Frank Sinatra is in my big book of overrated singers alongside Bob Dylan and Elvis. So it’s all the more surprising that I am about to rave about someone who started his performing career impersonating Presley and Sinatra. On the evidence of his latest album, It’s Time, Michael Bublé is going to be huge. More than that, he will be a Canadian pop music superstar you can like without being embarrassed. This, after all, is the country that gave us Rush, Bryan Adams, Céline Dion, Nickelback, and Alanis Morrissette.
It’s Time isn’t perfect. Bublé lapses into unconvincing scat more than once. (Is it possible to sing scat convincingly?) A couple of the tracks are just pastiche—albeit beautifully executed. The production overwhelms occasionally with its close-miked, larger-than-life, I’ve-got-Pro Tools-and-I’m-gonna-use-it excess; the lead singer’s voice is embedded in such a shiny, saturated, widescreen soundscape that he sometimes becomes a monochrome gnome in the land of Oz. I haven’t tried it, but I bet he’s smothered occasionally if you’re listening on a radio with one speaker.
But so many important things about this recording are so right. Despite being an award-winning songwriter himself, and contributing to one superb song out of the thirteen on this album, Bublé defers to some other promising composers: George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Dozier/Holland/Holland, Lennon and McCartney, and Stevie Wonder. Talent recognizes genius.
And what talent! It helps that his voice is beautifully recorded, but Michael Bublé has it. His range at the top end is shorter than Sinatra’s in his prime (has A Foggy Day been transposed down from its original key?), but Bublé has better technique and intonation and—a matter of taste, I know—a far more pleasing texture to his voice—or rather textures, because his other edge over Sinatra is I always felt that, with the Chairman of the Board, the performance was just short of persuasive. Bublé can croon, but he can whisper, he can growl, he can swing, he can soar and—most of the time—he sings it like he means it. If you can’t stretch to the full price album—I bought it reasonably cheaply online with a bunch of others—then at least try to buy/hear the single Feeling Good. Yes, Michael Bublé is so gifted that I am recommending his version of an Anthony Newley song.
Nelly “I-claim-my-record-company-‘shoves-away-my-ethnicity‘ even-as-it-hypes-it-shamelessly*” Furtado turns in a performance of Nancy Sinatra competence—without the charm—on the duet Quando, Quando, Quando. I take no responsibility for any damage you might find yourself doing to your hi-fi equipment if you accidentally fail to skip that track.
[*How “ethnic” or “powerless” can a Portuguese popstar living in Canada be anyway?]