Groban Blends Genres
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 22:02
Produced by Rob Cavallo, who first made a name for himself in music by producing for Green Day, All That Echoes is Josh Groban’s sixth album, and is sure to delight fans. The collaboration of the pop-classical singer/songwriter and the pop-rock producer results in an album that not only features the typical traits of Groban’s work — powerful vocals and woeful, beautiful melodies — but also more rock-heavy, folksy elements. And it works.
I have been a fan of Groban since I first listened to his 2008 album, Awake Live. I was blown away by his amazing vocals, and the songs "So She Dances" and "In Her Eyes" remain some of my favorite tracks from Groban. Over the course of his career, his music has matured considerably. The mood of his songs in All That Echoes is somewhat darker, but the new album still manages to deliver a special thrill which distinguishes it from the work of Groban’s contemporaries.
Moreover, All That Echoes is Groban’s greatest songwriting effort thus far. He co-wrote seven out of the 12 tracks on the album, lending it a more personal and intimate sound. The first track of the album, "Brave," epitomizes this shift. Released as a single in December 2012, "Brave" peaked at number 22 on the U.S. Billboard chart. It begins with soft orchestration and Groban’s gently whispering, "Wake up, wake up," but quickly builds to a climatic chorus, where Groban’s powerful vocals are supported by a rhythmic military drumbeat. The piece showcases the organic transformation brought about by the Groban-Cavallo collaboration. Not only does the song contain Groban’s traditional vocal work and uplifting lyrics, it also carries a "rockier" edge that is sure to appeal to a wider audience.
"False Alarm," the second track of the album, features an orchestral arrangement and Groban at the top of his vocal range — a combination that creates a haunting, eerie mood reminiscent of music from alternative bands like Coldplay, OneRepublic and the xx.
Apart from these new attempts, All That Echoes also retains some of Groban’s typical perks. Three Italian songs are included in the album, keeping Groban’s tradition of foreign language selections. "E Ti Prometterò," which features Italian pop singer Laura Pausini, is one of the most brilliant vocal works in the whole album, as the song allows Groban to perform in his most comfortable zone and shows off his classically trained, operatic voice.
There are a few let downs on the album, however. Groban’s cover of "Falling Slowly," featured in the movie Once, and one of my favorite songs, produces a somewhat disappointing result. The orchestral arrangement in Groban’s version is too complex, and it detracts from the profound simplicity of the original. In fact, the musical arrangement and sound balancing are sometimes problematic on the album and render it less effective than it could have been. For example, the orchestral accompaniments in "Brave" sometimes seem to drown out Groban’s voice. Moreover, the transition in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," a subtle and tender piece, is strangely abrupt and almost discordant, which is a pity for an otherwise beautiful song.
Despite its flaws, however, All That Echoes is a great work that once again demonstrates the powerhouse talents of Groban and affirms his consistent, successful efforts. While not ground breakingly different from his previous works, the album does show subtle and successful shifts toward a more popular style. Both new and seasoned fans should look forward to witnessing the continuous evolution of Groban’s music.