases to us a unique spin on people loving you, as Mitch presents the very ironic line ‘…if everybody loves me, then I’m never gonna cry again…’, but we all know that by conforming into everybody else’s expectations of you, you’re never gonna truly be content and at peace with who you are. The album ends with ‘It’s Different Now’ and ‘The Lucky Ones’, the former is a powerful ballad that uses a piano accompinament, and Kirsten presenting a scenario where the persona comes to terms with the fact that the logical way to move forward is to dissolve a relationship, because they are ‘different now’, while ‘The Lucky Ones’ is a celebratory song about overcoming adversity and believing in the ‘luck’ that has come our way, from whence we were told things in our youth about what we were to be and become, to where we are now, accomplishing things maybe only ourselves dreamed about back then. While the song itself is an autobiographical account of the band and where they were before to where they are right now, ‘The Lucky Ones’ can be applicable for anyone, as we are all on a journey of discovery, self-awareness and making peace with people we don’t necessarily agree with.
‘…Acapella is something that has been living in the hearts of people ever since Pitch Perfect, The Sing Off and Pentatonix. And as 2020 continues to roll on, this nature of a pandemic and social and physical distancing restrictions that are now becoming the norm, is a reminder to always have things in our lives that we can depend on- acapella music by Pentatonix I’m sure being a great comfort to many during this time. It is in moments of difficulty and crisis where we realise that music that we know and songs that we have grown up with can be a reassurance like no other, that things are going to work out, oddly enough, it is the songs like ‘God Only Knows’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘The Sound of Silence’, ‘Take On Me’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’ that are going to bring us through the other end of uncertainty, rather than songs from the radio at the moment. Regardless of how we as humans push through a collective unifying disaster like the one we’re in right now; we can all agree that Pentatonix, acapella music and oddly enough, Pitch Perfect, have all had a hand in our own journeys of late, some more than others, and some more than we would like to admit ourselves. Pentatonix have influenced a lot more of the music industry than we often realise, and have impacted and influenced our own personal lives in a way where we don’t fear acapella music as I’m sure we once did (I know I did, once upon a time). This quintet from Arlington, Texas have shook up what we have known to be acapella music, turned it around and twisted it inside out, to create one of the most beautiful and misunderstood representations of music arrangements that we have ever heard of in the decade of the 2010s…’ And it is in this quote that I will leave this ‘review’, and listen to The Lucky Ones again, because Lord knows (and He surely does!) that we really need an album that speaks so candidly about mental health as this album does. Well done Pentatonix for such a powerful album, especially for songs like ‘Be My Eyes’, ‘Never Gonna Cry Again’ and ‘Love Me Like I Don’t’. Easy one of my favourite albums of the year. How about you?
3 songs to listen to: Be My Eyes, Love Me When I Don’t, Never Gonna Cry Again
RIYL: Little Mix, Tauren Wells, Peter Hollens, Hollyn, Carly Rae Jepsen