Groban Dazzles in Latest CD
Journal and Courier
February 6, 2004
By Joanna Hensley
Josh Groban could be mistaken as a nobody. With the exception of dating a beautiful actress (January Jones from the movie American Wedding), he wears his T-shirts untucked, likes eating at the IHOP and enjoys listening to rock music.

You'd never guess that he'd have a Number 1 record -- or that his voice would sound like it came from an Italian opera.

Perhaps that's what makes the 22-year-old so interesting. His music is a far cry from the mainstream. In fact, most of the songs on his new album, Closer, are sung in a foreign language.

And yet he managed to grab the album-chart's top spot a few weeks back, outselling hip-hop giant Outkast, rock mogul No Doubt and country kingpin Toby Keith.

What strikes a chord among CD buyers if he's got Clay Aiken looks and Luciano Pavarotti licks?

Maybe people are sick of songs that sound like sugar puffs for the brain.

Maybe people jumped on the bandwagon after hearing him perform at the Super Bowl (he was the one who actually sang and didn't get naked).

Or maybe, just maybe, people are struck by his immense vocal power.

That strong, silky tenor is certainly the first thing that strikes you on the album opener, "Oceano." The song begins quietly but crescendos into a sweeping, string-laden overture. I have no idea what the song is about (although I'm sure it has something to do with the ocean), but it doesn't matter. I was humming the chorus' melody after the first listen.

If you can get over the fact that this is modernized opera, you'll find there's something relaxing and oddly comforting in Groban's warm voice, which melts the pressures of a hectic workday.

First single "You Raise Me Up" sounds like it could be the soundtrack to any movie climax. You know the parts, like when Kate Winslet thinks about Leonardo DiCaprio on that rescue boat in Titanic.

The lyrics sound like part two of Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" as Groban passionately sings, "I am strong when I am on your shoulders/ You raise me up to more than I can be."

Another standout is "Remember When It Rained," one of three songs Groban penned. The track is brooding and sentimental as it describes "tears of hope running down my skin," but it also has lovely instrumentation, including a Groban piano solo.

The best part comes at the end, when he sings his heart out of the words "running down."

It's interesting that Groban is about the same age as Britney, Christina and Justin and was able to hit Number 1 without causing any sexy controversies. Sure, Groban won't ever sell as many discs as the skin-bearers, nor will his songs be plastered all over pop radio stations. (Sadly, the masses have little taste for classical music and opera.)

Still there's something about him that draws us in. Could Groban's everyday appearance be a rebellion from the music industry's sex-selling, shock-'em-all ways?

Probably not. But here's hoping, anyway.

GRADE: B

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