Alright folks, it’s that time of year again. The countdown to Christmas has finally begun (hurrah!) and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for a bit of Michael Bublé.
Now I’ll be honest. As a massive Bublé fan, the whole ‘he only shows his face at Christmas’ thing gets old, and fast. This year sees the Canadian crooner release his ninth studio album with not a single Christmas song in sight (yet). No one seems to truly know what it is, but the man has a knack for packaging together a collection of songs both old and new, throwing some smooth vocals and big band into the mix, and bam! He’s selling billions at the drop of a hat. You either love him or loathe him, but sometimes all you really need on a cold winter’s day is a glass of wine by the fire and some Bublé playing in order to truly relax and have a break. Hell, I’m writing this review on a cold November evening in a Spanish café drinking tea, eating cake and feeling serene all wrapped up with his music playing. Nobody But Me is no different to the rest of his material and is a welcome addition to his hefty back catalogue.
Bublé’s ninth studio LP features his usual mix of classic covers and original songs, the latter making him insanely famous across the globe. Who could forget his mammoth ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ and the fact we didn’t hear the end of that chorus for at least a year? And who can listen to ‘Home’ or ‘Lost’ without shedding a tear? I certainly can’t. This time around his originals are all upbeat and carefree, showcasing that the man can still write a few hits of his own. Take the title track for instance. ‘Nobody But Me’ is a master class in cheesy doo-wop pop, complete with big band elements and a rap from Black Thought, the lead MC of hip-hop group The Roots. I know. I never thought I would write that last sentence either. A Bublé song with a rap? Madness. However, it works. It’s a happy, romantic song and makes you want to tap dance down the street. ‘I Believe in You’, the album opener, is of similar sentiment, something that will be welcomed with open arms by die-hard Bublé fans. While the lyrics aren’t totally inspired, with examples being very clichéd – ‘you’re the light that lifts me higher, so bright you got me through’ – it goes down well and is a nice, contemporary starter for the rest of the album.
Cheese seems to be a favoured theme within his originals, with ‘Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow’ being very forgettable despite the happy and positive sentiment. The track makes references to When Harry Met Sally and The Notebook, telling the object of his affections, ‘…baby, as you will see, Mr Gosling ain’t got nothing on me’. Many would surely agree, Michael. ‘Take You Away’, a cut from the deluxe edition of the album, is all about escaping with the person you love and travelling the globe, a song full of positivity and light. However, a surprising turn-up for the books is that for the first time, Bublé has released an original number that he has not written himself, or co-written with usual collaborator, Alan Chang. Bublé has sung duets with several female artists in the past including the likes of Nelly Furtado, Shania Twain, Laura Pausini and Reese Witherspoon, and this time on ‘Someday’, he joins forces with none other than Marmite in human form, Meghan Trainor. The track was co-written by Trainor and Harry Styles of One Direction fame, and is one of the stand outs on the album. Their vocals work well together, complete with ukulele and finger clicks to bring happy-go-lucky soppiness of the track to the fore. I don’t want to like it, but I kinda do… damn.
Of course, a Michael Bublé album would be incomplete without several classic covers. Seeing as we now associate the man with the Christmas period, many of his songs seem to incorporate a festive feel without even trying. In particular, his rendition of Dean Martin’s ‘On An Evening in Roma (Sott’er Celo de Roma)’ is an example of Bublé at his peak, the vocals in particular smoother than anything else. It’s lovely hearing him sing in Italian, if only for a couple of lines, and is reminiscent of his cover of ‘It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)’ from Call Me Irresponsible. It is lovely to listen to on an evening stroll, and not just in Roma! It works well in España too…
His cover of Matt Monro’s ‘My Kind of Girl’ evokes raw swagger and charm, being the first slice of big band style on the album and the lyrics speak on another level for many of his fans: ‘that face just knocks me off my feet.’ Yours too, Michael. Bringing some jazz galore from the 1950s to 2016, ‘I Wanna Be Around’ is another timeless classic on Nobody But Me, a song inspired by Frank Sinatra’s love life, with the lyrics declaring that he ‘wants to be around’ when the woman who broke his heart gets hers broken. A cover of Sinatra’s ‘This Love of Mine’ is a glorious affair, keeping things simple yet wonderfully elegant, making me wish I knew how to waltz and foxtrot like Ginger Rogers. Inviting a bit of Nina Simone to the table, ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ is an example of just how effortless his vocals can be, emulating Simone’s carefree and simple way of making a song unique. It seems to be an art he has mastered on every single LP, getting stronger with each release.
It’s time to get a bit dreamy, folks. A stand out on Nobody But Me is most definitely his cover of Ray Noble’s ‘The Very Thought of You’, a standard that has been covered by a number of stars in the past, from Doris Day to Billie Holliday. It is a romantic and sumptuous cut with gorgeously silky-smooth vocals, the musicians in particular lifting this track to even higher heights. Each note and fragment of music is elevated, the production values on this album being showcased in those three minutes better than any other track. Closing the album is a strange choice for a Bublé album: ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys. Seen by many critics as the reinvention of the classic love song, his version is a stripped back affair, bringing an overwhelming sense of melancholy and sorrow to the song. It ends the standard edition of the album on a beautiful string crescendo, reminding us that Bublé is a master at tugging on the heartstrings. I’d suggest another glass of wine.
[Originally written for Redbrick]
Image credit: Standard