Wake up and smell the decline

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

Josh Groban

Awake

Reprise/Wea

Two-and-a-half out of five stars.

When my creative writing class embarked on a “tell the class your name and admit a guilty pleasure” game on the first day of class, I found myself drawing a blank on what to say.

When it came time to give my spiel, I admitted that I kind of like those televised math classes you see on KUEN Channel 9 after midnight.

Maybe I should have admitted that I liked Josh Groban’s sophomore album Closer–because now that I am writing a review of his third record, Awake, I find myself a little embarrassed that I am disclosing that fact.

Since I am secure in my manhood, I am also willing to admit that Groban has an amazing voice. His boisterous baritone pipes were truly built for Italian Opera.

The problem with Awake is that Groban doesn’t utilize his powerful voice the same way he did in previous albums. Some of his songs–namely “Weeping”–get downright cheesy. The song smacks of something from a Disney movie, and I found myself looking on the Internet just to make sure it wasn’t.

“In Her Eyes” is the one song on his new album that may remind Groban fans of why this guy became an international sensation after singing “The Prayer” with Charlotte Church at the end of the 2002 Olympics. Groban’s voice hums over an eclectic arrangement of guitar, piano and violins that complement this 25-year-old’s voice beautifully.

Guys, if you buy this album for no other reason, get it because “In Her Eyes” will have the same effect that most of Barry White’s and Frank Sinatra’s songs have. In other words, this song will make the ladies swoon.

There is a reason Groban has sung at Nobel Peace Prize concerts and is adored by people ranging from age 8 to 88. He is talented enough to sing with the likes of Sting and Barbara Streisand, but this album just doesn’t have enough of what he is best at–mixing his rich voice with symphonic music arrangements that could be enjoyed, to some level, without Groban’s voice.

One of his better songs on Awake is “Solo por Ti,” which is obviously sung in Italian. This song demonstrates the universal capabilities of Groban’s music, as his songs can be appreciated no matter what language he sings in.

The problem is, I found myself wishing some of the other offerings, such as “February Song,” had been in another language so I wouldn’t be able to understand the corny lyrics.

Overall, this is a decent album that no person with an open mind would object to listening to. But unlike Groban’s other albums–which are similar to symphony concertos that vary movement to movement–this album has no noticeable cohesion between the songs and is difficult to enjoy from start to finish.

Some of the songs are palpable–even for someone who grew up digesting Metallica and Rage Against the Machine on a daily basis–but the album is mediocre compared with what Groban has manufactured in the past.