Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You Know You Don't Need David E. Kelley Anymore When . . . Josh Groban’s Closer

The Good: Decent voice, Generally good production
The Bad: Lacks . . . soul mostly.
The Basics: Best known for the track "You Raise Me Up," Closer is an indistinct presentation of music using an amazing baritone voice and little else.

I think I finally "get" vocal music, like Josh Groban, Hayley Westenra and Enya (okay, less Enya because she writes her own music, if not the lyrics). Vocal musicians are the special effects movies of the music world. You know those big budget special effect films that dazzle viewers with the quality of the computer generated effects, without necessarily producing a story that's worthwhile or having decent characters or even using good actors to their fullest? Vocal performers are like that, taking a complicated medium like music and dominating one area without developing the others. On a generous day, I might make the argument that such performers are more analogous to a film with an amazing cast that forgoes character, effect and plot. Having just listened repeatedly to Josh Groban's Closer, this is not that day. Just like a special effects movie that forgoes plot, character and acting in favor of precise and awesome special effects, Closer forgoes interesting or developed lyrics, compelling instrumentals and any sense of musical diversity to present the voice of Josh Groban.

I was familiar with Josh Groban from his guest starring appearances on Ally McBeal (reviewed here!) back in the day and even then, I had to admit, he had an impressive voice. He has a beautiful baritone voice and he knows how to use it. On the thirteen tracks on Closer, he has consistently impressive vocal range that declares him an able opera/vocal singer.

The problem with this album lies in that. Josh Groban clearly has a good voice, maybe even a great voice. But listening to Closer, the listener gets over that quickly. Fine, he has a great voice, what's he doing with it?! He's singing (mostly) songs in foreign languages. Yeah? How's that working for him? Meh.

Yup, "meh."

Closer lacks soul. Groban has a voice, but like a special effects movie without a decent plot, it does little, it goes nowhere. Here, the analogy is better with great actors working without a decent script; Groban sings, but there's no zest in his voice, there's no passion, no life or sadness being connoted. It's all VOICE. This is an auditory Fabio; the listener is expected to listen and be dazzled by the wind blowing through the model's hair . . . mixed metaphor as it is, it holds. We're expected to be blown away, but like watching Fabio, listening to Josh Groban on Closer after a few moments evokes the reaction of, "okay, what now?"

And there's nothing more.

The instrumentals backing up Groban are either weak, like on "When You Say You Love Me," or overbearing, like Joshua Bell (who did amazing work on The Red Violin, reviewed here!) is on "Mi Mancherai (Il Postino)." There is nothing extraordinary about the music and the album goes from one slow, drawn out track to another.

This is ideal music for sighing. Yes, if there were ever a soundtrack for butter commercials, Fabio viewings or sitting on a couch sighing, Closer would be it. I'm begging off recommending a best and worst track (as I usually do) because after multiple listenings, the whole experience just blends together as auditory sludge. At least it's backed by a decent voice.

For other works by vocal artists, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Wicked Little High - Bird York
21 - Adele
Pure - Hayley Westenra


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the music reviews I have written!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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