Even before there was a Pentatonix, Kirstin Maldonado, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi were singing together, covering songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” and putting them on YouTube.
So there’s always been a feeling of unity among the trio, all of whom graduated from Arlington Martin High and went on to found Pentatonix, adding bass Avi Kaplan and beat-box-vocalist Kevin Olusola to meet the minimum group-size requirement for “The Sing-Off,” NBC’s a cappella reality competition. The quintet won season three, beating much larger groups, with their hip, pop-culture-savvy take on a cappella.
It wasn’t that win, but a combo of luck and good decisions, that turned Pentatonix into a hugely popular act, complete with iTunes CDs topping Billboard charts, concerts selling out, and YouTube views in the multimillions.
And hugely popular groups tend to launch solo spinoffs.
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Which may be why Billboard magazine is wondering if Maldonado’s appearance — under the moniker “kirstin™” — on a track by producer/DJ Helena Legend is indicative of Maldonado (who is a Fort Worth native) launching a solo career. Legend’s new song, “Dose of You,” is credited to “Helena Legend x Kirstin.” Excuse us — “Helena Legend x kirstin™.”
This appears to be the way Maldonado is now billing herself: If you Google “Kirstin Maldonado Twitter,” the Twitter page that comes up is “kirstin™” with an @kirstin_taylor handle (Billboard notes that Maldonado’s full name is Kirstin Taylor Maldonado).
Now, a solo move does not necessarily mean departure from a group, and it seems an unlikely time for anyone to split from Pentatonix, which is about to begin a Japan swing (not its first) before coming back to the U.S for a tour that includes a three-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl.
And it’s not the first time a Pentatonix member has done something away from the group since it became famous. As the Billboard article points out, Grassi and Hoying have issued a few tracks under Superfruit, their web comedy series alias.
Olusola, who is also a cellist, issued an EP called “The Renegade” and has his own solo YouTube channel, where you’ll also find videos from a classical-urban side project called Triptyq. Kaplan has released a new-agey album, “Sage and Stone” (which shows off his vocal versatility) under the name “Avriel and the Sequoias.”
Although Maldonado doesn’t appear to have a side project — yet — she did appear with her boyfriend (and now fiance) Jeremy Michael Lewis on YouTube last year, singing a “Love Medley” of Disney songs with Voctave, an a cappella group from the Orlando area. You can’t keep a bunch of good a cappella singers down ... to just being a quintet.