Welcome to the new episode of the Billboard.com Pop Shop Podcast, Billboard’s weekly audio breakdown of the Billboard charts, hottest music news and year’s biggest musical events. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard co-director of charts Keith Caulfield and Billboard.com senior editor Katie Atkinson every Tuesday on the Pop Shop Podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in iTunes (click here to listen to the last week’s episode).
On the latest show (listen below) we welcome our very special guests, Superfruit! The pop vocal duo — Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying — is a spin-off act from the chart-topping a capella quintet Pentatonix. The guys — who have been best friends since they were 10-years old — say Superfruit started off as a vlog channel on YouTube in 2013 so they could show their personalities outside of Pentatonix. Eventually the project morphed into its own music endeavor, which resulted in the act’s first EP, the non-a-capella Future Friends: Part One. The set was released on June 30 through RCA Records and debuted in the top 40 of the Billboard 200. (A second EP, appropriately titled Future Friends: Part Two, is due out on Sept. 15.)
“Whenever Superfruit started as a vlog channel,” Grassi tells Billboard, “it felt right in the moment because we were like ‘we need a bit of a creative outlet to do something else, to do a little bit more comedy, to do our own thing and be a little more raunchy than Pentatonix,’ but it’s become something really amazing as a duo.”
Why would the guys need to create Superfruit to show off their “raunchy” side? As Hoying says, “Pentatonix is family friendly. [The fans] are a lot of choir nerds and people who just want the music and so we don’t show our personalities as much with it.”
Superfruit’s YouTube channel has amassed 2.4 million subscribers and earned 325 million global views. As for Pentatonix, the three-time Grammy Award-winning act has sold 4.9 million albums, earned 1.4 billion on-demand streams for its songs and scored seven top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, including two No. 1s. (Pentatonix’s YouTube channel is wildly popular, with 13.5 million subscribers and 2.6 billion views.)
All of the songs on Future Friends: Part One were co-written by Grassi and Hoying, who say that it was “freeing” experience to move from the world of a capella to “super poppy and fun” effort.
Since Pentatonix is primarily known for its covers, were Grassi and Hoying itching to write their own material?
“Absolutely. For sure,” says Grassi. “It was cool because it felt a little bit more limitless, in terms of [how] its not a capella, but the subject matter, obviously, we could touch on a little bit more [adult topics], whereas in Pentatonix we had to keep it sort of G-rated.”
Hoying adds, “And also, when you have five people and you’re trying to write original music and then you’re also trying to make it work for voices, there’s just so many factors that go into it. It’s such a challenge. But with Mitch and I, having been best friends for so long, and our taste is really similar — and we’re just like writing songs together it just like happens really … it’s a lot easier.
With Superfruit doing its own thing, along with its other members all pursuing their own solo projects (and Avi Kaplan announcing that he was “taking a step back” from the act), should fans of the act be concerned about the future of the group?
“No. I really don’t think so,” Grassi says. “People keep coming up to us and saying that. They’re like, ‘I’m so sad to hear that Pentatonix broke up.’ And we’re like, ‘Wait, we didn’t. We’re still together.’ We have our own solo endeavors — or duo endeavors, I should say, too. But no, we’re still very much together and we’re gonna make it happen.”
“I feel like the sum of us is greater than the parts,” Hoying says. “Pentatonix is a collection of people — that’s what it is. It’s not like a solo star and there are background singers. It is the five of us that make the group. We can always go back to that… but then at least have our little side projects.”
In addition to our chat with Pentatonix, we’ve also got oodles of music news and chart updates. We dive into reports about R. Kelly’s alleged sex cult, how Ed Sheeran warbled a tune on Game of Thrones (and will soon play a role on The Simpsons), and recap the Eagles’ first concert without the late Glenn Frey. Plus, we’ve got chart updates about JAY-Z’s 14th No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, how Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” refuses to let go of the No. 1 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 and how Shawn Mendes notches his third top 10 hit on the Hot 100 with “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.”
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