Album Review: Josh Groban, “Closer” (2003)

I remember the first time I heard a song by Josh Groban. It was To “Where You Are”, a song from his self-titled debut, and I automatically fell in love with his voice. My next encounter with Groban was the PBS special (now turned into a DVD/CD combo which I also own), and again, I was amazed and impressed by his talent.

When I first listened to sophomore release, Closer (2003) I was hoping that Groban would continue to blow me away with his talent, and needless to say, he did. Closer is a collection of romantic, and sentimental tracks, and Groban pulls it off well, without being the least bit cliché or corny.

Some simple piano work starts off Oceano. While it’s entirely in Italian, this song is such a great beginning to the album. Lots of heavy instrumental work gives it a soaring and daring feel and adds tons of excitement and adventure. Groban’s pipes are put to work, of course, and I absolutely love everything about this song. A translation of the lyrics reveal that Groban is singing about his love, and how he’d be willing to cross the Ocean for her (hence the title Oceano).

The tempo slows down a bit for My Confession. Here, Groban admits how much he needs the woman he is singing about. I really like how delicately Groban handles this song; he delivers vocally, but doesn’t feel the need to go overboard with any “glory notes” or anything. I like this song, but I’ve noticed that I am quite a fan of the songs in Italian over the songs in English.

The album’s lead single was You Raise Me Up, and it was after hearing the song that I went out and bought the album. This song was originally performed by Christian group, Selah, and I loved it then, but Groban adds a great touch to it, and makes the song his own. Of course, I love the meaning behind it (I see it as a spiritual meaning, the “you” in the song being Jesus, but you can take it any way you want to :)), and musically, it’s a treat to listen to as well. I have to admit this song did get a bit played out on Adult Contemporary stations (especially Delilah- I swear, someone was dedicating it every night!) but I can still listen to it from time to time.

Oh, be still my heart! Mi Mancherai (Il Postino)is probably my favourite song on the album. It starts off with a long string instrumental that sets a soft and sedated mood for the rest of the song. Musically, I just love everything about this song. The string work is exquisite (thanks to Joshua Bell) and Groban’s voice smoothly coats the beauty of this track. This song is all about longing, and missing someone, and Groban conveys this feeling, even though, again, the song is entirely in Italian. There is so much emotion and feeling in his voice as he sings, and I think I actually cried upon first listen (okay, so I’m a sap, but this song really is quite heartfelt). Mi Mancherai, by the way means, “I will miss you”…how romantic!

Si Volvieras A Mi is the only song in Spanish. It starts off with a Spanish guitar and picks up towards the one minute mark. Overall, it’s a good song, but it lacks excitement, so I usually skip it unless I’m in a relaxed mood where I want to hear a soothing song like this one. Thankfully, When You Say You Love Me follows and is a much better song. I love listening to Groban sing, especially in ballads like this one. His voice sort of floats around and consumes you as this song starts off, and the tender lyrics help you slowly fall in love with Mr. Groban. You can’t help but want to be the one that he sings, “When you say you love me/Do you know how I love you?” to.

Another powerful ballad follows with Per Te. Groban’s vocals are strong and there’s a sense of yearning in his voice as he sings about wanting to do anything for the one he loves. Groban helped compose this track, which is pretty cool since I love the musical aspect of this song. Every time I hear this though, I think of the video, which consists of Groban singing in a studio and ballerinas dancing, which probably sounds really strange, but makes for a beautiful and stunning video. Broken Vow is another of my favourite ballads on the album. I first heard the song on the PBS special and I fell in love then. The music starts off very understated and simple; Groban sounds exquisite here. This song is another tear-jerker (well, for me at least), as he sings about letting go of his true love, and how he regrets it now. Whenever I hear the line, “I’d give away my soul to hold you once again”, I feel my heart skip a beat; for the longing that Groban conveys with his voice is priceless and you can’t help but fall completely in love with the song and him at this point (if you haven’t already).

Remember When It Rained
is a song anyone could love. It starts off with heavy piano, and subsides to soft vocals and a more muted piano. Groban also helped compose this track, and wrote the lyrics, which is great in my book, since this is one of my favourites. By 1:30 the song picks up and adds in some guitar. I think the thing I love most about this song is you feel the anticipation building up as it goes along. It’s like reading a good book; you feel your heart racing as you come closer to the climax, and suddenly, it’s there and you’re in awe. This song works the same way. Groban’s voice and the music build up as the song goes along until the huge climax at 3:45 when we see the power of his vocals and the orchestra at full work. I think my favourite part is the held note of “down” which lasts a complete ten seconds. It’s such a wonderful end to a fantastic song.

Unfortunately, there are a few less remarkable tracks. All’improvviso Amore is a bit awkward. It starts off as a ballad, and then picks up to some sort of up-tempo-I-don’t-know-what. I’m still kind of on the fence with this one. Vocally, the song is a treat, but musically, it’s just kind of strange and the synthesisers and drums are a weird pairing for Groban. It reminds me of a few of the songs on his debut; interesting and odd at the same time. Caruso is pretty much a filler track. I do, however, enjoy listening to Groban work his way through the Italian words I don’t understand. Despite that, though, this song doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out, so it’s usually a skip in my book. Hymne A L’Amour is a song most other people tend to dislike, but I actually enjoy it. For one thing, it’s in French, and it’s really fun to listen to Groban sing in French (especially the first line, “Le ciel bleu sur nous peut s’effondrer”, it’s just very throaty and fun to hear). The music is also jaunty and breezy, and builds up to an extraordinary finish which is always worth listening to. Then, there’s the meaning behind the French, which is quite silly (“I would go to the ends of the earth/I would dye my hair blonde/If you asked me to”) but enhances the charm of this song.

The album ends with Never Let Go. This song is quite a departure from the ballads and such that dominate the album. Groban experiments quite a bit here, with a heavy drum beat and a chorus that is very close to that of a rock song. Groban wrote this song as well, and it’s actually one of my favourites on the album. There are a lot of unique elements here, some echoing and electric guitars, and I guess you’d just have to hear it to understand. Interestingly enough, on the special internet edition of the album, Groban does a cover of Linkin Park’s “My December” and some of the same effects come into play.

To sum it all up, Closer isn’t just an album, it’s a work of art. Fans of Josh Groban (or Grobanites, as we like to be called) and newer fans alike will enjoy this album; it’s worth a listen (or several, in my book!).

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track List
1. Oceano
2. My Confession
3. Mi Mancherai (Il Postino)
4. Si Volvieras a Mi
5. When You Say You Love Me
6. Per Te
7. All’improvviso Amore
8. Broken Vow
9. Caruso
10. Remember When it Rained
11. Hymne a L’amour
12. You Raise Me Up
13. Never Let Go

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJxrX42WcjQ]

*This is a “classic” review. I have edited this review for content and formatting, though retained my original opinion of the product.

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