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Us The Duo and Pentatonix: Strong Bonds and Humble Beginnings

If there’s one thing you should know about me—besides the fact that I’m a cheese specialist (no, for real) who gets emotionally unstable around dogs—it’s the impact that music has had on my life.

And, yeah. I know I’m not the first person to make this claim. And I also know I wasn’t the first lonely middle-schooler to find comfort in music when the real world felt exclusive and brash.

But isn’t this the reason why music is so wonderful? Think of how many people on this earth have a favorite musician or band who means more to them than just music.

Now imagine how many people have the same favorite musician/band. Some might share similar reasons as to why they favor a particular artist/group, but what makes music so incredible is its ability to imprint on a person—to have flexible, personal interpretations.

Maybe their lyrics perfectly convey your feelings about your current situation. Maybe their melodies comfort you or compel your body to dance. Maybe they inspire you: to pursue music, to feel your feelings, or maybe, sometimes, to simply get through the day.

We all have our reason, or reasons, and I think that’s remarkable.

Thanks to a dear friend of mine, I was able to experience two of my top five favorite musical groups this past Thursday, Us The Duo and Pentatonix. Though these groups have their differences, I love them both for the same two reasons: the way they pour the chemistry they share between their fellow members into their music and their devotion to their respective fan bases.

Us The Duo is a husband-and-wife folk pop duo who accumulated a mass following (now sitting at a whopping 5 million) on their Vine account in the short span of one year (2013-2014) for their six-second covers of popular songs.

Since 2015, Michael and Carissa Alvarado haven’t been consistently active on their Vine account because they’ve been busy producing two studio albums through Republic Records and touring the world while singing about their favorite thing in the world, love.

On Thursday night, Michael prefaced their song “No Matter Where You Are” by reminding us that in addition to it being the title of their first studio album with Republic Records and having been featured in the 2014 animated adventure movie The Book of Life, the song served as the couple’s vows on their wedding day.

The only love stronger than that which they have for each other is the love they have for their fans, which is what makes Michael and Carissa such wonderful musicians. In addition to performing a few songs from their newest album Just Love, they threw it back to some old fan favorites, including this mashup of their favorite pop songs of 2015.

Though their Vine account is fairly unused now, the duo records full length covers of popular songs and posts them to their YouTube account quite often. I anticipate they have a 2016 mashup in the works as well; keep an eye out for it in December!

Pentatonix is a pop/R&B a cappella group comprised of memebers: Scott Hoying (baritone lead vocals), Mitch Grassi (tenor lead vocals), Kirstin Maldonado (mezzo-soprano lead vocals), Avi Kaplan (vocal bass/vocal percussion), and Kevin Olusola (vocal percussion, beatboxing) who came to prominence by winning the third season of NBC’s a cappella competition show The Sing-Off in 2011.

They were just a bunch of high school friends goofing around and having the time of their lives when they decided to try their hand at winning a record deal through the show. Here’s a quick flashback my favorite of their performances on The Sing-Off:

Since these early days, the group has spent the last several years making several EPs, a full length album, three Christmas albums (one of which recently went double-platinum) and mastering their personal take on the art of a cappella which is defined by their mesmerizing, drama suspending and producing  vocal melodies.

Like their friends Us The Duo, Pentatonix never forgot what brought them this far, their mind-blowing covers of popular songs and their adoring fan base, which is why they record full-length covers regularly in addition to putting in time to work on their original songs.

Friends, I could write a formal, Ph.D. dissertation on just the songs Pentatonix performed Thursday night. They did twenty-five songs of covers alone AT LEAST:a tribute medley to Michael Jackson, a soulful cover of Kiiara’s “Gold,” a syncopated cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” a throwback to their 2013 Daft Punk medley and cover of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive,”  a dynamic cover of Twenty One Pilots’ “Ride” and so much more.

My favorite moment of the night was the very end. As the group finished what some in the audience assumed to be their last song, the stage lights remained on and the rest of the venue stayed dark. After some minutes, the group retook the stage and we exchanged promises. If we, the audience, stayed silent, they would sing one last song, but this time, without their individual microphones.

I couldn’t find a decent video of this exact moment, but you can head to my Instagram  for a quick snippet of the song if you can stomach the potato-quality of my iPhone camera.

I was sobbing during their performance of this song. Avi’s soothing vocals combined with the song’s lyrics are very comforting for me when I feel my depression trying to take charge of my thoughts. Depression forefronts every negative thought you have stored in the corners of your mind to make you blind to the love, positivity, and kindness of the world around you. This song helps me sift through the darkness of my mind and helps me remember how much I have to be thankful for in this life.

I hope it speaks to you too.



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