Bublé the Vampire Slayer
Bland Canadian crooner Michael Bublé’s new album outsold the New Moon soundtrack this week, confounding pundits. Nicole LaPorte investigates the Bublé nation.
When Michael Bublé’s new album skyrocketed to the top of the charts last week, leaving, first KISS, and then—far more shockingly— The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack in its wake, it seemed to defy logic. How could a Frank Sinatra-style crooner, devoid of tattoos or any other imprimatur of cool, be more popular than a mania-stirring enterprise that is rocking the world a good month before its next assault—the New Moon movie—hits us?
Fine. Bublé is cute. Young Matt Dillon-ish without the chip on his shoulder. Or a less slick Ricky Martin. And he’s known to be that most unlikely thing when it comes to a global superstar: a “good guy.”
“Talked to my mom today. Her immense love for Justin Timberlake has fizzled and now she’s moved onto Michael Bublé. Homegirl cracks me up,” Tweeted nathalief00.
But the real question isn’t so much who is Michael Bublé, as who are his fans? Who are these people who, in the last week, have scoured up 203,000 copies of Crazy Love, his third release, making it the No. 1 album in the land?
The answer, America, is: You.
Even if you didn’t know it.
For Bublé is the most American brand of the moment—even though, he’s, er, Canadian. His promoters form the very cornerstones of today’s culture: Target, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles, and Borders, which build veritable shrines in his honor; American Idol, where Bublé has performed; and, of course, Oprah, where he appeared, strategically, the day Crazy Love went on sale.
Bublé, who’s made his name singing his way, fittingly, though the Great American Songbook and the Rat Pack, seems to live comfortably, and inoffensively, within these contours. And at a time when America wants to feel safe and secure; reassured by familiar strains from a time when things were less angst-ridden, Bublé fits perfectly into the zeitgeist.
He talks a lot about his mom and how much he loves her. Although he usually keeps religion out of it, on Oprah he said that as a teenager he slept with a big, white Bible under his pillow and prayed for success. When the Associated Press pressed him on the issue, Bublé returned to a safely non-committal zone: “It’s not that I’m into organized religion—the truth is that I don’t know… So instead of making it about a certain God, I have a relationship with that one thing. The universe. God. You can call it Jesus, you can call it Jehovah. You can call it whatever you want. Buddha if you want. Whatever.”
There are ladies in his life, but no one he couldn’t bring home to that beloved mom. (Bublé had a long relationship with the British actress Emily Blunt before they broke up and Blunt went and found herself, and is about to marry, a real Yankee sweetheart: John Krasinski of The Office.) He’s admitted to doing drugs, but nothing scary (pot), and no one even seems to remember.
Instead, Bublé boosters gush about his infectious appeal, sounding like bobby-soxers rhapsodizing about Elvis.
“He’s a big kidder, he’ll be the first one to make fun of his last name,” said Katie Megna, a promotions executive who worked with Bublé when he was first signed to Reprise Records, which released his first, eponymous, album, in 2003. “From the beginning, he always just had a sense of humor.”
In his concerts, which fans say are do-or-die experiences and incite Beatles-like mania, Bublé works the crowd and calls out to his demos, which, though predominantly older, white, and female, still includes of a fairly catholic swath of teens, gays, and straight guys dragged along by their wives or girlfriends.
“I can personally testify from seeing all his shows, that he has a lot of really young fans,” said Liz Rosenberg, Bublé’s publicist at Warner Bros. “Not to minimalize the older fans, he’s got plenty of them, but there are a lot of college kids that like him and, really strangely, little kids.
“Once you sell 200,000 records in one week in this business, you’ve got to be reaching more than just a couple of older people.”
Maybe so. But if Bublé has an underground, cultish following that are his most hard-core, devoted fans, it's moms. Chardonnay-sipping, Two and a Half Men-watching women who, when the kids are at school or swim practice, blog things like “Getting the Chills With Michael Bublé” on sites like Momsfavoritestuff.com, to which other moms write things like: “i love love love michael bublé!” and “i love Michael Bublé! =).”
Offspring of Bublé-loving moms confirm these crushes. “Talked to my mom today. Her immense love for Justin Timberlake has fizzled and now she’s moved onto Michael Bublé. Homegirl cracks me up,” Tweeted nathalief00.
Moms did more than just gush in the weeks leading up to the release of Crazy Love. They served as marketing tools, product-testing the album, writing reviews, posting the video for the debut single “Haven’t Met You Yet,” and providing links to Amazon.com, where the album is for sale.
Granted, Bublé hasn’t won over every member of the nation. More discerning types, like Charles Reece, the jazz and classical specialist at Los Angeles’ fabled Amoeba Records, describes Bublé as “pretty much like a Sinatra derivative.”
“Generally, he’s one of those public broadcast station kind of artists,” Reece said. “Like Andrea Bocelli. Every time they have those fundraisers, everyone is coming in and asking for his stuff.”
Even so, Reece admitted that when he gave Bublé a try, he decided he “isn’t as bad as what I figured he was.”
Nicole LaPorte is the senior West Coast correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former film reporter for Variety, she has also written for The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Observer, and W.