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BWW Album Review: Josh Groban Performs in Near-Perfect HARMONY

Harmony features duets with Leslie Odom, Jr., Sara Bareilles and more!

BWW Album Review: Josh Groban Performs in Near-Perfect HARMONY

The experience of listening to a Josh Groban album is not dissimilar to the experience of watching one of those classic '90s romantic comedies. There's a warmth and familiarity to both, a reassurance that what you're getting is heartfelt and genuine, even if it's not reinventing the wheel. That's exactly what it's like listening to Groban's latest album, Harmony - and it certainly helps that several of the covers on the album are, in fact, of songs you'll recognize from your favorite movies.

For the most part, it's one part wistful circa-2020 emotions, one part warm nostalgia, and that seems to be Groban's sweet spot. The album gets started with "The World We Knew (Over and Over)", an old Frank Sinatra standard that sits perfectly in Groban's voice. Although the song itself is, for the most part, your typical reflection on a lost love affair, it's hard not to listen to lyrics like "Over and over I keep going over the world we knew" and not feel like they're applicable to pretty much all of life for the past year.

The struggles of 2020 are also, more clearly, the inspiration for the album's original track, "Your Face." It's a bittersweet song that beautifully captures the frustration, longing, and isolation of the past year, where the idea of just being able to see loved ones face-to-face hasn't been possible. We're all asking the questions in the lyrics - what's next? Where do we go from here? Are we actually going to learn anything? Sure, there's not exactly a new sentiment at this point, but Groban's mournful yet hopeful ballad is certainly a lovely way to muse on it.

The whole '90s-rom-com vibe is helped enormously by the fact that some of the songs - some of the album's very best tracks, in fact - are covers of notable songs used in beloved '90s rom-coms. There's a lovely cover of Elvis Costello's "She," one of "I Can't Make You Love Me," and, perhaps best of all, an exquisite duet with Sara Bareilles on "Both Sides Now." Groban and Bareilles have teamed up in the past - memorably, to host the 2017 Tony Awards - and their musical chemistry is top-notch. It's a lovely, bittersweet duet that really is one of the best parts of the whole album.

Not every single track turns out quite as well. The bossa nova mood of "It's Now or Never" is a poor fit, both for Groban's voice and for the style of the album; it feels more like a cruise ship song than one that fits in with the other selections. On the flip side, it takes a lot for me to enjoy a cover of "The Impossible Dream;" it's just overdone at this point. Groban's earnestness, however, makes this version one worth a second listen.

Throughout the album, it really does live up to its title, Harmony. It's classic and pleasant to listen to - nothing surprising, but enjoyable all the same. And sometimes, that kind of musical comfort food is exactly what we need.

Groban's Harmony (Deluxe) is now available for purchase.

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