A&E review ‘illegitimate’

Matthew DeMello

I have never read a more undeserving favorable review in my life than the five-star review for Michael Buble’s May 2007 record Call Me Irresponsible.

The review cites Buble’s closeness in style to Sinatra, his Grammies and his ability to sedate listeners as qualifications. I understand this is a mere difference in opinion between two individuals, but as a musician and someone who genuinely cares about the fate of the music industry, I don’t understand why any of these ideals would qualify Mr. Buble’s album as any fine art. Never mind the finest art that a five-star review would suggest. As any musician, music collector, historian or authoritarian will tell you, these qualifications are every reason to qualify an artist as irrelevant and unmoving to the future of the musical community. Michael Buble is a cash cow for nostalgists who have suddenly grown disinterested in the first Frank Sinatra Jr., and Mr. Harry Connick Jr. Yet unlike Buble, Connick Jr. is by all means defendable even under the harshest scrutiny.

Harry Connick Jr. was something fresh and unexpected in an era dominated by depressing Nirvana-ripoffs and second-rate Pearl Jam archetypes flooding the grunge market of the 1990s. Dissimilarly, Michael Buble comes to the public in an era already overflowing with radio-friendly aging crooners and still he brings nothing remotely brilliant or valuable to the table. This even rings true when he pathetically mines for R&B crossover capacity on the album’s centerpiece “Comin’ Home” featuring 90s has-beens Boyz II Men.

Buble has been doing this his whole career. In fact, he has spent so much time positioning himself as a simple caricature that it is sometimes impossible to distinguish the integrity of his covers from that of lounge-pop satirist Richard Cheese. His cover of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” on 2005’s It’s Time and Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” off the album reviewed in The Chronicle could have easily been played alongside anything on Cheese’s hysterical and fantastical Lounge Against The Machine album. Both records are hysterical and like Buble, they’re all cheesy.

There is no greater injustice on Call Me Irresponsible than what Mr. Buble commits to folk legend Leonard Cohen’s late-career masterpiece “I’m Your Man.” Like a karaoke drunkard, he strangles any intimacy from Cohen’s characteristic hum and trades it in for some James Bond wannabe smug and a limp attempt at seduction, shockingly and unfortunately living up to his album’s title. Considering the reviewer never mentioned the original songwriting credits, I seriously doubt he or she is aware of who Leonard Cohen is (never mind his musical genius) or the moron Buble has thus made of himself in the eyes of anyone acquainted with Cohen’s prowess. To put it in perspective, it would be like if Daughtry tried to do a cover of Tony Bennet’s “I Left My Heart In San Fransisco” with Nickelback in the background.

To give credit where credit is due, Buble is of course extremely listenable and melodically perfect with the help of hired producers, like the other millions of pop stars in this post-Pro Tools age. Yet his unoriginality and lackluster attempts towards reinvention and acclamations from every pathetic reservoir of musical consumption (adult contemporary radio, the Grammies, or the slimmest of easy-listening CD collections) warrants everything wrong with these chart-topping artists. They prove that this decade is one in which the mass public does not desire any new radical ideas or ideologies from their musical media. In fact, they seem to desire a replacement of Sinatra from a market that is more than willing to supply them with unlimited versions of Michael Buble. Or even worse, N*Sync knock-offs who throw slide guitars behind their skin-deep, plastic pop just to call themselves “country.”

This review is not only a case-in-point example of the close mindedness of the general American public’s taste in music, but also of the greater dilemma of the Arts & Entertainment section of The Chronicle. Like my high school newspaper, anyone of no certain qualification can assume some greater music authority to give five stars to whomever is their favorite artist with not a shade of actual legitimate criticism to be seen, even where it’s obvious as in the case of Michael Buble.

As any student of critical literature will tell you, there is no greater sign of illegitimacy in a critical publication than when they simply hand out acclamations like Halloween candy and give no actual criticism. As a student seeking a possible future and career in entertainment journalism and critical literature, these reasons make it hard for me to put this publication’s name on my resume.