Gifted with a warm voice, superb technique, and a wide vocal range that allows him to sing both tenor arias and more baritone-friendly pop standards, Josh Groban rose to stardom in the early 2000s as one of the leading classical crossover artists of his generation.
Although classically trained, Groban's eclectic taste found him investigating a wide array of styles from opera, bluegrass, and folk to his own original melodic pop compositions. After emerging in 1999 as a stand-in for opera star Andrea Bocelli at a series of events, he found wide acclaim and commercial success with albums like his self-titled 2001 debut and 2003's multi-platinum-selling Closer. He also scored hits like 2001's "To Where You Are," which spent two weeks atop Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart. Similarly, his cover of Secret Garden's "You Raise Me Up" spent six weeks at number one on the adult contemporary chart in 2004, and his single "Believe," from the Polar Express soundtrack, spent five weeks on the same chart. Groban's popularity opened other avenues, including acting roles on TV's Ally McBeal and in films like 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love and 2014's Muppets Most Wanted. Despite his diverse skill set, music remains his anchor, and recordings like 2007's holiday album Noel and 2015's Broadway-themed Stages have kept him at the top of the charts.
Born in Los Angeles in 1981, Groban began singing in seventh grade, but put music aside for a few years until he enrolled at the Interlochen Arts Program. In late 1998, he hooked up with a friend of his vocal coach, producer/writer/arranger David Foster. Groban worked for Foster as a rehearsal singer on a series of high-profile events, including the California gubernatorial inauguration of Gray Davis and the Grammy Awards (at which he rehearsed Foster's "The Prayer" with Celine Dion in place of Andrea Bocelli). He was accepted into the theater department of Carnegie Mellon University, but put his education on hold when he was offered a recording contract at Warner Bros. through Foster's 143 imprint.
Groban made his recording debut singing "For Always" with Lara Fabian on the soundtrack to A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and appeared in the 2001 season finale of the television series Ally McBeal. His debut album, Josh Groban, was released in November 2001. Over the next year, Groban became a star. His album went double platinum, and he had his own PBS special in November 2002. A month later, he performed "To Where You Are" and "The Prayer" at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, and joined the Corrs, Ronan Keating, Sting, Lionel Richie, and others for a holiday performance at the Vatican in Rome.
In November 2003, Groban issued his second album, Closer. Two months later, he earned his first number one record when Closer skyrocketed from number 11 to the top spot on the Billboard album charts. It continued charting and selling well, eventually earning a quintuple-platinum certification -- making it the best-selling classical album of the decade. Three years later, in 2006, Groban released his third studio album, Awake, featuring guest appearances by the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. The album nearly equaled its predecessor, earning a double-platinum certification. The holiday-themed Noel appeared in 2007, with Awake Live following in 2008.
In 2010, Groban decided to mix things up, joining famed producer Rick Rubin for his fifth studio album, the Americana-informed Illuminations. It charted well, peaking at number four in the U.S., and earned positive reviews. Three years later, Groban returned with the Rob Cavallo-produced All That Echoes, featuring guest appearances from trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and Italian singer Laura Pausini. All That Echoes debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, and Groban sustained his popularity through various cameos on television and movies.
He returned to the studio for 2015's Stages, a collection of songs from musicals like Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Carousel, as well as classic songs from The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. An accompanying live CD/DVD recording for PBS was released in early 2016 with guest appearances from Kelly Clarkson ("All I Ask of You") and Audra McDonald ("If I Loved You"). Bridges followed in 2018, and included the singles "Granted," "Symphony," and "99 Years," the latter of which was a duet with country singer Jennifer Nettles. Recorded in New York, Los Angeles, and London with a handful of producers including Steve Jordan, Dann Huff, Bernie Herms, and others, the album found the performer singing in a variety of languages besides English, including French, Italian, and Spanish. Bridges Live: Madison Square Garden, a concert album documenting the supporting tour for Bridges, arrived in April 2019. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi