Pentatonix’s holiday entry, PTXMAS, included “Little Drummer Boy,” and the video went on to get over 70 million hits, receiving comments like “I typically dislike this song, but love this version. It made the song new for me.” The magic of that song was how they sung it. They made it contemporary without losing its essence. This year, their Christmas record is That’s Christmas to Me, which includes “Mary, Did You Know?” It has already garnered over 59 million hits. These videos have a couple things in common, the first of which is they’re films with Pentatonix just standing around singing, so there’s not a lot of distracting production. They also involve well-crafted and thoughtful renditions of these songs. While I think that “Little Drummer Boy” is sweet, it doesn’t quite have the depth of “Mary, Did You Know?”
This is one of my favorite Christmas songs because it captures the pathos of Mary giving birth to the Son of God: “This boy that you delivered will soon deliver you.” We can’t even imagine the reflections, challenges, doubts and awe that would raise. It also pulls us out of our safe image of Jesus as just another cute little baby to one of him being “the great I AM.” Written by Mark Lowry (more know for his comedic side) and Buddy Greene (who plays a mean harmonica), this song continuously juxtaposes our image of a sweet baby with that of the all-powerful God. While Kathy Mattea’s version is still my favorite (I love her earthy tones and the light country touch she provides). Pentatonix version is a worthy entry.
Let’s break down the video a bit. Its setting is brilliant. This is a little less varnished picture of Jesus birth and they use a cave setting (since there was no room at the inn), simple candles and some lights strewn across the cave. While simple, this evokes the image desired – an out of the way cave in which God becomes man. Pentatonix keeps its tradition of making an already modern song more up-to-date without loosing its heart. It’s also keeps something that worked well for “Little Drummer Boy,” it’s an ensemble piece without anyone in the group taking the lead. The harmonies are, as always, amazing. Base and beat box counterpoint are perfectly done, blending in the song and supporting it rather than dominating it. The ebb and flow of the song follows the lyrics. Simply said, an amazing rendition.