1. Track List (68)

Check Your Ego At The Door – Josh Groban’s Bridges Is Worth Every Minute Of Your Time

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 10 mins read

Much like his contemporary equal Michael Bublé who also made his bread & butter in Pop media by creating updated covers of classic music, Josh Groban has been a staple for mainstream listeners on the radio for decades now, finding a particularly ravenous audience among people waiting in line at Starbucks who like to peruse the last-minute gift ideas placed in front of the cashier. He’s an undeniably talented performer, literally changing the face of Opera music forever by making it much more approachable to modern listeners through the sheer power of his voice & his conventionally appealing looks, but with great mainstream success also comes immense criticism, especially in today’s day & age where popularity is often conflated with mediocrity, a cheap opinion listeners use to feel like they’re ‘in’ on the joke for the sake of camaraderie – More often than not, individuals who think themselves better than the Pop machine will happily shit on everything Groban has created, as anyone capable of remaining positive & hopeful in a world as cruel as ours is clearly a sellout who’s shamelessly shilling good vibes just ‘cause that sort of generic worldview performs well with your run-of-the-mill middle-American person, right? I know this because I was one of those haters not too long ago, constantly tearing down any sort of positive review he received ‘cause I thought he was somehow inferior to the seemingly magnificent musicianship I enjoyed in my own sonic interests – You see, I once dated a girl from North Carolina who identified herself by three specific things: The popular ABC dating show The Bachelor, everyone’s favourite Disney trio the Jonas Brothers & – you guessed it – Josh Groban. She equally idolized the completely unrealistic expectations of romance all three promoted, but it was Groban in particular who she just couldn’t get enough of, playing his lofty, often monotonal & undynamic Opera numbers on repeat for days at a time no matter how embarrassing & completely uncharacteristic it was of the person she presented herself to be when we first started dating; This unfortunately tainted my perspective of his music for years after we broke up as I associated his music with hours upon hours of tedious replays that bore away at my very soul, literally embodying how exhausting our relationship was right up until the bitter end, so I was never able to really appreciate his fantastic skill as a musician considering he represented something so foul – Thankfully, time has broken down many of those ill-placed barriers, allowing me to approach his latest record Bridges with open eyes & I’ve gotta say, I absolutely love what I see & wish I hadn’t been such a defensive prick all these years whenever someone said they actually liked his music.

The Very Definition Of Timeless Music…With A Few Caveats

Ever the showman, Josh Groban made his fans wait for three long years with bated breath before finally releasing the first single from Bridges titled “Symphony,” one of the many original pieces on the album that seems to capture the essence of Groban’s sound in every regard – When I say timeless, I refer of course to the epic scale of the tune, utilizing a slowly-trudging melancholic ballad structure with a driving chord progression that could easily have been plucked from the seventies, eighties or nineties Soft Pop circuits, what with all its grandiose symphonic accompaniment, empowering narrative elements & simplistic vocals that place him up as the star of the show yet don’t seem to adhere to any one trend in music history, literally as plain as you can be whilst still grabbing the listener’s attention; Honestly, this track is a dead-ringer for pretty much anything Bono from U2, Sting or even Michael Bolton created across the entirety of their careers. Though that might not seem like a shining review, there’s much to be valued in this aesthetic, as it gives Groban the ability to churn out music that’s just…well, good, for lack of a better word, unhindered by genre-specific expectations & compelling enough to sound just as entertaining in ten years as it does today, an admittedly less-exhilarating expression of his musical prowess than we’d have liked to receive but a strong one nonetheless – This continues in other singles such as “Granted,” which takes audiences on an emotional journey that’s one part hypothetical ramblings & two parts pure inspiration, posing a simple question of ‘who are you?’ that asks you to throw away your doubts & fears of societal inferiority to become a more whole individual at the most base level. It’s the same tried-&-true narrative you’ve heard in Pop music for years, suggesting that you could be anything you want to be if you’d just apply yourself, presented over a rather rundown version of the prior song that feels a lot like a Contemporary Christian song of worship, but the passion & intent in his voice is such that you hang on every single word he says, truly believing that you can turn your misfortunes into riches with little more than a change in mentality; Does that mean it’s effective? Well, I mean, I’m not one to rain on others’ parades when something as simple as a formulaic narrative is all it takes to make their lives worth living, but the skill at which he produces this track is certainly impressive, taking a barebones piano ballad with predictable Gospel choruses & mixing the hell out of it in the studio, resulting in a track so solid you’d have literally no idea what year it came from ‘cause of its immense sonic polish.

Slow & Steady Wins The Race

At this point, it’s fairly obvious that Josh Groban relies on a pretty basic aesthetic for much of the tracks on Bridges, from the original numbers to the clever reworkings of iconic Pop songs of American music, but the true breadth of his skills comes in how he’s able to hold back much of his powerhouse vocalism to create compelling tunes that not only appeal to modern sensibilities but to those of us who’re more partial to classical techniques – A great example of this is the song “River,” which produces a somewhat Country-esque ballad of uplifting nature centered around finding redemption through self-love, audiences learning to deal with the overwhelming weight of their inner-most demons as they attempt to carve out a spot in which to fit in society though the compassion & support of those who surround them. Groban’s voice finds a nice middle ground here between his usual Opera vibes & the more casual nature of a Jason Mraz song, still delivering his lines with dynamism & classical skill but doing so with a much more approachable timbre, making sure not to overaccentuate his notes or use too emphatic a personality. You see, oftentimes Groban can let his expressively operatic foundations get the best of him, turning his melodies into hollow, nasally-toned phrases which are impressive to hear but absolutely lacking in soul or character, so the more intimate & free-flowing nature of “River” really does him a great service to the story enacted here, allowing him to nurture each phrase & add a sense of hope behind the words he’s singing that usually isn’t there. Aside from these subtle vocal restraints, audiences are given a fairly generic performance, with the concentrated grand piano melodies & basic percussion riffs feeling a bit anachronistic, as though this track were originally intended to have been released in the year 2000 back when Hard Rock & Power Pop ballads were still a thing – You do get a decent music video though, so that’s nice, with Groban singing to the camera in near-darkness, his words showing him a pathway back to the light as a kind of cheesy scenario plays out on-screen. The protagonist of his story literally goes down to the river to think, legs draped in the water & everything, essentially mimicking any word that comes out of Groban’s mouth with a visual representation acutely attuned to the lyrics, whether it be his head becoming clouded or the power of other people at the river helping to mend the cracks in his life as the river shuts on itself & they help him to cross it, resulting in a production that’s moving & impactful despite its relative simplicity; As it’s shot in black & white with a heavy bokeh effect, the video vaguely feels a bit like those sappy Sarah McLachlan commercials for the ASPCA which prey on your sentimentality to convince you to go adopt a neglected pup from your nearest shelter, so you subconsciously find yourself getting in your feelings as they song goes on, giving the video & song much more power than they would’ve had on their own – It shouldn’t be good, but Groban is damned good at what he does, making “River” a worthy addition to the pantheon of Soft Pop hits still mesmerizing audiences long past the genre’s best-by date.

Consistent Quality You Can’t Deny

Regardless what your thoughts may be on whether Josh Groban is worthy of your affections, one thing he’s able to hold over virtually all of his peers in the music industry is his absolutely flawless consistency, maintaining an air of precision across every track on Bridges with some of the industry’s most stellar recording fidelity that’s quite honestly second-to-none; Whether jamming out emotionally-empowering songs of passion like “99 Years (Duet with Jennifer Nettles)” that capitalize on he & Jennifer Nettles’ fantastic chemistry to give you hope for a brighter day, making covers of Billy Joel’s breathtaking “She’s Always A Woman” which perfectly reinforces the need for female autonomy & the destruction of toxic masculinity in our #metoo era or others like “We Will Meet Again (Duet with Andrea Bocelli)” that proudly dive head-first into authentic Operatic territory to uphold the Classical techniques he fell in love with so many years ago, every number is produced with a clear love for the craft you just don’t get very often in contemporary releases, showing he’s willing to go the extra mile to make sure listeners are getting their money’s worth for each & every note he sings across the album’s runtime – After all of that, I might sound like a hypocrite now as I still don’t see myself spending my own money on downloading or streaming his songs in my weekly music rotations, but I can no longer deny that this man is incredibly talented beyond anything I ever expected, a musician completely deserving of my respect & adoration rather than continuing to receive underhanded comparisons to the laughable status of bands like Nickleback; It’s not the most shiny of recommendations, I know, but I believe it’s far greater to acknowledge greatness when it’s found & admit that it’s just not your style than to perpetuate stereotypical opinions of artists who don’t deserve your hatred, especially when such unfounded claims were a result of your disdain for an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend – So, yeah, give Bridges another go around & see if it can’t convince you to take another look at other artists you’ve pushed to the side for years, as you might be pleasantly surprised by the little gems you discover within.

3. Official (9)

4. Audio (65)

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9. Covers (59)

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