Review Summary: Remember when Il Divo were original? No? Me neither...
You know what I hate most? Wasted talent. People who have good capabilities but decide to simply use it for a few extra bucks instead of using these talents to make something exception. “Popera” act Il Divo are a perfect example of my biggest pet peeve in music. These four men are exceptionally talented vocalists and quite obviously classically trained, but instead of using this talented to help perform classic operas by Verdi or Mahler or whomever, they decide to “operize” pop songs. This is the type of group suburban mothers love to listen to, and perhaps that is being a bit too harsh, after all my Mom likes Iron & Wine, Bob Marley, and she even liked a Streetlight Manifesto song I played once. What I’m trying to purvey is that Il Divo make inoffensive, background fluff that truly wastes their talents. While this was passable on their previous two recordings, their latest “The Promise” comes across as just downright unlistenable. This is perhaps because of one glaring, personally disgusting track.
The details are a little too personal for an album review, but tragedy has given Jeff Buckley’s classic version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” a very close place in my heart. This is one song that absolutely begs for subtlety to allow for the understated beauty of the piece to shine through. Of course Il Divo are about as subtle as a sledgehammer and decide to make a grandiose operatic ballad out of it. It made me incredibly angry when I first listened to it, I called it a butchering and kindly asked my parents at the dinner table to change the song. Understanding my connection with the song, they obliged, and even still, as I write this review I skip over this song. I won’t even pretend to know how the whole song goes, I can’t bring myself to listen past the first few minutes. If it didn’t hold such a dear place in my heart, perhaps the song would be tolerable, I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care to know. The rest of the album irks me in a similar fashion, but with far less vigor do I dislike those tracks.
Again, I feel to avoid a rant I must stress that these four men are very strong singers; they have great voices. However, most of the time they put it to ill technical use by singing vary standard pop chords. That is to say, the vocal melodies and harmonies never really test the singers which is very unfortunate. The album would have been far more rewarding if the group decided to stretch out their pipes and let us see their full talents. Then again, challenging doesn’t equal record sales, does it? And that is exactly what this album is all about. Instead the listener gets the indistinguishable throw away pieces like “Enamorado”, “Angelina” or “La Luna” which all follow the same pattern of starting quiet then growing into sweeping, and crappy, string and timpani/drum crescendoes. The album closer is a prime example of why this group is a complete waste of time. “Amazing Grace” is a powerful song, or should I say was, before everybody else on the planet did a rendition. If it was a rendition with a little more originality then great! Unfortunately it’s a tired rehash of every other version of the song, and is the next likely candidate for an Amnesty International infomercial. That’s the last thing I need, Il Divo trying to convince me to adopt a starving child, ham-fisted bagpipes and all.
This album simply pains me to listen to. So I’ve stopped listening to it and decided to pump some Godspeed to depress the crap out of my ears. This album is just a tasteless attempt at commercially accessible ‘popera’. Instead of using the vocalist’s talents for an interesting take on mainstream pop, something that juxtaposes the obtuse styling of opera with the accessibility of pop; we are left with dollar bin throw-away trash. I probably wouldn’t even use the CD cover as a coaster, I would be too embarrassed when my friends came over. “Il Divo? Oh that, it’s my Mom’s. She likes them, I guess. They can sing, sure, but I’d much sooner bang my head against the wall a few times. Or you know, listening to some Verdi or Mahler.”