We need more fes­ti­val girlpower

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GA-JENK-JENK-GAJENK-JENK-GAJENK,’’ Michael Bu­ble 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 aWest Hol­ly­wood 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, Bu­ble 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, David Fos­ter, to help him­match the groove to an­other tune.

‘‘We must have gone through 40 dif­fer­ent songs,’’ Bu­ble re­calls, 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 says, de­scrib­ing the re­sult as a long­fought cre­ative vic­tory. Then again, he added, the real win might’ve been that hewas fight­ing at all.

Two years ago, this Cana­dian 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.

Bu­ble aban­doned pro­mo­tion of a record he’d just re­leased; he called off a planned­world 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 Bu­ble is 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 says over cof­fee. He walked in wear­ing a black leather jacket, and when he took it off, the names of his three chil­dren – Noah, 2-year-old Elias and a daugh­ter, Vida, born in July – could be seen tat­tooed on the in­side of his right arm. (Bu­ble 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 un­con­vinc­ing No­body but Me, to what Bu­ble does best, which is re-imag­in­ing durable stan­dards with style and emo­tion.

Work­ing again with Fos­ter, who’d pro­duced Bu­ble’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; My Funny Getty Im­ages Valen­tine gets a cool spy-movie makeover, while Un­for­get­table re­cov­ers the grown-up sen­su­al­ity of a tune that’s be­come a sta­ple of fa­ther­daugh­ter dances.

Love en­tered Bill­board’s al­bum chart at No 2 late last month, with Bu­ble’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, Bu­ble said it made him want to cre­ate some­thing­with 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 says. ‘‘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 says. ‘‘It’s not for me. And I don’t want him to be ex­ploited in any­way, or for me to do that even ac­ci­den­tally.’’

In­deed, one won­ders if Bu­ble has de­vel­oped some stock re­sponses as he’s made the rounds – from Car­pool Karaoke to the To­day show to in­ter­views like this one – talk­ing up his al­bum: care­fully crafted state­ments that sat­isfy the ap­petite for celebrity con­fes­sion with­out com­mod­i­fy­ing a fam­ily’s pri­vate trauma.

He nods in recog­ni­tion of the idea.

‘‘I’m not care­ful with my words, but I’m care­ful with the in­for­ma­tion,’’ he says. ‘‘And I’ve had a few in­ter­viewswhere I’ve said, straight up, ‘I know you’re a good per­son do­ing your job, but I’d like to move on, and if we can’t then we should end this now’.

‘‘But it’s weird, man. I can’t wait to never talk about it again. At the same time, it’s im­pos­si­ble for me not to ac­knowl­edge that ev­ery­thing I am– ev­ery­thing I’m do­ing – is be­cause of it.

‘‘And you hear that in this mu­sic. I think you hear clar­ity.’’

Noah’s sick­ness trig­gered a re­al­i­sa­tion, Bu­ble ex­plains, re­gard­ing his rea­sons for singing.

‘‘Be­fore this all hap­pened, I’d kind of for­got­ten what it was I loved in the first place,’’ he says. ‘‘In­stead of en­joy­ing the mo­ment, I was start­ing to worry about los­ing what I had.’’

Con­vinced he needed to shore up his fan­base – hewas ob­sess­ing over record sales and ‘‘ticket num­bers in Al­bu­querque’’ – he took a hard turn to­ward the Top 40 on No­body But Me, work­ing­with pro­duc­ers and writ­ers who pumped up his sound with mus­cu­lar hip-hop-style beats.

‘‘I thought I needed to be some­one else,’’ he says.

To­day he stands by the orig­i­nal songs hewrote for the ear­lier record, in­clud­ing the ti­tle track, which fea­tured an un­likely rap verse. But the pre­sen­ta­tion, he ad­mits, was iffy.

‘‘Per­form­ing on TV, I sud­denly didn’t know how to move,’’ he re­calls with a laugh. To demon­strate what he meant – you gather pretty quickly that Bu­ble is a guy given to demon­stra­tion – he pulled out his phone and played a clip of Ricky Bobby, Will Fer­rell’s com­i­cally awk­ward char­ac­ter from Tal­ladega Nights.

‘‘That­was me, ba­si­cally: ‘What do I dowithmy hands?’’’

Bu­ble seems com­fort­able again on the more old-fash­ioned Love; this is the singer in the nat­u­ral sweet spot he’s hap­pier than ever to oc­cupy.

‘‘Mak­ing the mu­sic I love with the peo­ple I love – that’s what’s im­por­tant,’’ he says. ‘‘Some­times peo­ple don’t get that per­spec­tive un­til the very end of their ca­reer.

‘‘It didn’t hap­pen like that for me.’’ – Los An­ge­les Times Michael Bu­ble’s al­bum Love is out now.

Bu­ble says his son Noah is his favourite ‘‘su­per­hero’’.

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