The Untold Truth Of Pentatonix

If you haven't heard of Pentatonix, you probably think that the words "chart-topping" and "a capella" just don't go together. In fact, they usually don't — other than a few hits from the Pitch Perfect films, a capella numbers don't usually make it anywhere near the charts. That is, unless they're performed by Pentatonix.

Pentatonix is one of those singing groups that seem to defy all the rules. Since their first viral video of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" in 2010, the group has gone on to win The Sing-Off, scoring $200,000 and a Sony record deal; create 10 albums that all reached the top 200 chart by 2019 (via Billboard); and win multiple Grammy Awards. It seems that Pentatonix has found a way to make a capella not only cool, but also super popular.

With their covers that span just about every genre and their feel-good Christmas music, it's easy to see why the group has amassed so many fans.

The group began as a trio in high school

Pentatonix comes from pretty humble beginnings. It all began when three childhood friends from Arlington, Texas — Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, and Mitch Grassi — began creating a capella trios together. As Grassi explained to Go Pride Chicago, "We had been in choir for most of our high school careers." During the spring choir concert at their high school, the trio performed their a capella numbers while the choir changed formation. A filmed version of their cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" made its way to YouTube and went viral — as of 2020, it has over 1 million views. As Grassi put it in an interview with Jake's Take, "It gained quite a bit of attention."

The friends then posted their version of "Telephone" on YouTube again as part Kidd Kraddick's Kings of Gleeon Competition. From then, the group posted several other trio videos, including "Sweet Dreams" by Beyoncé and "Firework" by Katy Perry

In 2011, the group expanded to win The Sing-Off and shot to fame

After going viral in high school, Pentatonix members Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, and Mitch Grassi went their separate ways — that is, until they decided to get back together to audition for the third season of The Sing-Off. At the time, Scott Hoying had been at college in California when a friend suggested he audition, and he got his two old friends involved. However, as Mitch Grassi explained in an interview with Jake's Take, the minimum number of contestants in a group was five. "Through that same friend, we found Avi Kaplan (our bass) and we found [our] beatboxer Kevin 'K.O.' Olusola on YouTube," Grassi recalled.

By the sounds of things the group found their additional members just in time. As Olusola told The Hollywood Reporter, "Avi and I came in the day before the audition for the show, so that was very nerve-racking." Talk about leaving things to the last minute! Nevertheless, once the five singers started performing together, they never looked back. As Olsuola put it, "We had this musical synergy that I had never felt before."

They went on to win the show. As the singer-songwriter and judge Sara Bareilles said to Billboard at the time, "They're innovators, pushing boundaries in the right ways."

The members of Pentatonix became like family

Soon enough, the group of five had become way more than just a singing group — they'd become like a family. In 2014, Scott Hoying confessed to Entertainment Weekly, "We're like a family, to the point where we spend all our time together and sometimes we don't get along." Mitch Grassi clarified, "We get snappy." Nevertheless, it's clear that Pentatonix's clashes were rare. For the most part, Hoying said, they got along well.

According to Kevin Olusola, the family dynamic was something that happened naturally over time. As they barely knew each other when they started singing together, they sometimes had trouble understanding each other's ideas. "Now that we understand each other so well, we understand how to make things work because we know each person's dynamic and character," the beatboxer explained. And as the group joked, they've also learned to accept each other's energy after being in such "close quarters" all the time!

Pentatonix took French lessons for one of their covers

One thing's for sure — this group is always super dedicated to their craft. As the members of Pentatonix explained to Entertainment Weekly, they even went as far as to take French lessons for one of their songs. When they decided to do a cover of "Papaoutai" by Stromae, they knew they were stepping out of their comfort zone as the entire song was in French. Apparently, it wasn't an easy task for the fivesome. "It was so hard," Kirstin Maldonado confessed. Scott Hoying chimed in, "It started off a little rough," to which Mitch Grassi added, "It was tedious." Wow, sounds like the group worked super hard for this one song.

Hoying went on to explain that he managed to push through the lessons because of how "excited" he was about the song. Plus, as Grassi noted, they knew fans would be disappointed "if we didn't kill it." Listening to the song, it's clear those lessons totally paid off!

Pentatonix's initial trio discovered that the entertainment industry can be a small world

It turns out that everybody knows everybody in the entertainment industry. After leaving high school, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, and Kirstin Maldonado went on to have incredibly successful careers with Pentatonix, and they probably never thought they'd come across their old high school classmates... but that's just what happened when they made it to Good Morning America.

In 2014, they ended up coming across an old friend when he produced an interview with them on GMA. As Hoying explained to Entertainment Weekly, "[Mitch, Kirstin, and I] always talk about how we were a trio in high school, and he was probably the fourth to our group of friends. We were so close to him." Maldonado added, "He's living out his dream doing what he wants to do, too. It's like worlds colliding." Wow, what a small world — it's clear that high school in Arlington produced loads of talent. 

We bet Pentatonix didn't mind a reminder of their past!

Pentatonix has some interesting celebrity fans

Over the years, Pentatonix has definitely amassed loads of fans. Their YouTube channel has over 18 million subscribers, and among their fans are a few familiar names. As they shared with Entertainment Weekly, their famous fans include Channing Tatum, Bonnie Hunt, Kelly Clarkson, Imogen Heap, and Christina Perri.

As the group confessed, they still get a little starstruck when meeting their famous fans. Scott Hoying explained that he had loved Clarkson since he was a kid. When he met her backstage at a concert, she apparently said, "I literally just watched every single one of your videos." Hoying told EW, "I never ask for pictures with celebrities, but I was like, I have to ask for a picture because I want the band to believe this story." The group even ended up touring with her

And for Kirstin Maldonado, seeing Tatum post their video of "Royals" was a huge moment. "I geeked out because I was like, 'He's seen us,'" she recalled. It's so cute how down-to-earth this group is despite all their fame!

Pentatonix has some bizarre warm-up routines

Because Pentatonix is an a capella group, they all rely on their voices for just about everything — with no instruments, there's not a lot to hide behind! It would be easy to assume that an a capella group would need to do some pretty intense warm-ups to keep their vocal cords in shape. As it turns out, the singers have some... unusual routines. During a press conference in Manila, as reported by Rappler, the group revealed their bizarre habits.

Kirstin Maldonado confessed that her warm-up consisted of simply brushing her teeth. Scott Hoying claimed that all he needed was a Red Bull. And for Avi Kaplan? His warm-up routine is to have a nap! "It relaxes me, but it also makes my voice lower," the bassist explained. The group also said that before performing, they like to say a prayer together. Talk about some unusual warm-up techniques! Well, whatever they're doing, it seems to be working.

Pentatonix got dropped by their label in 2011

Pentatonix seems like one of those music groups that has always had amazing luck. From their first viral videos to their big win on The Sing-Off, their rise to the top of their game looks pretty straightforward from an outsider's perspective. However, it turns out, they haven't always had it so easy.

In fact, their label dropped them unexpectedly, shortly after they won The Sing-Off in 2011. As Scott Hoying revealed to Cincinnati Magazine, it was a tough at first. The label contract was part of their prize for winning the show. The whole group had just moved to Los Angeles to start working on music full-time. "Then, when we ended up getting dropped, it was really, really, really sad," Hoying confessed. Nevertheless, the group tried to stay positive. 

In the end, it ended up being a pretty good thing. As Hoying put it, "Reality show contracts are pretty rough." So, when they got dropped, it gave them the chance to grow a following on YouTube. Soon, they had 8 million followers — and "got signed to a bigger, better label." What a great comeback story.

Pentatonix appeared in Pitch Perfect 2 as a "cheesier" version of themselves

The Pitch Perfect films arguably brought the world of a capella competition to the mainstream. The films followed a university team of misfits as they prepare for the a capella championships. Pentatonix seemed like an obvious group to include in the films. For the sequel in 2015, the singers did get a little cameo with an a capella mashup, and, as Entertainment Weekly reported at the time, fans were thrilled. As Mitch Grassi explained, their song for the film was a bit of a throwback to their early days. "It isn't really something we would do in terms of style," he said. "It was very reminiscent of The Sing-Off, but it was kind of fun to go back to where we started and do it up a bit cheesier than usual."

Nevertheless, as Scott Hoying explained to Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film were pretty easy going with what they created. "They were like, do your thing," Hoying said. "We arranged it, sent it, and they were like check, we love it."

Pentatonix used emerging social media platforms to solidify their fame

Despite getting a big boost from their appearance on The Sing-Off, Pentatonix's fame really started to grow thanks to social media. After all, it was their viral YouTube videos that first got them noticed (via Los Angeles Daily News).

In an interview with Billboard, Scott Hoying and Kevin Olusola said that social media was their biggest "power move" as it helped them connect with fans and even secure a record deal with RCA. And looking back at their career, it's clear that social media has played a huge role in expanding their fan base. Mitch Grassi explained to Jake's Take, "Not only [is it] way easier to spread the word about new material, but it's a great way for our fans to keep up with our current activities, plus they get to know us on a more personal level."

Not only does social media help spread the word, it also lets fans into their process. In 2016, bassist Avi Kaplan summed it up to FaceCulture, saying, "I think social media is really the heart and soul of... everything." As he explained, it allows them to show people what they're doing live, so they can see "what is so special about it."

Pentatonix admits that making Christmas music definitely helped them hit the big time

If you're a Pentatonix fan, you've probably got their Christmas tracks blasting all December long. Aside from maybe Mariah Carey and Michael Buble, few artists have made as much of a splash from their Christmas music. Scott Hoying even laughingly told Billboard that making Christmas music might have been one of their smartest moves. He has a point. Of their 10 top 200 albums, half were Christmas records (via Billboard). They are certainly giving us plenty of festive cheer! 

In an interview for Nola, Kirstin Maldonado explained that the group kept coming back to Christmas songs for a reason. "A capella and Christmas music really go well together. It feels in the spirit of Christmas, how jolly and fun Christmas songs are," she said. She went on to explain that she co-wrote one of Pentatonix's original Christmas songs, "Good to Be Bad." Apparently, it was actually pretty hard — after all, there are only so many Christmas-related words! 

In 2017, Avi left Pentatonix with a super emotional farewell

One of the saddest moments in the group's history came in 2017, when Avi Kaplan, the bassist, decided it was time to say goodbye. He announced his departure in a tearful Facebook video, alongside the other members of the group. "It's been one of the toughest decisions to make in my entire life," he began. He went on to reassure fans that his six years with the group had been incredible. However, as he explained, he had sometimes become overwhelmed by the pace of life that came with being part of the group. "I believe in what we do, and I believe in what they will do," he went on, asking fans to keep supporting the group without him.

In 2017, a new bassist, Matt Sallee, joined the group ahead of a new album and tour. Sallee, as it turned out, was a total Pentatonix fan. In an Instagram post, he wrote, "They have been nothing but the most humble and sweet human beings in the world and I'm so blessed and humbled to work with a group of people I have looked up to for such a long time. Dreams do come true people!"

Pentatonix totally loves Ariana Grande, and she loves them!

Ariana Grande means a lot to Pentatonix. Like... a lot! Musically speaking, she's given the group a whole lot of great material. They covered her song "Problem" in 2014, and then in 2019, they did a viral chronological complication of her music called "The Evolution of Ariana Grande." Grande saw the video and tweeted it, writing, "This is so incredible my face has chills and the last minute made me sob." Pentatonix replied, "AHHH thank you @ArianaGrande for the kind words! We're so happy you enjoyed it!! We love you!"

In fact, the group talks about Grande so much that there's actually a five-minute long video on YouTube composed of clips of them talking about her. And when asked by Billboard what their favorite album of 2018 was, the whole group agreed it had to be Grande's Sweetener. As Scott Hoying said, "We're Ariana stans." Could there be a collaboration in the future? We can only hope so!

Pentatonix's Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying created Superfruit as a duo

Looking for even more music from Pentatonix? Well, you're in luck. Two of the members of the group, Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying, created a duo called Superfruit. As Grassi explained to Out in 2017, the duo project allows him to show his more "raunchy" side. "It's a little less G-rated," he admitted, "but the funny thing is there isn't a difference between Pentatonix and Superfruit as far as who we are, because Scott and I are being ourselves in both situations." He went on to explain that Superfruit comes across as "more gay-friendly and a lot more open, more sexual, more liberated."

In an interview for Paper, Hoying said that branching out from the main group was pretty easy thanks to some early rule-making. "We've always had a rule," he said. "Since everyone has their own solo project, even from the very beginning, our rule has been that everyone can do whatever they want but, Pentatonix always comes first." Sounds like we won't have to worry about Pentatonix breaking off into solo projects any time soon — if we're lucky, we may even get more spin-offs!