Groban Sings the Language of Love
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
December 15, 2003
By Leann Barden, Pius XI High School
Note: Leann hopes Santa brings her tickets to Josh Groban's upcoming concert.

In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) plays a record of Italian music over a prison P.A. system. Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), another prisoner, comments: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it."

Such is the feeling I had listening to contemporary performer Josh Groban, who recently released his second album, "Closer."

Only six of the 13 songs on the album are in English; the other seven are sung in authentic-sounding Italian or Spanish, or adequate French. Most of the songs - the ones performed in English, at least - reflect on prior relationships. It's easy to imagine that the foreign songs lament on love, too.

While I personally liked the music, some critics prefer that the CD be in English only.

Band and choral students - or anyone else who recognizes musical talent - will appreciate Groban's style, which bridges the gap between the worlds of classical and pop music. Some of the songs transported me from my bedroom floor to the plush seats of an Italian opera house.

Unlike his first album, which contained a mix of slow and uptempo songs, "Closer's" 13 tracks are all slower, making it a great album to play when you're relaxing at the end of the day or going to sleep.

But the album would have benefited from a little more variety. Halfway through the tracks, I started to feel a little anxious for the album to end. By the time the last track finished, I was starting to clean my bedroom - something no music should ever move me to do!

Groban has no less variety than do most pop stars, though. Albums by the typical boy bands such as 'N Sync usually bore me after the first two songs. And Groban is markedly unique in comparison to other contemporary performers. The amazing timbre of his voice mixed with long, low chords creates melodic music that lifts the spirit and inspires the soul.

A vibrant baritone, Groban's voice harmonizes well with the instruments. The absence of synthesizers and drum machines adds quality to the music. The third track, "Mi Mancherai" (from "Il Postino") features an amazing violin solo by accompanist Joshua Bell that alone makes the album worth buying. This track was one of my favorites, mostly because of the violin, which kissed the music with soft, sweet tones that lend themselves to hopeful dreaming.

Another notable difference between Groban and his contemporaries is that his music sells itself - even without "bling-bling" music videos.

Groban, who performs at the Milwaukee Theatre on Feb. 8, offers the best of both the pop and classical worlds: At 22, he's young, cute and remarkably talented.