Review Summary: Josh Groban is Josh Groban on Illuminations, sans the tolerable songwriting...
Although his music can be described as “easy listening,” a genre whose albums one is more likely to see in a Dollar Store rather than a record store , Josh Groban has had a fairly illustrious career. With humble beginnings as a guest on the television series, Ally Mcbeal
, Groban has come quite a long way, with each of his previous albums reaching multi-platinum status. Needless to say, the young man has made quite a name for himself, garnering praise from critics , and attracting a massive fan base. And how has he achieved all this? How could such a musician explode onto the charts, and attract fans from so many different ages and backgrounds
It’s the ***ing
Josh Groban has an immensely powerful voice, and he truly knows how to use it. And quite honestly, with all of the missteps and misfires on his latest effort, Illuminations
, that very voice is still just as solid. As a baritone/tenor, Groban has a very distinct voice with a lot of range, and a great deal of stylistic variety. It’s neither too raucous nor too reserved, making for a very solid tone, with a great handling of dynamics and vibrato. The vocals are the de facto reason to listen to Groban on Illuminations
as you would be hard pressed to find someone so commanding and self assured. Literally, he is damn near perfect in this respect. That being said, for the first time in his career, Groban takes command of the songwriting, and the results are mixed.
While he may be a wonderfully talented singer, Josh Groban is a fairly weak songwriter. Penning eleven out of thirteen tracks on Illuminations
, the guy’s knack for producing arid and impassive songs really brings down the overall quality. Never before have we seen he himself take up the bulk of the creative process, typically singing tried and true pieces, or more modern tunes written by others... In the past, he has sang classical, while often times dabbling in more “poppy” tunes as well. On Illuminations
we find this dichotomy in disarray, with songs dipping into both influences, yielding poor results. The songs don’t mesh well into each other, as the album feels like half-classical, half-pop, and half-assed overall. It is in these bland and uninspired tracks that we find the real weakness of the album, as Groban has a lot to learn about songwriting. It’s a neat excursion into several different languages and styles, but as a whole, Illuminations
seems like a collection of songs rather than a true album.
Josh Groban is a mind blowing vocalist, but he simply doesn’t come across as a true musical artist. The songs featured here, (as in the songs he wrote) just fall flat. They’re melodramatic and cheesey (“Galileo” is quite literally laughable), and seem so contrived. Yet it is difficult to criticize the man too harshly. He has his niche audience, made up of a wide variety of people from all walks of life, and they absolutely adore him. It really is great to see someone on the charts with such talent, as Groban really is an outstanding performer, but as an artist he is far too weak to be anything more than a novelty.