Full of magnetic vocals and chill-inducing harmonies, “The Lucky Ones,” released Feb. 12, is a cappella group Pentatonix’s second original album since their self-titled 2015 record. The album is excellently produced and has a more evolved sound, highlighting just how much the band has grown since their “Sing-Off” victory in 2011.
The five-piece group (stylized PTX for short) is composed of lead vocalists Kirstin Maldonado, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi, as well as vocal percussionist Kevin Olusola and bass vocalist Matt Sallee.
The album leads with a crisp snap-clap beat on “Happy Now,” winding up before unleashing bright, towering harmonies on the chorus.
“This song represents hope, new beginnings, togetherness, excitement, relief,” Hoying wrote on the Genius album commentary. That sentiment is palpable throughout the song, its joy infectious.
Any singer’s voice is their instrument, but PTX has learned to bend their voices into other instruments entirely. Bursts of breath on “Love Me When I Don’t” and “A Little Space” turn into guitar strums, and Olusola’s vocal effects make synths obsolete.
The former is rousing and anthemic while the latter feels like taking a deep breath of fresh air, both rounding out the album’s pop sound.
Maldonado takes the lead on “Be My Eyes,” which she co-wrote with producers Matthew Koma and Dan Book. The track builds on the melody of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” with glossy, ethereal vocals and Sallee’s rumbling bass.
“I can get caught up on little things and missteps / You rebuild the ground beneath my feet / When I get lost I’m out of my mind, too in my head / You’re the camera to refocus me,” she hums, revealing refreshing vulnerability.
“Never Gonna Cry Again” picks up the pace and gets personal, tackling anxieties about one’s public persona and selling out, while still craving the attention and validation of an audience.
“I changed myself for the internet / Designed my piece of mind / I sold my soul, I’m a shell of it / ‘Cause if everybody loves me, then I’m never gonna cry again.”
Olusola’s beatboxing and vocal effects are in peak form, adding to the vortex of sound swirling around Grassi’s arctic tenor.
“Exit Signs” is cinematic and intimate, with holographic harmonies that reverberate into echoey space. The lyrics tell of being left behind by a lover but trying to hold on a little longer.
The atmosphere shimmers as Maldonado laments, “Sooner or later, you’ll find the fault in my design / ‘Cause it’s in your nature to try all the way to goodbye / But why?”
“Bored” is an undulating dance-pop track about wanting to tune out the outside world in favor of a partner. It takes on a darker sound, in part from incorporating some of the melody and lyrics of “B.Y.O.B.” by System Of A Down — which is an interesting choice, given that “B.Y.O.B.” is about conflict in the Middle East, not dancing.
When the group sings “While everybody’s goin’ to the party / Have a real good time” it sounds just as smooth and disaffected as the original rendition, which fits with the tone of “Bored,” but prompts the question as to why “B.Y.O.B.” in particular was chosen.
Given how radio-friendly and uncontroversial PTX’s music is, the juncture of a pop melody about infatuation and an anti-war anthem feels out of place in the context of the album. However, the song recovers from that strange step and overall, it’s a sonically solid entry on the tracklist.
Pentatonix has powered through the record and into the next phase of their career, but on the final track “The Lucky Ones,” they ease off the accelerator to look in the rearview and reflect on the road to where they are now. It hasn’t all been easy, but the bonds between the group members have kept them going strong.
“I still cry sometimes / ’Cause I’m no good at goodbyes,” Hoying sings as his bandmates fill in around him. “But we’ll be alright, ’cause we’re standing side by side.”
“The Lucky Ones” is available on Spotify, iTunes and other streaming platforms.