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Josh Groban – Closer

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I pride myself on knowing a fair amount about music. Of course, what this really means is that I’ve spent way too many hours of my life sitting around listening to records (while no doubt thumbing through some rock publication…Rolling Stone, Creem, etc.)

What you might not know is that I’m also quite the opera buff. Oh yes, it’s true. Here are some of my all-time favorite moments in the genre:

  • Charles Winchester (during an episode of M*A*S*H) tries to spend a moment of solitude by listening to some Caruso in the swamp
  • Wilhelmenia Fernandez sings the aria from Catalani’s “La Wally” in the movie Diva
  • “Sword & Magic Helmet”
  • Cecilia Bartoli doing Mozart Arias on an “All Things Considered” radio segment
  • Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten”, which is the one and only opera I’ve seen live

What does this have to do with our young Mr. Groban? Well, let’s just say that while I’m no expert, I know a good voice when I hear one.

Like his female counterparts Charlotte Church and Sarah Brightman, Groban gets a lot of bad press from the “real opera” folks for being a pretender: his music not being ‘pure’. So what?! There are moments of beauty on this record (“Il Postino”,for one) that should not be dismissed because Groban isn’t the “real thing”.

Sure, most of Closer doesn’t contain traditional opera. I’m not sure what some of it is. There’s no easy pigeonhole for opera-tinged vocals mixed with orchestration, Spanish guitar, percussion and rock drumming. No matter. The Italian songs are romantic and engrossing. The tunes sung in English don’t do as much for me, edging a little too close to Celine Dionisms. There’s even one selection done in French (“Hymne a L’Amour”). Rounding out the programme is the world-ly “Never Let Go”, done with Deep Forest.

Maybe not an earth-shattering collection of songs here, but the voice is definitely there. I’d love to hear Groban release some material with completely stripped down arrangements. Remove the orchestration and pop elements and see what that voice can do.

It might not be pure opera…but it would be pure.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • I would add the aria from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro played over the prison PA in Shawshank Redemption to your list of favorite opera-genre moments.

  • the funny thing is that when i received this cd my first thought was “uh oh…my mom likes him…”

    i was then pleasantly surprised at some of it.

    i do have a few ther opera recordings (Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” comes to mind) but that’s about it. (i’m not counting the Philip Glass stuff…most opera fans can’t deal with Akhnaten, La Belle & La Bette, or worst of all…Einstein On The Beach)

  • Eric Olsen

    YOu are brave and eclectic indeed, Mark. I am actually working on a story that involved Josh Groban so I am very interested to hear your perspective on him. Thanks!

    As much as I typically cringe at the very thought of opera, I sure did love Diva, and as I mentioned here, Pavarotti’s “O Holy Night” stuns me into submission.