Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Josh Groban, Noël

Friday, January 2, 2015
Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Josh Groban, Noël

Six years ago today, Josh Groban was sitting atop the Billboard Top 200 – not to mention the top of the Canadian Albums Chart – with his holiday album, Noël, which is an impressive feat in and of itself, but the reason we bring it up today (as opposed to on December 8, which is when it originally became a chart-topper) is because it’s our first post of a new year, which seems like an appropriate time to note that Noël was actually the best-selling album of 2007.

Even before the release of Noël, Groban’s name was already becoming semi-synonymous with the holidays, having earned a #1 Adult Contemporary hit with his version of “O Holy Night” in 2002, only to make further Christmas-themed memories for families by contributing “Believe,” another #1 AC hit, to the soundtrack of The Polar Express in 2004. After successes like those, the decision to record an album’s worth of holiday tunes was hardly a risky move for the L.A.-born singer.

Looking at the track listing for Noël, there’s only one non-traditional song in the mix beyond “Believe,” and that’s “Thankful,” written by Richard Page and Carole Bayer Sager, but we’ll give him that one, what with both songwriters having contributed to past Groban albums. (Sager co-wrote the Charlotte Church duet, “The Prayer,” for Groban’s self-titled debut album with David Foster, while Page composed “My Confession” for 2003’s Closer.) Otherwise, though, you’ll instantly recognize all of the titles: “Silent Night,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Ave Maria,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” (with Brian McKnight), “The Christmas Song,” “What Child Is This?,” “The First Noel” (with Faith Hill), “Petit Papa Noël,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “Panis Angelicus,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” with Groban effectively fronting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

What’s that? You say a couple of those supposedly-recognizable songs don’t ring a bell after all? Well, if you don’t know “Petit Papa Noël,” then we’ll have to presume that you’re not French, since it’s one of the most successful singles of all time – if not the most successful – in France. And as for “Panis Angelicus,” well, you’ll just have to take our word for it, but trust us, the odds are pretty good that you’ve heard it, what with the versions that have been done over the years by such notable tenors as Andrea Bocelli, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti. (Plus, you old-timers may remember it as having been sung at the funeral mass for RFK back in ’68.)

In addition to being the best-selling album of 2007, Noël has another major accomplishment to its name as well: it was the first Christmas album to spend five consecutive weeks in a row in the top spot. Heck, it was only the second Christmas album ever to spend four weeks at #1, period, with the only other artist to have accomplished the feat being no less impressive a name than Elvis Presley. And yet for all that, it still isn’t the most successful album in Groban’s back catalog…or at least it wasn’t as of the beginning of December. At that point, the honor still belonged to Closer, which was still a few hundred-thousand copies ahead, but you never know what kind of bump the holidays may have given Noël.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see what the next SoundScan report says, eh?