MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 21: MICHAEL BUBLE

Sometimes I sit and wonder which artist from my 100 influential list, has been the hardest to discuss and write about. From when I did start off this once a week (or so) blog posting session, till now; which artist has stretched me the most, in terms of music, lyrics, my very own perceptions of the band/solo artist, or even what I tend to believe about them as a person? Has there been an artist that has challenged my own thinking of music in general? For me personally, I don’t think an artist has come to me just yet, but as of this moment, there is an artist that is coming extremely close. Michael Bublé has been in the music business for a while, and his name as been thrown around here and there- I’m sure people have heard of him, even if they themselves haven’t heard of his music. Born and bred in the deep heart of Burnaby, British Colombia in Canada; Michael has been making music for quite some time, and while his name right now wasn’t as popular as it was back when he was creating music on a regular basis in the early to mid-2000s; we as listeners are nevertheless blessed to hear and appreciate and artist like Michael. While I wasn’t totally in the know about the blues/swing/jazz genre that Michael embodies in a vast number of his songs; I was however game enough to listen to Michael and give it a go. The result- my appreciation and admiration, respect and reverence, for Michael as an artist. Though even now Michael’s music, and I guess jazz in general, won’t be my go-to music; I can nevertheless listen to such songs without much, if not any, disdain. The same cannot be said of me even 5 years ago. And so, if Michael’s music (as similar stylistically to Frank Sinatra’s, way back in the day) can move the needle a little and challenge myself into thinking outside the box of what styles of music can be enjoyable; then Michael Bublé and his songs have served their purpose.

Proud to be born and raised in Canada, Michael’s music can be described basically in one word…Frank Sinatra. There I said it. I went there. I made the comparison, and maybe, just maybe, I could be seeing things and the comparison of which I did make is not as initially distinct as I made it out to be. Nevertheless, I have seen similarities between Michael’s music and style, and the music of Frank. Is it intentional that Michael follows in the footsteps of arguably one of the world’s most popular entertainers and performers, ever? Not really sure. But what I do know is that Michael is this generation’s Frank Sinatra, and his skills and passion to bring to life songs of yesteryear is unparalleled and nothing like this music industry has ever seen before. Because frankly, as the years go by, the older style songs (yes, the songs of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and the like!) go seemingly out of fashion. Nothing wrong with these songs at all, we’ve seen through Michael Bublé’s discography time and time again that the classics still have meaning and influence, even today. But sometimes I feel that often than not, the music industry feels like they need to bring something new to the table every-time, when all they really need to do at a certain moment is to re-invent the old music in a new light. It is when this happens, that newer listeners from a younger generation, can connect and relate to these songs, and remind themselves that some songs are in fact timeless. Regardless of the time period, songs that stand the test of time are worth listening to, and songs can and should tug at the heart through universal music issues spoken about through said melodies. Much of Michael’s material, both covers and original music, are testament to this fact!

Michael wears his heart on his sleeve. Even if on the whole, he may not be universally liked, for whatever reason, Michael is a show-stealer, and an artist who’s not afraid to speak his mind. An artist who I originally thought wrote all his music material (frankly because I myself am not in tune with a lot of the older songs he has covered), until I found out that he is in fact, in a nutshell, a covers artist with a few original songs per album thrown in for good measure; Michael brings the emotions in the songs that he delivers. A quick look through his discography and you can see the timeless songs he places his ‘Michael Bublé’ stamp over- ‘Fever’ (Little Willie John), ‘For Once in My Life’ (Stevie Wonder), ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ (Queen), ‘Come Fly With Me’ (Frank Sinatra), ‘Feeling Good’ (Nina Simone), ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ (The Beatles), ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’ (The Drifters), ‘How Sweet it Is’ (Marvin Gaye), ‘Crazy Love’ (Van Morrison), ‘To Love Somebody’ (The Bee Gees) and ‘You’ve Got A Friend in Me’ (Randy Newman), are all given the Michael Bublé transformation, and while some covers I heard I didn’t realise they were until later; I can nevertheless assert and understand that Michael is first and foremost a storyteller. Whether he writes the songs or not is immaterial, he has an ability to transform a track that has been on the shelf and hardly touched for years (except for the original artist in question), and give it a new life that people of a new generation can enjoy and call their own!

‘…I was built to do this. This is my joy. And when I get up there I think you can see that that’s where my happiness is. I’m often more surprised that the American Songbook hasn’t grabbed other people the way it grabbed me because it’s so good. A lot of these songs what they talk about is love and longing and heartbreak and sex. These are things that we can all understand and that’s why 100 years later they’re still relevant and so I love being able to take a song and to re-imagine it… It’s strange you know to look back and to hear “Home” or “Haven’t met you yet” or “Everything” or “Lost”, all these kind of songs that when I hear them now I’m taken right back to where I was and it’s like another person, another lifetime. [For] in my life, I know that I’ve lived through times that were hard. And so it gives me a greater appreciation when times are good. And I think part of living the right way is to try to be in the moment and do it with kindness and integrity…’ It is in this quote above where he reflects upon his career thus far, where you can glean and discover a lot of gems about Michael, his outlook and his music. As he has evolved in music style (first us being shown big-band melodies, and now here in 2019, we have a more of a glimpse into more radio friendly style songs- yet still holding onto sound and atmosphere that the rich history of music showed us, primarily during the 1950s), Michael’s message of hope, inclusion, passion, emotion, and songs that fill you up and give you courage for the next day; can be seen quite vividly in his music. I myself am not necessarily the greatest candidate in giving a full detailed account about Michael and his storied career, from inception into the music industry till now. Most of my blog posts have been, in one way or another, a ‘skeleton-like’ look through an artists career. And to be honest, over the last few months since I undertook, boldly and maybe at the time foolishly, the grandiose task of delving into 100 artists that are influential on a variety of minute or even grander levels; I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my own ability to be even willing to open up to new genres of music, and whether prior to this, let us say, a musical awakening; was I really in tune with what was out there and what was a possibility for God to speak through to me? Probably not.

Michael’s career in music is as diverse as it is touching to different people in different aspects of time, and that’s ok. For me I felt more of a connection to his original material, and while I can appreciate and even respect Michael for attempting to create his own version of old-school classics, it has and always will be his original songs that strike a chord- and none other than ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’, for a start. Much of Michael’s original songs have been written about falling in love, or maybe even falling out of it, and his songs can either strike a hopeful or hopeless atmosphere, which ever what you look at it. ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ was recorded on the 2009 album Crazy Love and was about a possibility of a relationship between the persona (himself) and someone else who he has just met. As Michael describes in his own words, ‘…I wrote it because I had met this girl and there was nothing solid about anything of it. She didn’t speak English. She had just been in a relationship that was very public for her and so had I (with Emily Blunt). There was every reason to not try to get into this predicament of a relationship, yet I did and it was weird. The song came from that – it was inspired by meeting her. You live on your potential as a single person – it keeps you sane. I’m not saying that you can’t be alone and be happy but there’s this great way to keep your sanity where it’s like you know it’s going to happen – you just haven’t met them yet…’ A song that I’m sure everyone has latched onto and declared that this is a song about them and their spouse they haven’t met yet; Michael’s song has changed the musical landscape about what a love song should be like and sound like.

Similarly, ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’, though funky and swing/blues musically, cannot be farther from what we think the lyrics is about. After hearing the song again and again, ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ can be judged as a revenge song, packaged and delivered like a whimsical fun, pop melody. Because as crafty as Michael and his team are, we as listeners won’t really respond that much to ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ if the music reflected the subject matter- which is a revenge style song. As Michael imparts, ‘…I have always written these songs about love, or loss or longing. I just sat down at the piano and I started to work on this tune and the lyrics just came right out…I thought this is a great concept, I am going to write this song about a guy whose girlfriend thinks she’s the greatest and dumps him. And he realizes that once she is gone, his life gets so much better…’ Both ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ and ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ are by far some of the most catchiest songs Michael has ever done, and though their lyrical material are polar opposites; both these songs capture the human soul on a life-altering level, and if people can relate to these songs, and these songs become a soundtrack to their lives at a point in time, then Michael has succeeded in showcasing a song that speaks about everything that we may be feeling!

On the whole, Michael’s music is for the romantic in us, the one that looks more at joy rather than heartbreak, the person inside of us who is always the optimist even when everything is crashing down- even ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ was painted in an optimistic light. And with a glance at Michael’s other chart-topping original melodies, it’s no wonder that this 21st century crooner has succeeded for so long. ‘Home’ portrays a scenario where the persona is surrounded by fame and fortune, but still longs for the home and comfort of their spouse/lover/boy/girlfriend, and is a reminder to always do life with people that are going to bring out the best in us and challenge us to grow and succeed as people; while ‘Lost’, though a sad song about his breakup with his fiancé of 8 years prior to the meeting and the marriage of his wife in 2011; is nevertheless a song that has reached a lot of people with its vulnerability. We are not lost, as the song states, and just because we can feel lost at any times in our lives, it shouldn’t define who we are. We may be lost sometimes, and that is just the nature of being human. But we are never lost, as if that is our identity- that we can never be redeemed from far-gone situations. ‘Everything’ is a much more optimistic and reflective song, as Michael states that his significant other is his everything- and is a song, I reckon, that has been a melody played again and again at weddings over the years. ‘Hold On’ is yet another song full of love and emotion as Michael states, that whether we are holding onto our family, friends or significant other, we are always going to be stronger together than we ever will be apart- and that is just a fact. Even the bible itself, in Ecclesiastes, speaks about how together and joining together in various tasks is the way to go- two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. [Ecclesiastes 4:11-12]. ‘Close Your Eyes’, another radio hit from To Be Loved alongside ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’, is another example of a love song full of life and honour, of lifting up and elevating of the other person in said relationship. In the case of Michael, he wrote the song after being inspired by his wife Luisana, and how Michael himself declares that his wife ‘…helps carry me, how she shares the load with me. I was just thinking, ‘You’re always the one that pulls us through.’ I notice the stability my wife has given me in simple ways. In other relationships I would think, ‘Let’s go on vacation,’ and the girl would say, ‘Let’s go to Hawaii,’ and I would say, ‘Who do we call, what couple do we get to go with us?’ It’s like I always needed someone else there. With my wife it’s just, we’re good together…’

More recently Michael unveiled his two most recent albums Nobody But Me and Love in 2016 and 2018 respectively, and it was around that time where his eldest son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, so much so that rumours were swirling around stating that Michael was abandoning music to be with his son. And to be frank, I wouldn’t have begrudged him if he did…which he didn’t. Nevertheless, rumours were high, and both these two albums and their coverage over the last few years was marred by the announcement of his personal life. Still, songs like ‘Someday’, ‘Nobody But Me’ and ‘I Believe in You’ anchor Nobody But Me both musically and lyrically, while Love encapsulates as a whole the feeling of love and what it should be like and look like in a tangible sense when we are serving others. For me, as much as I did enjoy his 2018 album, there wasn’t really much of a standout, and even the one song that came close, ‘Forever Now’- about his unconditional love for his son, didn’t really build up musically. Still, his most recent 2 albums still carry a heavy weight upon them, though unintentionally. Michael has been asked in interviews, not necessarily about these albums as he should, but asked about his son and what he was feeling. An invasion of privacy? Most definitely. But Michael has learnt not to be flabbergasted by such things- for the journalists and reporters are just doing their jobs. In fact, Michael himself stated that his son’s diagnosis changed his outlook and the things that mattered to him before, seem to fade away. As he says, and I quote [note- there is some colourful language said by Michael as a descriptor of how he feels and is by no means language that is advocated by myself!], ‘…I wasn’t some abusive douchebag asshole. I was self-centered and immature. I wish I was more honest about my feelings — like if I had fallen out of love, I could have just said that. There are a lot of people who would say I wasn’t nice. I moved around like a bull in a china shop within relationships, even with friendships sometimes. But I am who I am. I tell my kids every single day the same thing over and over: “You treat people how you want to be treated.” Every fiber of my being is different [since my son’s diagnosis]. I got into my mid-30s and lost the joy of what I did. I don’t think anyone thought I had fallen out of love with music. I think people were genuinely happy that my son was OK, that I was able to come back and be strong enough to do it. Through this recent experience, everything came full circle. When you go through health problems, s*** gets so clear, and even on the s***ty days you start to think it’s not so bad, and it gets better. It changes you. It changed me forever…’

Michael’s career has always been with ups and downs, and I guess after his diagnosis with his son, everything else is immaterial. ‘Forever Now’ is perhaps the most emotional song Michael has recorded because it is about his son, and as per the interview above, we can see Michael state that he has only recorded it once (as a demo) and never again. He hasn’t even heard the finished product, because of how raw the emotion was and how close the album is to what is happening to his son. Nevertheless, regardless of his own feelings about the song- ‘Forever Now’ is a big hit, and a song that can hopefully bring healing and build bridges across generations from fathers and mothers to their children. A song that I declare to have been God-breathed, ‘Forever Now’ is a reminder of the unconditional love that Christ gives humanity, be it reciprocated or not. And that is what I reckon a lot of Michael’s music is reminding me of- especially his love songs- that the love expressed through these songs is just a fraction of the love that God has for each of us, and if Michael’s music does what is should and give us comfort that God’s love transcends race, colour, creed, even sexual orientation, or even mental capabilities, that God’s love doesn’t and shouldn’t discriminate, regardless of what’s been done or what is still to do; we can rest assured that he work of Michael is serving its purpose. The covers are a fun little treat, but it’s the originals that really allow Michael to shine and be the class act that he is. Influential for not only this generation but for the one before? I guess that’s not for me to say definitively. Listen to the music, and you be the judge!

Does Michael Bublé make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Has there been any song throughout his storied career, that has spoken to you about yourself or maybe even about God, in the process? Famous for songs like ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’, ‘Close Your Eyes’, ‘Forever Now’ and ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’, to name a few; is there a song that has connected with you that is a little lesser known to the public? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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