Pop opera with less schmaltz
New York Daily News
November 9, 2003
By Jim Farber
It's easier to appreciate pop-opera singer Josh Groban for what he isn't than what he is. He isn't bombastic like Andrea Bocelli, or pseudo-mystical like Sarah Brightman, or an overenunciating ham like Mandy Patinkin. In fact, compared to Patinkin, Groban is the soul of subtlety.

Again, on the 22-year-old's second studio CD, he shows off a voice as warm as his eyes. He also benefits from phrasing as unfettered as you could expect from what is essentially theater music.

Of course, it's a strange strain of theater music. Inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber's uppity mix of pop and opera, Groban falls into a category that could be called "popera." You also might call it PBS fund-raising music, so identified has it become with that campaign. The public television audience helped Groban sell more than 3.5 million copies of his 2001 debut.

As on his first album (and its live EP chaser), "Closer" stresses songs by contemporary writers that sound classical, if only because they're often sung in Italian or Spanish. The numbers have decorative melodies, and David Foster's production isn't nearly as schmaltzy as this genre usually is.

But Groban's best quality is his modest delivery. It isn't hugely inspired. But his singing offers something key to mass popularity: comfort.