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Album Review: Michael Bublé's 'Crazy Love'

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Crazy Love
Courtesy of Reprise Records
Singer Michael Bublé is an oddity. He seems to be both an open-and-shut case of jazz-singer-turned-pop, and a classic case of jazzified pop singer. Straddling genres in this way can pay off artistically and commercially (as in the case of Joni Mitchell), but done haphazardly, runs the risk of alienating the respective fan bases (may I introduce the infamous Kenny G). In Crazy Love, his fourth studio album, and second to top the Billboard Charts, Bublé stomps all over the fine line between jazz and pop, with mixed results.

First thing’s first - the production on this album is horrendous.

Bublé has a respectable jazz voice. He’s got good timing, a sense of the lyric, and spot-on intonation. Why then the producers of Crazy Love decided to use Auto-Tune and every other recording effect in the box on his voice, is a mystery. Furthermore, with the exception of the rhythm section, the backing band here is classic Karaoke bar. I honestly believe that I’ve sung to some of these very tracks in my grandparents’ basement.

Let’s start with the jazz side of the coin, if for no other reason than this is, for all intents and purposes, a jazz website. While not one entire track works in a jazz context, there are little pockets in many that seem truly honest and sincere. And, while most of the these moments seem to get eventually glossed over with studio strings and bravado, the fact that they exist in some form gives a glimmer of hope to jazz fans craving the crooners of old.

The clearest example of this is in the first chorus of “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.” Before the strings enter, Bublé showcases some real jazz chops. He plays with the melody and the lyrics, and by doing so, draws in the listener. This is perhaps the most appealing aspect of jazz singing. With one unique phrase, never to be sung the same way again, a vocalist invites the listener to be a part of that particular moment. This may seem a bit philosophical, but honestly – isn’t this why we as listeners enjoy taking part in jazz?

The same things that hinder Crazy Love’s success as a jazz album also work against it as a pop album. Bublé writes very good pop tunes – which sets him apart from many other jazz vocalists, for sure. On Crazy Love, he contributes two, the hit of the album, “Haven’t Met You Yet,” and the James Blunt-inspired, “Hold On.” While “Haven’t Met You Yet” isn’t currently featured in an iPod commercial, it surely seems like that’s what it is meant for. It’s a fun arrangement that eventually gets bogged down with saccharine strings, but at its best it’s a great song to put on while cleaning the bathroom.

“Hold On,” however, is the real deal. If they were to release an alternate version with just piano and voice, and take out the synth-sounding strings and Oasis-style backing guitar, I’d be sold – in a big way. But like everything on this album, the song builds to American Idol-sized climaxes, and in doing so it loses all sense of honesty and genuine emotion. It’s a shame because there might be a shred of both somewhere beneath all the overdubs.

The pop covers here work in the same way as Bublé’s originals - the one big exception being “Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes).” The difference is clearly the involvement of the Dap-Kings and the bluesy, throwback vocals of Sharon Jones. This track offers a change-up to an album sorely lacking variation.

Crazy Love makes it clear what we need next from Bublé – a duo album.

When Tony Bennett was at the height of his popularity in the 1970s, and the studios were pushing harder and harder for more adult contemporary, Bennett did the unthinkable, the miraculous. He recorded a duo album with Bill Evans – one of the most thought-provoking, sensitive jazz pianists of all-time – and made his masterpiece.

Bublé needs his Bill Evans. Or, for better or worse, needs to learn how to rap.

Release Date:

October 9th, 2009 on Reprise Records

Track List:

  1. Cry Me A River
  2. All Of Me
  3. Georgia On My Mind
  4. Crazy Love
  5. Haven't Met You Yet
  6. All I Do Is Dream Of You
  7. Hold On
  8. Heartache Tonight
  9. You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You
  10. Baby (You've Got What It Takes)
  11. At This Moment
  12. Stardust
  13. Whatever It Takes (bonus track)
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