Bublé on Love, tri­umph in wake of son’s cancer

Singer chan­nels vin­tage Quincy Jones in al­bum

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - MIKAEL WOOD

WEST HOL­LY­WOOD, CALIF. —“Ga-JENK-jenk-ga-JENK-jenk-ga-JENK,” Michael Bublé sang, strum­ming an imag­i­nary gui­tar with his right hand as his left foot kept time on an imag­i­nary kick drum. “Ba-BA-da-BOOM!”

Seated — just barely — at a din­ing ta­ble in a ho­tel suite, the throw­back crooner was ex­cit­edly us­ing his body to demon­strate a vin­tage Quincy Jones groove he said he couldn’t get out of his head while he was record­ing his new al­bum, Love.

In the stu­dio Bublé would play the hard-swing­ing rhythm, from Jones’ ar­range­ment of the stan­dard “Please Be Kind,” over and over on his lap­top; he’d badger his pro­ducer and fel­low Cana­dian, David Foster, to help him match the groove to an­other tune.

“We must have gone through 40 dif­fer­ent songs,” Bublé re­called, un­til fi­nally they hit upon the right one: “I Only Have Eyes for You,” the dreamy ro­man­tic bal­lad that, sure enough, sounds great atop Jones’ jump­ing beat — ten­der but sexy, earnest yet witty, time­less but also fresh in a way that ditty hasn’t felt in years.

“I was, like, ‘Aha!’ ” he said, de­scrib­ing the re­sult as a long­fought cre­ative vic­tory. Then again, he added, the real win might’ve been that he was fight­ing at all.

Two years ago, the singer — who rose to fame in the early 2000s with his ring-a-ding re­vival of pop clas­sics such as “Feel­ing Good” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” — abruptly put his ca­reer on hold af­ter his son Noah, then just 3, was di­ag­nosed with liver cancer.

Bublé aban­doned pro­mo­tion of a record he’d just re­leased; he called off a planned world tour. The sug­ges­tion was that he might be fin­ished with mu­sic, un­able to fo­cus on any­thing that didn’t di­rectly cor­re­spond to his son’s well­ness.

Now he’s back. With Noah in re­mis­sion, the 43-year-old singer says he made Love — the al­bum’s of­fi­cial ti­tle is the shiny red heart emoji — as a means of mov­ing be­yond the strug­gle that turned his life up­side down.

“I told my­self, if I do an­other record, it has to be a to­tal love fest,” he said over cof­fee on a re­cent af­ter­noon. He walked in wear­ing a black leather jacket, and when he took it off, the names of his three chil­dren — Noah along with 2-year-old Elias and a daugh­ter, Vida, born in July — could be seen tat­tooed on the in­side of his right arm. (Bublé is mar­ried to the Ar­gen­tinean ac­tress Luisana Lopi­lato.)

Yet as much as Love rep­re­sents a way for­ward, it’s also a re­turn, af­ter 2016’s un­con­vinc- ing No­body But Me, to what Bublé does best, which is re-imag­in­ing durable stan­dards with style and emo­tion. Work­ing again with Foster, who’d pro­duced Bublé’s first sev­eral al­bums be­fore sit­ting out his last few, the singer gives “When I Fall in Love” a lush ro­man­tic throb and presents “La Vie en Rose” as a yearn­ing duet with the brainy jazz star Ce­cile McLorin Sal­vant.

Last week the al­bum en­tered Bill­board’s U.S. al­bum chart at No. 2, with Bublé’s quadru­ple­plat­inum Christ­mas record from 2011 mak­ing its an­nual reap­pear­ance on the tally not far be­hind.

Asked how the ex­pe­ri­ence with Noah shaped the al­bum, Bublé said it made him want to cre­ate some­thing with some of the same com­pas­sion that he and his wife had been shown.

“It’s re­ally easy right now to look out­side your bub­ble and think that the world has be­come this cyn­i­cal, ter­ri­ble place,” he said. “But we saw a lot of good. And I think both of us felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pay it for­ward.”

He was less ea­ger to go into de­tail about the pain that brought on that kind­ness.

“My son’s story is a story he’s go­ing to tell one day,” he said. “It’s not for me. And I don’t want him to be ex­ploited in any way, or for me to do that even ac­ci­den­tally.”

“My son’s story is a story he’s go­ing to tell one day.” MICHAEL BUBLÉ SINGER

JOERG KOCH GETTY IM­AGES

For his new al­bum, Love, Michael Bublé reunited with a fel­low Cana­dian, pro­ducer David Foster. The al­bum en­tered the Bill­board U.S. chart last week at No. 2.

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