Records Ranked: Michael Bublé

Ranking Bublé albums is a tough task because his music pretty much is what it is. With no sonic re-inventions or grandiose statements it leaves little room for alienation album to album. If you like his style, chances are you will like each album. Ordering them boils down, simply, to the songs – the quality of the originals and the choice and arrangement of the covers. That criteria makes this likely the most subjective of all these rankings.

It also feels more wrong than ever to hold to my evergreen-albums-only criteria, given how massive Bublé’s Christmas album was and continues to be (though it is far from perfect, a tangent for another day). But there is plenty to still reflect upon looking at the seven other studio albums Bublé has made.

#7. It’s Time – The one album of Bublé’s that as a whole falls flat. For large stretches his vocals sound tentative and woefully uninspired. Luckily help does arrive in the form of far more intrepid arrangements from David Foster. Some are brilliant (the sultry bossanova of “Save The Last Dance For Me,” the cinematic thunder of “Feelin’ Good”) while others (a double time “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and a hybrid “How Sweet It Is”) don’t quite land. Also of note here is Bublé’s first original, the understated yet beautifully written “Home.” But for all the ways he is set up to succeed on It’s Time,  Bublé as a performer leaves a lot to be desired.

#6. Love – After the ordeal of his young son battling cancer, no one can fault Bublé for coming back with a record that’s appreciative, reflective and, well, loving. So much so that the Charlie Puth-penned kiss off “Love You Anymore” sounds out of place despite being one of the album’s best tracks. Love is easily the most vanilla album Bublé has made since his debut – only the pompous, melodramatic take on “My Funny Valentine” and a 6/8 time signature for “Unforgettable” could be classified as having any risk or style. It remains to be seen whether this was Bublé’s mulligan/transitional/contractual obligation record or a shift to more or less staying in his lane.

#5. Crazy Love -The success of “Haven’t Met You Yet” and the subsequent elevation of Bublé’s career alone make Crazy Love one of his greatest triumphs. It still holds up as Bublé’s best original and the one he’s been trying in vain to top ever since.  Elsewhere there are some arrangement choices that really pay off – the smooth swing of Singing In The Rain‘s “All I Do Is Dream Of You,” the pseudo James Bond dramatics of “Cry Me A River,” and an unexpectedly awesome big band take on The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight.” It makes the album’s more conventional crooner moments seem ordinary by comparison, bringing Crazy Love to a rather merciful finish. The through line is Bublé delivering these songs with a bristling swagger, at his most successful and his most dislikable.

#4. Michael Bublé – There are a few interesting, subtle twists on Bublé’s major label debut – a swinging, horn flavored “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” a soft, intimate rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight,” – but this is an album largely out of the crooner 101 playbook (Bublé even sounds like he’s singing through his teeth in the obligatory cover of “Come Fly With Me”). Though he doesn’t inject much of his own personality here, some of his vocal performances rank among his all time best – particularly the tender purity and longing of “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” complete with approving backing vocals from Barry Gibb.

#3. To Be Loved – One of Bublé’s most balanced efforts, To Be Loved finds its eclecticism in the different genres selected from rather than through how they are arranged. While not exactly re-inventing the wheel – it is interesting to hear a voice like Bublé’s on songs like “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” and “To Love Somebody.”  Besides, at this point in his career Bublé was going to commercially sink or swim on his original material. The output here is decidedly mixed. Lead single “It’s A Beautiful Day” was a massive letdown, such a blatant attempt at “Haven’t Met You Yet” part 2 that even Jerry Herman would’ve deemed it too self-derivative. “Close Your Eyes” is decent and was moderately successful as an adult contemporary single. “After All” with a co-write and feature from Bryan Adams is the album’s strongest new song while “I Got It Easy” is an instantly forgettable attempt at September Of My Years-era Sinatra. It’s hard to not let To Be Loved be tainted by the shortcomings of the originals.

#2. Nobody But Me – Bublé took more creative control and somewhat surprisingly delivered one of the best albums of his career. There isn’t much in the way of show stopping moments on Nobody But Me but there is rarely a bad note to be found. Aside from a mopey, self indulgent cover of “God Only Knows,” every track feels like a right choice. The standards – chiefly “My Kind Of Girl,” “My Baby Just Cares For Me,”  “The Very Thought Of You” and “I Wanna Be Around,” stay close to the charm of other popular renditions with just enough refreshed flair to offer something new. The title track with its “Jailhouse Rock” inspired riff and rap verse from Black Thought is the biggest risk taker of the album’s originals. “I Believe In You” and the Meghan Trainor/Harry Styles- penned “Someday” are fluffy yet likable while “Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow” is a Top 3 Bublé original. Unfortunately personal tragedy struck Bublé and Nobody But Me got lost in the shuffle.

#1. Call Me Irresponsible – The tone of Call Me Irresponsible – nocturnal, contemplative, and an arrogant-yet-endearing charm – is the Rat Pack-iest Bublé has ever worked under. The bad boy swagger is palpable. He manages to take songs with inherent dislikability (“Me and Mrs. Jones,” “That’s Life,” “Call Me Irresponsible”) and make them sound even more defiant. Generally agreed upon love songs like “Always On My Mind” and “Comin Home Baby” have a unique sense of desperation and remorse because of this aesthetic. Original material from Bublé became an expectation rather than a token because of Call Me Irresponsible. “Everything” and “Lost” are not only formidable and successful, they are complimentary additions to the arc of the album. With Call Me Irresponsible it feels like Bublé synthesized all the great elements of the classic jazz singers and made it his own, inching a deeply traditional genre forward.

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