'Stages' invokes emotion but leaves listener wanting more



Josh Groban

'Stages'

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I’ll be perfectly honest: I love Josh Groban.

While other people are bobbing their heads to T-Swift and Kanye, I am probably listening to Josh Groban. I completely understand this is a strange concept for some people, but Groban just gets me in a way Kanye never could.

I realize Groban is the type of artist that has a niche, and that’s cool. Let’s be honest, I have built my love for Groban on the back of him doing what he does consistently well. However, I was left wanting more after I finished listening to his new album, “Stages.”

Coming into this album, I should have recognized what I was getting into based on its title. “Stages” refers to the album’s theme: every song Groban sings is from one of the biggest musicals in history.

This idea shouldn’t have been a surprise. Groban’s voice is suited for these dramatic, emotional melodies, and I know I will think of him whenever I hear these songs in the future.

“Stages” begins with “Pure Imagination” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Not exactly a song I would relate to Groban, especially since he isn’t a crazy man that has invited children into his chocolate factory, but I still think the song choice works, and he sang it beautifully.

Groban manages to incorporate a mash-up by combining “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods” and “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd.” It seems strange at first, but the two songs are connected by their themes of caring for other people.

The thing about “Stages” was I was able to quickly recognize the songs I already love, listen to those on repeat and skip past the songs I might not know as well. I wasn’t encouraged to listen to something new, and even if I had been encouraged to listen to other songs as intently, I would have found similar styles and sounds.

Despite this need for something new, it was Groban’s last few songs that sealed the deal for me.

When the opening notes of “Anthem” from “Chess” came on, I knew I was going to cry, which is an uncommon occurrence, I assure you. And this wasn’t the first time Groban reduced me to tears with this song. I listened to him perform it as Anatoly, the Russian chess player who loves his country but hates its politics, in the 25th anniversary concert version with Idina Menzel and Adam Pascal.

Groban delivered an admirable performance, and “Chess” will remain an untarnished favorite of mine.

The same happened with “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” Yes, Eddie Redmayne did it well in the 2012 screen adaptation of “Les Misérables,” but Groban had the advantage of me already being in a hypersensitive place from listening to “Anthem.” By the end of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” I was a blubbering mess.

No matter what yearning I had for something a little different from Groban, people come to him for his grand crescendos and soothing tone. “Stages” gives the people what they have always asked of him, and that can only be applauded if it makes him millions in album sales.

So even if you think you might be unhappy with “Stages,” just keep listening. Groban’s Broadway tribute is bound to give you something beautiful to which you can listen.

Come prepared with a box of tissues.

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