Sunday, January 2, 2011

Music Review: Il Divo

The group Il Divo (which is Italian for "the divine male singer") was recommended to me by a family that I home teach.[1] The band was organized by Simon Cowell (of American Idol infamy) after noticing the positive reception to operatic pop singers like Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban, as well as the perennial success of The Phantom of the Opera. He gathered together four singers from France, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States with the intent to create a group with a sound like that of the Three Tenors. They sing in English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.[2] It took two years to put the group together. Since then, Il Divo has put five albums out: Il Divo (2004), Ancora (2005), The Christmas Collection (2005), Siempre (2006), and The Promise (2008).

Most of their music is just okay. The only songs I disliked were covers of songs that I already disliked.[3] I didn't dislike any of their original compositions—they just weren't that special, either (though "The Power of Love" was a bit of an earworm). There were a few songs that were good [4], but the only song that really wowed me was "I Believe in You (Je Crois en Toi)", from the album Ancora, which features Céline Dion.[5]

My verdict:  If you liked the Three Tenors, then you'll probably like Il Divo. If you like Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli, you might like Il Divo. There was a little too much vibrato for my taste. And why is it that classically trained tenors always sound like someone punched them in the throat right before they started singing? Also, sometimes the transition from one language to another was a little too abrupt (particularly in the eponymous album). Finally, since I learned Mexican pronunciation of Spanish, the distinción [6] they all adopt is a little distracting.


[1] 'Home teaching' is a practice of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons), where two men from the local congregation visit a family to share a message with them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are also available to assist the family whenever they need it. There is a similar practice, called 'visiting teaching' where two women visit another woman in the congregation. In this way the members of the Church strengthen and support each other both temporally and spiritually. If you have more questions, ask and maybe I'll do a full post on the topic.

[3] e.g. "Heroe", based on "Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston and "Somewhere", based on "Somewhere (A Place for Us)" from the musical West Side Story. And I will say shame on them for including "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz on their Christmas album. Shame, shame, shame.

[4] e.g. "Nights in White Satin (Notte di Luce)", based on "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues, "Unchained Melody (Senza Catene)" based on "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers, and their renditions of "O Holy Night" and "Amazing Grace".

[5] You can listen to it here, but I'm not sure how long the embedded link will work:

Il Divo - I Believe In You (Il Divo And .mp3

You can also watch it here, on YouTube, but you'll have to put up with an extra instrument in the orchestra: screaming teenage girls.

[6] Spanish speakers in Spain, with few exceptions, pronounce the letters c and z as a TH sound (mouse over for IPA), while in Central and South America those letters are pronounced as an S sound. This difference is known as distinción ("distinction") since a Spaniard would pronounce that word as dee-STEEN-thee-OWN while a Latin American would pronounce it as dee-STEEN-see-OWN.

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