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Pop Shop Podcast – Billboard

Written by on 20/12/2023


When you’ve released nearly 100 holiday songs, as Pentatonix has, it’s no easy task having to narrow down that hefty list to a concise greatest hits album. But that’s just what the vocal group has done on its latest release, the 31-track The Greatest Christmas Hits.

“We put all the bangers” on the album, says the group’s Scott Hoying. And there’s “basically a whole new album [on Hits] as well, with eight new songs” added. In total, the album sports 23 previously released favorites plus eight new tunes. The set has found chart success on Billboard’s tallies, as it marked the act’s 10th top 10-charting effort on the Top Holiday Albums chart and its 12th top 20-charting set on the all-genre Billboard 200.

The vocal group (comprising Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola and Matt Sallee) has supported the new album on the road with The Most Wonderful Tour of the Year, which wraps on Dec. 21 in Austin, Texas. Fans who missed the trek can tune in to The Most Wonderful Tour of the Year: Live From Orlando on Dec. 22, exclusively on Veeps.

With so many holiday albums in its discography, how does Pentatonix select songs when planning a new holiday project?

“Honestly, there’s only so many Christmas songs, and we’ve released 94 of them,” Hoying tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast (listen to our interview, below). “So we do the ones that are popular that we haven’t done yet. But then also we like to get creative and do songs that are more wintry and have lyrics that involve the wintertime, like ‘Kiss From a Rose.’ I don’t think anyone’s ever thought of that as a holiday song, but in the pre-chorus it does say ‘when it snows,’ and we were like, ‘That sounds good to us!’ So we get creative like that.

“When curating [the songs on] The Greatest Christmas Hits … from so much touring and releasing so many albums, we’ve [done] subconscious internal research of what moves people and what moves us and what we love to sing, and what we feel would make the best soundtrack for people’s Christmas festivities and opening presents.”

Among the new songs on The Greatest Christmas Hits is the original song “Please Santa Please,” co-written by Karen Kosowski and Emma Lee along with the group’s Olusola and Maldonado. The song, which served as the lead single from the album, recently hit the top 10 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, landing the group its seventh top 10 hit.

Classics They’ve Yet to Record: While Pentatonix has recorded nearly 100 holiday songs, there are still familiar favorites they haven’t put their spin on… yet. “I have this new obsession with ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas,’” Hoying says, “because I realized it’s one of the top streaming [and] selling Christmas songs of all time, in the top five or something, and we haven’t done that song yet, weirdly.”

“Or like ‘Silver Bells,’” Olusola adds. “We’ve never done that one either. There’s definitely songs we haven’t done, but you know we also have to pace ourselves, because there are only so many Christmas songs left. [Laughs] And we also want to get creative about how we go about Christmas songs.”

Looking to the future, Olusola says, “We’ve done pop Christmas albums, and so we’re thinking ‘are there different directions we can go that create a theme that allows for us to have a different feel on Christmas than we normally do?’ Which I think will be cool, so, I think we’re thinking about that right now, as we think about the future.”

A Dozen Years of Hits & a New Grammy Nom: 2023 marks the 12th consecutive year Pentatonix has released at least one new album, stretching back to its chart debut with PTX: Volume 1 in 2012. Through those years, the act has topped the Billboard 200 twice (with its self-titled full-length album and A Pentatonix Christmas) and won three Grammy Awards (among four nominations). The act scored its fifth Grammy nomination just last month for best traditional pop vocal album for its 2022 album Holidays Around the World. The set saw Pentatonix collaborate with a bevy of guest artists to highlight sounds and voices from all over the globe.

“We put so much heart and time and effort into this album,” Hoying says, “and we got to collaborate with the most iconic artists from all over the world. It was just such a beast to make … the logistics alone. It was such a creatively fulfilling project — to see it honored in this way [with a Grammy nomination] is really beautiful.”

“You never go into an album project thinking about Grammys,” Olusola adds. “You just want to make the best possible product that you feel speaks to your heart at that time and hopefully reaches people. … So I feel so thankful and honored and blessed that we could even have that opportunity to be recognized by the Recording Academy again.

‘Candy Cane Lane’ & Home for the Holidays: Pentatonix makes an appearance in the new holiday film Candy Cane Lane, starring Eddie Murphy, which premiered Dec. 1 on Prime Video. In the comedy, Pentatonix portray, naturally, carolers. But there’s magic afoot, and the group is seen mostly as enchanted miniature figurines in the film.

“The director [Reginald Hudlin] had been a fan of ours for a while,” Olusola says. “He gave us the premise of what he wanted us to do and we were in. … I don’t think we realized the magnitude of what we were creating. … It was really cool to see the end product. It was cool how they actually created us [as figures].”

“Because we’re figurines,” Hoying says, “it was a really easy process. We just went into the studio and sang these 10-second clips, knocked it out in a couple hours. But then we get to be in so much of the movie because we’re animated. It was a perfect scenario too, because we obviously would want to be on set and have our real likeness in the movie, and we got to do that at the end. So it was so special all around, and I’m just so happy it’s doing so well and people are loving it. The whole cast and crew and director and everyone were so kind and such good vibes. You just want good things to happen to good people, so it’s awesome to see it thriving.”

As families watch Candy Cane Lane during get-togethers this season, certainly many will also be playing holiday songs by Pentatonix around the house too. With so many households soundtracking their holidays with Pentatonix’s tunes, what does Pentatonix itself play around the house during the season?

“When I go home,” Hoying says, “my parents always put on Pentatonix, because they just are so excited that I’m home. I honestly listen to a lot of Pentatonix too during the holidays. But my go-to is a playlist of classic old songs from old Christmas movies, [like] Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. Anything that’s orchestral and one-track, mono. It really puts me in the Christmas spirit. If I’m looking at Christmas lights with [my husband] Mark or we’re driving around or something, we’ll put on the oldies.”

Olusola, too, has Pentatonix playing around the house at home, but for a different reason. “I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old and she’s obsessed with our band. Truly obsessed. She loves watching [the videos for] ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,’ ‘Please Santa Please,’ ‘12 Days of Christmas.’ She asks for it all the time during this time of the year. So in our house, it really is mainly Pentatonix during this time of the year. … I think also its kind of subliminally a way for her to stay in contact with dad, especially while he’s gone on tour. So I really love that. My wife has texted me so many times, where she goes, ‘She said, ‘I miss daddy, play Pentatonix.”‘ I love that. That really means something to me that I have such a close bond with her that she actually yearns for me, and so I’m very very thankful to be playing Pentatonix in our household because that keeps the connection.”

Also on the new edition of the Pop Shop Podcast, we’ve got chart news on how Nicki Minaj lands her third No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the female rapper with the most chart-toppers in history, and how Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” jingles its way back to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s executive digital director, West Coast, Katie Atkinson and Billboard’s managing director, charts and data operations, Keith Caulfield every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)  



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