Pentatonix is a collection of fresh-faced, earnest, and extremely bland a cappella singers who have somehow made an indelible impression on American middlebrow culture. They are now on Thanksgiving floats. They have albums and tours that sell out. They take songs previously enjoyed by the general public and make them very bad. None of these things are admirable but in the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to turn to the one thing about Pentatonix that is: they are absolutely incapable of feeling embarrassment.
The plot of Not So Silent Night, the Pentatonix holiday special that aired on NBC Monday night, is thin. The Pentatonix are assembled in Las Vegas and somehow, they have lost their memory—the result of a spell cast on them by Penn and Teller, two men who are not actually magicians. This magic spell explains why the tall blonde one is dressed like a gladiator. It also explains why the short brunette with the three birds in flight tattooed on the back of his hands is dressed like a lounge singer from 1957. Nothing explains what happened to the woman in Pentatonix, Kristin Maldonado, who spends the duration of this special with one foot in an air cast, standing on one leg when she wasn’t wheeling herself around on an office chair or this contraption, below.
While the music of Pentatonix is what I imagine one hears upon arriving in hell, that is not my focus at this time. Harping on how bad they are, musically, is pointless; taste is personal, and like assholes, everyone has it, but the nature, shape, and contours of it vary by person. Some people may enjoy the sounds these people make when they open their mouth, and others (me), do not. What I’d like to focus on specifically is how inspired I am by their shamelessness—a seemingly inhuman inability to conjure up one of the most human personality traits: embarrassment.
The members of Pentatonix do not seem embarrassed while zip lining over Las Vegas.
No one here is embarrassed by the fact that they are singing a song about Christmas at the matinee of “Absinthe,” a live show that plays at Caesar’s Palace, which is also where the members of Pentatonix are staying.
No one here is embarrassed by the aerialists performing death-defying acts behind them as they sing with an earnestness that is so strong and true that it nears euphoria.
Certainly, there is no embarrassment here from the assembled Pentatonix or Maren Morris, country singer, who agreed to appear on this NBC special singing “When You Believe” at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, for a captive audience. I’d like to note that Kristin Maldonado, the Pentatonix member with the foot injury, walked out on crutches but then abandoned them. It is this commitment to not being embarrassed—casting aside the crutches to stand, wobbling, on one leg—that is the most admirable of all.
Shame and embarrassment are two valuable self-checks that are part of being human. Cast them aside this holiday season. Be your truest self.