Il Divo has taken its four spectacular voices to myriad musical places during its nearly 20 years together.
The quartet of classical tenors from the United States, France, Spain and Switzerland, singing in their native languages, have performed Schubert and show tunes, Abba and Aznavour, Leonard Bernstein and Leonard Cohen. The group has sung holiday songs and hymns and has even mashed-up Rachmaninoff and the Raspberries’ Eric Carmen. The group has covered a lot of ground, in other words.
But Il Divo’s 10th studio album takes the troupe somewhere it’s never been.
FOR ONCE IN MY LIVE: A CELEBRATION OF MOTOWN is exactly what its title says — a robust and joyful song sojourn into Hitsville USA, with Carlos Marin, David Miller, Sebastien Izmabard and Urs Buhler digging their abundant skills into contemporary, and timeless, classics from Motown’s legendary vaults. Il Divo has never sung quite like this, and the 10 songs — from the catalogs of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5 and more — have never sounded quite like this, either.
“It’s just wonderful, fantastic music,” says Miller, who feels a personal tie to Motown after performing early in his career with the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. “There’s a kind of optimism that’s the underpinning to me when I hear the sonorities of Motown. It’s very upbeat, no matter what the circumstances. Even the songs that are about heartbreak, they’re still upbeat, somehow, a ‘You know what? You can’t keep me down’ kind of thing. I really love that.”
For all four of the singers, the project became an opportunity to immerse themselves in material they enjoyed as listeners and now became intimately familiar with from their perspective as singers.
“I know most of the repertoire just from hearing it, ’cause Motown stuff is always somewhere on the radio, but I didn’t have much knowledge of the artists and the actual songs and history,” the Swiss native Buhler acknowledges. “So it was very interesting for me, it was kind of an experiment, something that was less obvious for us to do.”
Listening to FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE, it’s clear that the experiment was a grand success. Il Divo’s voices burst forth from the recordings and grace the Motown material with a weight and grandeur that raises it to an entire other level. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (with the late Gaye’s vocals woven into the track) scales a new height with the four singers pushing it, while the Temptations’ “My Girl,” the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” gain an epic, operatic quality. The group approach also enhances the dynamic flow of Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me,” and Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” takes on a more romantic resonance within Il Divo’s supple touch and subtle accents.
“It was a little bit scary to do,” Marin says about the project. “You don’t know how people are going to take it. They know us so well, and they know this music so well. It might seem like kind of a…collision, you know? But when you listen to the end result, it sounds good, I must say.”
Miller adds that, “We’re kind of notorious for our slow and bombastic power ballads with these massive operatic endings. So to have something as refreshing as these songs that are so uptempo, things you can tap your feet to, all four of us had a natural gravitation towards them.”
Il Divo also gets help from a couple of Motown legends on FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE, which was helmed by longtime producer Alberto Quintero and recorded remotely during the global pandemic. Boyz II Men joins in for a veritable chorale treatment of its “I’ll Make Love to You,” a Grammy Award-winning smash that spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. And Robinson, one of Motown’s most prolific hitmakers, a longtime vice-president at the company and still one of founder Berry Gordy Jr.’s best friends, is on board for a treatment of “The Tracks of My Tears” that can only be described as gorgeous. “Years and years ago, we met (Robinson) at a live TV show in Dublin,” Izmabard recalls. “He loved our voices. We told him how incredible his voice is and said it would be amazing to sing together. Here it is years after and we’re singing one of his songs — with him.
“It makes us feel like, ‘Oh, we’re doing OK. They could have said ‘no,’ you know? So it feels like a privilege.”
The four men in Il Divo feel equally privileged to have an opportunity to explore a new direction after so many years together.
The quartet was formed in 2004 and released its first album that same year. With songs in all four of its languages, IL DIVO was a Top 4 sensation in 19 countries, hitting No. 1 in eight. With eight studio albums to its credit before FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE, Il Divo has sold more than ?? million records worldwide and was named the Artist of the Decade at the 2011 Classic Brit Awards. The group’s 2013 album A MUSICAL AFFAIR also put Il Divo on Broadway, at ??, that same year, and it’s collaborated over the years with artists such as Celine Dion, Juan Gabriel, and Engelbert Humperdinck, among others.
As with the Broadway-themed, A MUSICAL AFFAIR FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE opens another creative door for Il Divo and shows once again how effectively these four disparate talents are able to blend and blossom — and surprise — together.
“One of the benefits of the four of us having different musical backgrounds and different musical tastes is it provides a wider pool of possibilities,” Miller says. “Finding songs that intrigue the four of us is a rare commodity, so when we find something like this, that we all have a natural gravitation towards, it’s very special.”
And, Martin adds, “This, to me, is what Il Divo is about. We want to do something new, a new concept, to keep it fresh and keep it alive. How do you put four operatic voices together to do these different things? That’s something our audience likes about us, too, so that pushes us, too.”
The Avalon Ballroom Theatre At Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
Centre In The Square
National Arts Centre - Southam Hall
State Theatre Center for the Arts
The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts
Flynn Center For the Performing Arts
XCite Center at Parx Casino
American Music Theatre
Charleston Gaillard Center
Belk Theater At North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Kentucky Center for the Arts
A Collection Of New Interpretations Of Motown Classics Includes Guest Appearances From Motown Luminaries Smokey Robinson, Boyz II Men, And Marvin Gaye The U.S. Leg Of Their For Once In…Read More
IL DIVO ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE: A CELEBRATION OF MOTOWN SET FOR JULY 16TH RELEASE ON DECCA GOLD
RENOWNED VOCALISTS IL DIVO ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE: A CELEBRATION OF MOTOWN SET FOR JULY 16TH RELEASE ON DECCA GOLD Brand New Interpretations Of Motown Classics Includes…Read More