Friday, February 28th, 2014

Pentatonix – Run to You

Note: Oscar the Grouch does not contribute.

David Sheffieck: More complicated than the average lullaby, “Run to You” is otherwise a solid entry into a genre that doesn’t get much attention in our technology-centered world. Your smartphone may be an essential aspect of your daily routine, but it’s not going to put your toddler down for the night, you know? Thankfully, Pentatonix will.

Katherine St Asaph: I’ve got two beefs with this song. Beef One: Pentatonix are A Thing because they won The Sing-Off. The first year’s winners were Nota, a Puerto Rican group pals with Daddy Yankee. They did not become A Thing. Second year’s winners: Committed, a group indebted to Boyz II Men. They also did not become A Thing. Third year: These chucklefucks (including The Guy Who Looks Like Roger Klotz Macklemore and The Dude Being Devoured By An Infinity Scarf) — Thingness achieved! The machine may love promoting WGWGs and OneRepublics at the expense of others, but make no mistake: the public loves it more. Beef Two: I did a cappella in high school and choir in college, where I learned things like: the alto part in “How to Save a Life” is literally just “DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT” off the beat; there is nothing ironic about that because there is nothing ironic about show choir; there are many strains of show-choir friendly music, like madrigal strains, beatboxing strains and stock Hal Leonard inventory strains, which include strains based off Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven.” “Run to You” is one of those: vaguely devotional and vaguely bluegrass (as two more strains are hymnals and “Down to the River to Pray”), showcases its choir’s pianissimo and fortissimo with the subtlety of a Zedd song and the fudging of a major-label studio, sounds profound after last period, is deeply, annoyingly affecting if you’ve imprinted on it. Everything is terrible, especially the fact that this isn’t.

Anthony Easton: I define camp as a place where the ambitions of a work exceed what a work delivers or what an artist wants to show us, and what an artist actually does. This kind of work must be organic. The attempt to create a camp classic is a lot like trying to create a viral sensation. If it is pushed, it collapses. When Pentatonix was working through a second-rate reality television show like The Sing-Off, it occasionally reached precise kitsch (an a cappella cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star”) but kept trying to create that perfect infection vector, one heavily reliant on camp, and never quite succeeded. It got really close sometimes. The inclusion of Nick Lachey helped. But Lachey — from his curating of a tabloid presence, his artless/artful selfies, his genius MTV reality shows, and his creation of the Nick and Jess Variety Hour, one of the great, accidental camp creations of the last 25 years — could not redeem the work entirely. So they move toward seriousness. This should be a complete failure. The fact that they are so serious should bring us back to that original definition of camp. This works, though. It might be that it manages to be almost liturgical (but liturgy is often seen as camp.) It might be that I am bored of nostalgia. Blame lowered expectations. But somehow it reverses what should be a failure into a work of surprising felt reality.

Crystal Leww: I can’t decide if I hate this more or less than I hate the fake instrument imitations?

Alfred Soto: In its demands and formal severity, “Run to You” is the most difficult music I’ve heard this year. With harmonic invention (must they sing in unison?) and, yes, a better song I would’ve surrendered.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Um, wow.

Patrick St. Michel: One of my strongest personal beliefs since freshman orientation is that I have no time for a cappella covers of popular songs. I’ve sat through enough middling indie-rock-turned-a-cappella and lol-it’s-a-rap-song-but-it’s-funny-because-we-are-nerds bullshit in one life. Allow me this asshole indulgence. Pentatonix fall under this rule and zap all the life out of whatever they touch and turn it into some gee-golly garbage…their Daft Punk medley being a prime suspect. “Run to You,” though, is an original, and the group doesn’t indulge in the usual trademarks of university groups doing this. It’s sluggish as background music, but it’s prettier than anything I’ve heard from them. And I’ll try to keep it that way for the rest of my life.

Brad Shoup: Surprise! Their original arrangements aren’t particularly thoughtful! And they’re super Christian! Apparently! Picking out the threads sewn by industry pros is one thing. Piecing together your own is something else. So we get massed vocals with members peeling away in the standard steps and a ponderous tempo. And that’s setting aside the bonkers I-have-failed-you-my-liege lyric. It’s dorky and meditative and bizarrely unshowy. I wouldn’t make a staple of this, but I’d steal downstairs for a bite.

Will Adams: The biggest challenge of recording acapella music is deciding whether to retain its humanity or go totally synthetic. Where many recordings fail is when they’re presented as authentic though they’re polished into sleek, metallic pieces without a shred of emotion. There are many reasons this happens. First, the desire to create full-bodied mixes results in a mess of EQ’ing that distorts the the frequency range one would hear live. Second, some producers may record each voice separately for easier mixing — though this can result in the voices sounding miles away from each other. Third, and perhaps most egregiously discounted by Glee, arrangements that call for repeated lines (doot-do; bop-bop) may be looped and Autotuned for simplicity, creating an impossibly pitch perfect recording. Pentatonix, while they’ve fallen prey to all of these traps, mostly sidestep the issues (except for the bass, who is pushed far too much to the front). But there is just enough of a lack of blend to their voices for me to fully embrace the gorgeous vocal arrangement.

Reader average: [6.86] (15 votes)

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11 Responses to “Pentatonix – Run to You”

  1. Fun fact: Patrick and I went to the same college and had the same immediate gut reaction to acapella

  2. This is probably the stupidest and least thought out article about Pentatonix I’ve ever read. All I have to say is enjoy writing unfounded hate of them, because they’re out doing sold-out tours and having charting albums.

  3. i LOATHE acappella groups but I can’t help but appreciate these guys. When cover bands write their first original tunes they’re typically terrible and this one is at least pretty.

  4. Not surprised at the middle-of-the-road score, but I am pretty surprised at the variance. As always, though, some really great blurbs. Interesting information on producing acapella from Will, I especially appreciated that.

    I love this group – their covers are always playful and technically impressive, and this song builds to a really lovely finish (even if it’s a little sluggish and doesn’t play to the group’s strengths).

    One question for Katherine: does your first beef have to do with Pentatonix itself or the general absence of racial awareness in acapella as a genre? Maybe I’m reading too much into your first comment, but it sounds a little unfair to peg the public’s reaction to Pentatonix (or lack thereof to other groups) on the band itself–although I do see why it is an issue and why you brought it up.

  5. I like to mentally plug in the chorus to “Hide and Seek” instead of the actual chorus. This doesn’t make any sense, I know. Will is 100% right that the bass voice is far too prominent here, it’s really distracting especially given how effortful the mixing job on this is.

  6. That’s so funny, I was just watching the “Dear Sister” parody of that corny-ass OC scene from a few years back yesterday. I think the two songs fit pretty well together!

  7. Charting EPs tho

  8. My first beef has to do with both. It’s not so much an issue with Pentatonix, as there are plenty of groups who’d love to be them (holy shit are there a lot of them, UNC had like six at last count but with how the sold-out tours and charting albums and crowned YouTube sensations tend to get allotted.

    (the bass voice being too prominent in the mix might just be replicating the bass voices always being too prominent. fucking basses. although half the time it’s because basses are class clowns and half the time it’s to disguise the fact that it’s impossible to find good tenors in high school.)

  9. thing to research: how much overlap there is between a cappella stuff and singing reality TV. (it’d probably mention Fox a lot. I know Anoop was a soloist-alum)

  10. i can attest from my own high school a cappella experience that katherine is on point about basses and tenors, which i happened to be.

  11. they all have the creepiest faces