Josh Groban is probably one of the most talented singers to have been discovered in the past years. His strong baritone voice, amazing vocals, and his ability to sing beautiful songs, not only in English, but in foreign languages like Italian, French, and Spanish, has set him aside from most other pop artists.
Though he was only twenty when the album was released (and ‘discovered’ by David Foster at the age of seventeen), Josh’s self-titled debut is a strong selection of compassionate ballads and love songs.
The album starts off with Alla Luce Del Sole, a soaring, fast paced song, which is entirely in Italian. It makes a great start to the album, as Josh’s vocal talent is immediately apparent in the first verse and even more so in the choruses. The pace slows down a bit with the next selection, Gira Con Me. Gira is also in Italian, and starts off very simple, with soft piano work and Josh’s vocals. The song sounds very sad, but it’s actually a profession of undying love for someone, which Josh conveys very well as he sings the lyrics with an appropriate tone of yearning.
You’re Still You marks the first song in English, and was made famous on an episode of Ally McBeal. It’s another ballad, and though beautiful, the lyrics aren’t too original (“In my eyes you do no wrong/I loved you for so long/And after all is said and done/You’re still you”) and the generic piano-based melody has made it a staple at wedding receptions and proms. The other song on the album that was featured on Ally is To Where You Are, which basically falls in the same boat as its predecessor. It’s another ballad, though this one is about missing a loved one who has passed away. Again, the lyrics are very cliched and nothing too interesting happens vocally to set it apart from any other pop ballad on AC radio.
One of my favorite songs on the album is Cinema Paradiso (Se). It starts off very slowly, with a beautiful piano instrumental and soft violin in the background. It’s actually the violin that makes the song, which is the case with Mi Mancherai, my other favorite song by Josh that’s on his second album, Closer. As the orchestra picks up towards the end, Josh’s vocals become stronger and provide a stunning contrast for the ending of the song, where everything slows down and finally fades away.
Alejate is the only Spanish song on the album, but it’s also a favorite. The use of Spanish guitar gives it an authentic Latin feeling, and if I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought that Josh’s native language was Spanish just from listening to this song (However, Josh isn’t fluent in any of the languages he has sang in. He doesn’t speak Spanish, Italian or French fluently, though he is fluent in Japanese). My three years of Spanish comes in handy with this track; the line “Si nada puedo hacer, alejate”, means “There’s nothing I can do, just walk away,” which is the essence of the entire song.
The Corrs make an appearance on the song, Canto Alla Vita. Production wise, it’s probably the worst track on the album. The beat consists of an annoyingly loud drum loop and synthesizers, and the echoing of Josh and Andrea Corrs’ voices during the choruses is really aggravating. The song itself isn’t too bad, and I gave it a second chance after seeing Josh’s PBS special. The concert version is stripped down, and actually quite beautiful, but the album version is overproduced and hard to listen to.
Let Me Fall picks up behind Canto, and puts the album back on track. The song was used for a production of Cirque Du Soleil, which I find a bit ironic given the title. Anyway, this is another stand out piece. The song is very dramatic and sad, as Josh slowly starts off singing, “Let me fall/Let me climb/There’s a moment/When fear and dream/Must collide”. It picks up during the chorus, adding in more instrumentation, and provides for a thrilling ending as Josh sings for the final time, “Just let me fall”.
Josh covers Don McLean’s classic, Vincent (Starry, Starry, Night) and the traditional song, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Both tracks are beautiful, though Josh doesn’t really add much to make them any different from other remakes I’ve heard. I’ll admit that Vincent stands out a bit more than Jesu; the soft orchestra and vocals give it a hauntingly beautiful feeling that Jesu lacks, even though the guest appearance of violinist Lili Hayden does work well.
Un Amore Per Sempre is a nice, but forgettable track that sounds similar to Alla Luce Del Sole. Josh’s vocals are great, as usual, though the song lacks anything unique that would make it stand out.
Home To Stay is typical ballad, though it happens to be another one of my favorite songs on the album. The longing in Josh’s voice is touching as he sings, “When every boat has sailed away/When every path is marked and paved/When every road has had its say/Then I’ll be bringing you back home to stay”.
The album closes with The Prayer, which is also available on Charlotte Church’s album, Enchantment. As I stated on the review for her album, the song is amazing and their voices blend together very well. I don’t think I could ever grow tired of listening to this song, and that’s saying a lot, seeing as how it’s been heard almost everywhere.
Josh Groban is a wonderful album that just about anyone could enjoy. The mixture of English language songs and foreign language songs is a treat that shows off Josh’s versatility as well as his vocal ability. If you aren’t a fan of Josh yet, you will be after listening to his debut 🙂
1. Alla Luce Del Sole
2. Gira Con Me
3. You’re Still You
4. Cinema Paradiso
5. To Where You Are
7. Canto Alla Vita- (with The Corrs)
8. Let Me Fall
10. Un Amore Per Sempre
11. Home To Stay
12. Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring -(with Lili Hayden)
13. The Prayer (with Charlotte Church)