Review: Awake, Josh Groban
November 23, 2006
By Duane Wells
I warn you now that this may be the most self-indulgent album review you’ve read in decades, so please don’t expect any truly objective comments from this point forward.
If you thought all of Josh Groban’s fans were teenage Republicans or blue-haired ladies, I am proof positive that they are not. I am not a teenager and my hair is perfectly black (thank you very much), but I simply adore Josh Groban.
I don’t know exactly what it is about this young tenor that gets my boots to knocking, but there is indeed something special about him that always gets me going. Really! And I’m not being facetious at all here.
On Awake Josh Groban takes the musical passion that has yielded sales in excess of 13 million records to another level as he explores new musical avenues and delivers what is probably his most contemporary album to date. Working with artists ranging from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Herbie Hancock to Dave Matthews and Imogen Heap, Groban has assembled a truly progressively pop album without pandering to top 40 tricks or sacrificing the musical integrity that has made him the penultimate young ‘un-popstar’.
From the beginning, part of Josh Groban’s charm has been his ability to fuse elements of pop and opera into songs that have broad mainstream appeal, a skill he continues to show-off with great deftness on Awake. While songs like the first single “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” and “In Your Eyes” (track 7) show a feistier side of the balladeer, songs like the opening track “Mai, “L’Ultima Notte” (Track 5) and “Solo Por Ti” (Track 8) find Groban at his sentimental best as he caresses Spanish and Italian lyrics with his velvet cloaked vocals and infuses them with the power and zeal that have become his trademark.
However, the real charm of Awake lies in tracks like “Now or Never” a pop exploration that showcases Groban’s ability to take risks and pull them of, as well as in “Weeping” and “Lullaby” the pair of tracks that were recorded with Ladysmith Mambazo, the latter of which Josh penned himself along with Dave Matthews.
Awake closes with the crazy funky jazzy track “Machine” which may well be Groban’s greatest departure and perhaps also the greatest indication of the musical innovation his future may hold. On this track Groban soulfully grooves through this track in a way that you have never heard before, and the result will leave you waving your hands in the air, shocked that you’re actually doing so while listening to Josh Groban.
Josh Groban is one of the best male vocalists to come down the pike in a very long time and his new album Awake only further establishes him as such. Like Celine Dion, he may not be the coolest kid on the block, but there is no denying that he is one of the most talented. And that will invariably be the reason why he will probably outlast many of the other ‘new kids on the block.'