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.
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.