December 01, 2003 12:00 PM

Josh Groban

Having appeared on Ally McBeal, sung on Oprah and been dubbed “Opera Boy” by Rosie O’Donnell, Josh Groban has converted legions of fans known as “Grobanites.” Since his triple-platinum self-titled debut was released last year, though, Groban, 22, is no longer the only geeky, melodramatic young crooner around. There’s also a guy named Clay Aiken. Groban spends about half of his second CD singing the kind of over-the-top ballads that have quickly become Aiken’s trademark, such as the inspirational first single “You Raise Me Up.” Clearly not wanting to be thought of as just Opera Boy anymore, Groban straddles the pop and classical worlds throughout Closer, with six songs sung in English (including two of three tunes that the singer cowrote). The maudlin results, however, are enough to make you wish you didn’t understand the lyrics. “When you say you love me/In that moment I know why I’m alive,” he sings on the mawkish “When You Say You Love Me.” Groban, with his rich baritone, is better off singing in Italian, Spanish and French, where his classically trained phrasing and enunciation seem more natural. As it is, this is a disc only Grobanites will love.

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