Groban Shows Pop Sensibility in Awake
Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 19, 2007
By Noelani Torre
Josh Groban gives us more of the same in his most recent album, and, sometimes, something more than that. Fans will be glad to know that Awake features more of the grandly styled pop-opera he introduced to the public in his first two albums. As for those looking for innovations, there's something for them here, too.
Groban has tweaked his bestselling formula in his third studio release, though the differences may seem negligible to non-followers. For those familiar with the singer?s material, however, these small adjustments might be indicative of more significant changes in the future.
One adjustment is the more audible presence of English-language songs. Unlike his previous releases, Awake contains more songs with English lyrics than those written in the Romantic tongues (i.e., Italian, Spanish, French). This makes one wonder why there was a predominance of those songs to begin with, especially since your typical listener isn?t really familiar with those languages.
Then again, perhaps listeners don't care much about exact meanings...you have to admit the Romantic languages sound more, well, romantic. They lend a classy touch to everything; L'Ultima Notte has more snobbish appeal than The Last Night. The higher proportion of English songs, however, may indicate that Groban is grooving towards a more pop sensibility.
Another thing that this twentysomething crooner is doing more often this time around is writing. He co-wrote four of the album's 13 songs, and he has some pretty well-known co-writers--among them Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik (February Song), Imogen Heap (Now or Never), and Dave Matthews (Lullaby).
Awake also features other artists whose presence gives added spice to a largely unsurprising record. But, unsurprising doesn't mean unpleasant. Indeed, unpleasant is the last thing you'd think upon listening to anything sung by Groban. He has a smooth-as-silk, technically proficient voice that isn't hard to listen to. Coupled with swelling strings and an inclination for soaring melodies, they all add up to an enjoyable listening experience.
For those who might find him too bland and stiff (despite all the operatic flourishes), listen to Machine, a surprisingly funky number that hints at hidden, less-conventional depths.