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The 7 acts that add up to Pentatonix

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A cappella all-stars — and former NBC The Sing-Off champs — Pentatonix are hoping to make Billboard history this week. The group could become the first a cappella act to top the 200 albums chart, which would force Selena Gomez’s Revival out of its current No.1 slot. To break-down the quintet’s addictive, self-titled album, EW spoke with Scott Hoying about all the influences that make up their sound. From Imogen Heap’s atmospherics to Rihanna’s stripped-back “FourFiveSeconds”, check out the math of Pentatonix below.

Imogen Heap

“Imogen Heap is one of our favorite artists, as a group. All five of us are obsessed with her — we’ve covered some of her songs before, actually — and I think you can hear it in Mitch [Grassi]’s voice; her ethereal tone really shows up in that way. And specifically, the song “Water,” was produced very Imogen Heap-like. All the chords we used with our voices are similarly atmospheric.”

Justin Timberlake

“I’m a huge fan of his and I was really trying to channel his soulfulness in the way that I sang on this record, especially on ‘Can’t Sleep Love’ and ‘First Things First.’ And Justin has always been very moment-based: His music always has really cool moments and ear candy. So we tried implementing that as well throughout the album.”

Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds”

“We could not get enough of this song. So when we were writing ‘Misbehavin’ we were trying to channel that country-folk vibe that ‘FourFiveSeconds’ did with that groovy soulfulness — we loved that combination. And it seems like this one is a lot of people’s favorites on the album, I think it came together really cool.”

SBTRKT “Wildfire”

“So SBTRKT did this song with Little Dragon and the production is amazing. That sort of throbbing to it — we’ve been talking for the last year about how to write a song like that and you can hear that influence on ‘Ref.’ That opening is so immediate.”

Taylor Swift

1989 is, like, the album of the century. That whole sound and aesthetic that she has going on was really intriguing for us. So with our song ‘Rose Gold,’ we channeled that chill, almost folky-pop sound and nostalgia. And the lyrics are really cool — it’s got like a Lana Del Rey thing going on.”

Billy Joel’s “Goodnight My Angel”

“I recently became an uncle. A couple months after my nephew was born we were having a songwriting sessions and I was thinking and talking about him. So I wanted to write a lullaby and this Billy Joel song is not just one of my top-five songs, but my favorite lullaby of all time. It’s just the most beautiful lullaby ever. So we wrote our own lullaby. And we just started going. Mitch came up with this really beautiful core progression and we started writing lyrics —  by the end of the session, Mitch and I were both crying. Just crying. That was definitely one of my favorite songwriting sessions, ever. 

Shai & Boyz II Men

“We covered a Shai song on this album, ‘If I Ever Fall In Love,’ with Jason Derulo. And Boys II Men have done a cappella before — they’ve had one of the only major a cappella hits in history, so they are huge influences. I would say on ‘Take Me Home’ we really channeled that ’90s, soulful vibe they made famous. And that melody is just really nice and pleasant r&b-vibes.”

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