Tuesday, May 1, 2007
CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE
So: You've sold some 11 million CDs faster than even your management could have dreamed, and your last album swiftly obliterated notions that you'd fall prey to a sophomore jinx.
Now what? If you're Michael Bublé, more of the same career-wise: "Call Me Irresponsible," the Canadian crooner's third studio release, is about as responsible as it gets.
There are no great surprises here, nothing to disappoint the surging fan club. Instead, Bublé and super-producer David Foster play it safe. They evoke shades of classic pop -- complete with requisite nods to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett -- then augment the vintage standards with lustrous covers of contemporary hits (another reprise of "Always on My Mind," anyone?) and two original tunes, the postmortem love song "Lost" and the catchy, if slight, single "Everything."
Boyz II Men and Brazilian tunesmith Ivan Lins unexpectedly turn up, the latter on a Latin and loungey duet performance of "Wonderful Tonight." But those cameos are no match for some of the album's highlights, which include John Clayton's swaggering big-band treatment on "The Best Is Yet to Come" and Bill Holman's Sinatra/Basie-styled arrangement of the album's title track. When relying on top-notch arrangers, Bublé can make you forget that his voice isn't nearly as distinctive or as expressive as those of his role models. His obvious affection and natural affinity for classic pop are big pluses, and his brassy takes on "I've Got the World on a String" and "I'm Your Man" will surely keep the summer concert throngs cheering.
DOWNLOAD THESE: "The Best Is Yet to Come," "I'm Your Man"
-- Mike Joyce
BECAUSE OF YOU
Michael Jackson is a tough act to follow. That seems to be the game plan for Ne-Yo on his sophomore release, "Because of You," proclaimed literally on the album by Def Jam CEO Jay-Z, who casts himself as a latter-day Quincy Jones to this multi-talented artist.
Ne-Yo's not there quite yet. But in an era bereft of great R&B songwriting, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter may be the closest thing to the young Michael we've got. On "Because of You," it's a pleasure to watch Ne-Yo grow into himself.
Ne-Yo has already proven that he can write a heck of a pop tune -- witness Rihanna's "Unfaithful," Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" or Mario's "Let Me Love You." Given Ne-Yo's capabilities, hook-laden songs such as the title track and "Crazy" seem almost too easy.
The best moments of this album are when Ne-Yo gambles on the unconventional. On "Sex With My Ex," he experiments with 1980s new wave, and nails a common, dirty little secret with unflinching lyrical fidelity. "Leaving Tonight," Ne-Yo's duet with the Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson, is a Grammy-worthy performance itself -- the kind of gutsy, he-said-she-said soul standard that Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack might have been proud to record in their day. "Angel" is an ethereal ride through buttery clouds of lyrics and key changes.
As long as Ne-Yo doesn't have to be our musical Messiah -- like his "Matrix" namesake or, even worse, Michael himself -- the kid can soar into open skies.
DOWNLOAD THESE: "Because of You," "Leaving Tonight," "Angel"
-- Dan Charnas