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HO HO WHO: Pentatonix, one of the most commercially successful acts of the 2010s a cappella boom, not counting the collected cast of Glee. They won The Sing-Off back when America cared enough about a cappella to structure an entire reality show around it, and hail from Arlington, Texas. Apparently, there are only five of them? Where do all the backing mouth noises come from? There are also many more Pentatonix albums than this writer believed, including 2019’s compilation album The Best of Pentatonix Christmas, which draws from three holiday LPs and one EP. Luckily, The Best of Pentatonix Christmas comes with some new tracks, including a rendition of “God Only Knows.”
GOD ONLY KNOWS WHY THEY PICKED IT: Pentatonix has a bad track record at picking out what is and what is not a Christmas song. The Best is a mashup of any song with the word “winter” in the title (“White Winter Hymnal”), movie songs that reference God (“When You Believe,” written for a movie dramatizing The Exodus, The Prince of Egypt, and the “Joyful, Joyful” arrangement from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit), and the season’s most histrionic tunes (“Little Drummer Boy,” “Mary Did You Know”). But “God Only Knows” is by far the worst choice. It is not a Christmas song. It’s not! It’s in that mawkish Love Actually ending scene, but that doesn’t make it a Christmas song. Our celebrated winter traditions are based on a group of activities that were largely invented and collected maybe 150 years ago, not ones invented 16 years ago. You may have “God Only Knows” at Christmastime in 2153.
IF YOU SHOULD EVER HEAR ME: The track is perfectly serviceable. If you love little a cappella “doo doo doo” noises, this is the song for you, and there’s a nice level of reverb that recalls the original vocals. The music video is a recreation of the movie scene, but based solely on audio, absolutely nothing about it screams winter, December, or Christmas. It’s not even about God enough for it to qualify as a worship song.
CHEER FACTOR: 4/10. It’s jingly, sure. “God Only Knows” is catchy. But I can’t get over the sin of first stripping a Pet Sounds song of its orchestration and putting emphasis on the (unimportant) lyrics, then insisting it’s Christmas music.
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