By: Tony Simonetti
Michael Bublé, best known today for his singles “Haven’t Met You Yet” and “Feeling Good,” is a highly popular and successful singer in worldwide pop culture today, crooning old classics by legends such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and others. Given the somewhat soporific jazz industry today and the dated nature of these artists and their songs, it is interesting how Bublé has made such a career out of re-inventing these standards for today’s newer, younger audience and for yesterday’s older audience that grew up with them. With his first extremely successful, Grammy-winning album, Call Me Irresponsible, Bublé changed the music industry by bringing back old styles of music, reinterpreting them in both covers and original songs for a 21st century audience, and ultimately pushing the status quo of modern American pop music. Although Bublé was a major label artist for four years prior to this album, he had mainly been viewed as a tribute artist, merely a crooner-impersonator with no real vision in his music. However, Call Me Irresponsible was released worldwide in May of 2007, and Bublé says in his recent book Onstage, Offstage, an entire chapter of which he devoted to this particular album, that he took “full responsibility for calling all the shots,” for making the record more his own creative vision, as opposed to his previous records in which he did what his producers told him to do. In the examination of this pop culture artifact, it becomes clear how Michael Bublé really created his own unique style of music, a blend between pop music and standards, as well as how successful it became.
There are many factors at play in the exigency that Bublé is responding to with this album. The first and most prevalent is the missing element of jazz in modern music, the current absence and mere memory of many songs from the great American songbook. He believes there is an empty place in the hearts of many people who grew up listening to this music now that the music industry has moved past it. The next factor in the exigency for this artifact is that this missing element of jazz music is not only applicable to his generation of listeners, but also young people, pre-teens, teenagers, twenty-somethings who have never been exposed to jazz. Not only is Bublé breathing new life into the music with which he and his generation grew up, he is also offering today’s new audience of listeners a window into a plethora of jazz artists of the past who have written timeless classics that Bublé believes are meant to live on. The last important factor in the exigency of Call Me Irresponsible is Bublé’s desire to distinguish himself as a unique, creative artist. He really needed to find his voice with this album, to make risky choices against the reservations of his producers by reinventing old songs and creating new songs that can live up to and easily stand alongside the old.
In Call Me Irresponsible, he covers eleven songs from his favorite out-of-the-spotlight jazz artists (Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Billy Paul, etc.) with arrangements that are truly his, indistinguishable from both the originals and any other covers. On the album are two completely original songs: “Everything” and “Lost.” Simple and melodic, the tunes are iconic Bublé hits that show his songwriting skills and separate him from his label of being merely a “tribute” artist. Bublé is trying to find a happy balance between the current music world and that of the past century. In his book, Bublé says that he’s “not the next Sinatra. There will never be another Sinatra, but I do want people to know all over the world that there is a guy who will continue to do this for them, who will keep the songs alive, carry on the legacy of those singers, because almost everyone else has run away from it.”
His audience for this pop culture artifact is definitely not a punk or rock audience of any sort. His music is softer, more relaxing, comforting if you will. Even with his big band sound, he tries to evoke strong emotions with his music. Those who would normally enjoy that are romantics: people longing to be in love, people in love, people who have fallen out of love. However, love is universal, and in this way, all ages, all races, all languages, and both genders are at play here. Bublé makes it accessible and enjoyable for anyone, but gears toward those who are very in touch with their emotions, so while the majority of his audience are either lovestruck or lovesick females or males, it is possible for most anyone to find comfort in his work.
The genre of Call Me Irresponsible is the typical release of an album of music. There are two usual expectations for an album of music: 1) that the album represents a specific genre, and 2) that the music is good quality. For example, a Maroon 5 album is commonly referred to as a pop album, whereas a Frank Sinatra record is typically referred to as jazz. What sets Bublé’s album apart from others, though, is that one cannot simply call it a jazz album or a pop album. There is a unique blend that is hard to categorize and that the listener does not necessarily expect. However, depending on a person’s personal taste, the audience definitely receives decent quality music from the album, and in that sense the artifact does meet its expectations, and the audience responds positively.
Michael Bublé had already established a bit of a fan base with his hit original song, “Home,” as well as with various popular covers, both on his previous record It’s Time. By this point, he knew he was safe to, with the aid of his colleagues, step out of his boundaries and write songs and arrangements that were true to his heart and style, hence the title of the album. The album is very confidently produced, and one can really tell how much Bublé enjoys and is comfortable with what he is doing–much more so than in his first two albums. He took his risks very carefully and opened a more sensitive, vulnerable side to his audience by which people were clearly sold. To his avail, according to Wikipedia, Call Me Irresponsible debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, and rose to #1 in its second week. The album has sold over two million copies worldwide and won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Album, among other awards.
Ultimately, with Call Me Irresponsible, Michael Bublé saw the potential to bring his favorite artists from the past and give their work a place to shine in the present by mixing in his modern taste in music and performing for his generation, the previous, and the next of lovers all over the world. Having been a fan of Michael Bublé for a few years, I did have some inclination of how very much Bublé was a unique, inspiring artist. However, I did not expect to find in my research that he considers himself to be one of the few people carrying on the legacy of the great songs he does. I now have a much deeper respect for his music, and being a singer myself, it makes me feel more proud to be singing these underrated songs and this unique style of music that speaks so well to a great number of people.