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‘To Be Loved’: Michael Bublé’s Dazzling Showcase Of Versatility
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In Depth

‘To Be Loved’: Michael Bublé’s Dazzling Showcase Of Versatility

An eclectic album covering many bases, ‘To Be Loved’ proved that Michael Bublé had matured into a bona fide pop star with universal appeal.

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When Michael Bublé released his eighth album, To Be Loved, in April 2013, only the gloomiest of pessimists would have predicted that it wouldn’t land at the No.1 spot somewhere in the world. That’s because by then, the silky-voiced, sharp-suited Canadian singer who had made crooning cool again was already an international household name who had seen all his albums since 2003 rack up multi-platinum sales figures.

Listen to ‘To Be Loved’ here.

The backstory: “I didn’t know how you’d market that music”

It hadn’t always been that way. Trying to get noticed as a singer had been tough for the son of a Croatian-Italian salmon fisherman from Burnaby, British Columbia, but Bublé had never given up hope of emulating the success enjoyed by his musical heroes Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Though he endured knockbacks during a time when lounge singers and jazz crooners were out of fashion, Bublé – spurred on by a mixture of single-minded ambition, steely determination and an unflappable faith in his musical ability – managed to get on the radar of the acclaimed Grammy-winning Canadian record producer David Foster.

That was in 2000 and purely by chance: the two met at the wedding of the daughter of Michael McSweeney, the speechwriter for the then Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, who had recommended hiring Bublé to provide entertainment after witnessing him sing at a corporate event. Foster was there as a friend of McSweeney’s, and though he was impressed by Bublé’s performance, he felt no inclination to sign him. “I just didn’t know how you’d market that music,” he later explained. Eventually, thanks to concerted pressure from McSweeney; Bublé’s manager, Beverly Delich; and, crucially, Foster’s close friend and ally, noted singer-songwriter Paul Anka, the producer agreed to sign Bublé to his label, 143 Records, before linking him up with Warner Bros.

The recording: A “record about love, happiness, fun and yummy things”

From that point, Bublé’s career took flight spectacularly, beginning with the 2003 release of his self-titled major-label debut album, which functioned as the first step in his steady ascent to super-stardom. Ten years later, when the singer unleashed To Be Loved, he faced pressures of a different kind from those he had experienced in his early days – the type that only an established artist feels, when a new album is expected to keep pace with its multi-platinum predecessors. Given that his previous album, 2011’s Yuletide celebration, Christmas, had become the best-selling release of his career, Bublé knew that equalling, let alone topping, that achievement would be a tall order.

Eager to build on the success of Christmas, Bublé went back in the studio with his trusted sidekick, producer Bob Rock, who had been part of the singer’s backroom team since 2007’s Call Me Irresponsible. A fellow Canadian, whose CV includes extensive work with heavy metal acts such as Metallica and Mötley Crüe, Rock may have seemed an unlikely choice of producer for Bublé, but he and Bublé had struck up a productive partnership over the course of three previous albums together.

It was under Rock’s watch that Bublé had proved there was more to his game than revisiting the Great American Songbook, and he had successfully reinvented himself as a purveyor of contemporary pop songs. 2009’s Crazy Love album, which featured one of the best Michael Bublé songs, Haven’t Met You Yet, co-written by the singer, had played a crucial role in rebooting his image, helping him gather a new audience of younger fans. Conscious that he wanted to develop that side of himself, Bublé reunited with his trusted songwriting partners Amy Foster – David Foster’s daughter – and Alan Chang, with whom he’d worked on Haven’t Met You Yet.

Together they wrote It’s A Beautiful Day, which was issued as To Be Lovedx’s lead single, in February 2013. A catchy slice of uplifting pop-rock with a hint of jazz, the song quickly climbed pop charts around the world, reaching No.10 in the UK. It proved a great primer for the parent album, which contained 13 other songs, three of which were co-written by Bublé, the most notable being the stomping After All, a duet with Bryan Adams.

Adams wasn’t the only guest star on To Be Loved. Actress Reese Witherspoon duetted with Bublé on a playful remake of the 1967 Frank and Nancy Sinatra hit, Somethin’ Stupid, and there were cameo roles for the New York City a cappella vocal group Naturally 7 (on Have I Told You Lately That I Love You) and the British retro-jazz trio Puppini Sisters (whose close, Andrews Sisters-style harmonies graced Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You)).

Elsewhere, Bublé included jazz standards (You Make Me Feel So Young), revived Motown hits (Smokey Robinson’s Who’s Lovin’ You), put a heavy, salsa-style Latin spin on an another Sinatra favourite (Come Dance With Me) and delivered unique renditions of one of the best Randy Newman songs (You’ve Got A Friend In Me) and a well-known Bee Gees hit (To Love Somebody).

The release: A skilfully executed work from a multi-dimensional artist

Described by Bublé as a “record about love, happiness, fun and yummy things”, To Be Loved was a decidedly eclectic collection that covered many musical bases. Yet despite its different, sometimes seemingly conflicting elements, it came across as a coherent, well-conceived and skilfully executed work.

Bublé needn’t have been worried about matching his previous successes. Released on 15 April 2013, To Be Loved topped the album charts in 20 countries, all the way from North America to Australia, and went platinum in seven territories. Above all, the album was a dazzling showcase of Bublé’s versatility; with it, he revealed that he was a multi-dimensional artist whose repertoire now extended far beyond his jazz beginnings. Still adored among fans, To Be Loved proved beyond doubt that Michael Bublé had matured into a bona fide pop star with a universal, across-the-board appeal.

Buy Michael Bublé vinyl and more at the Dig! store.

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