Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays (NBC-TV, aired 12/10/12)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Charles and I had a decent evening together watching a TV show on NBC called Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays. It was apparently a sequel to a similar Michael Bublé Christmas special that aired last year and featured him with Justin Bieber; this time around he was paired with country singers Carly Rae Jepsen and Blake Shelton (who was introduced by the announcer as a “superstar” — you know you’re old when someone you’ve never heard of before is introduced as a “superstar”!). Michael Bublé is the sort of performer whom I like, even though I’m not likely to rush out and buy their CD anytime soon; he’s a nice crooner and his presence on the music scene is welcome if only because Tony Bennett isn’t going to live forever and it’s reassuring that that style of singing will survive even after Bennett croaks. He sang nice versions of pieces like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” — though on the latter his voice hardly seared the way Darlene Love’s did on the Phil Spector hit version — and he did a medley of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock” with Jepsen. Bublé also did an O.K. original called “Cold December Nights” which reminded me of a song I’ve heard before but couldn’t place, and he did a comedy routine with Elmo from Sesame Street (still voiced by Kevin Clash, the African-American Gay man who created the character and became a multi-millionaire from the licensing deals, only to lose it when he was accused of molestation by four teenage boys, and in one case he’s being charged with violating the Mann Act, that loathsome piece of legislation passed in the early 19-teens ostensibly to fight human trafficking, or “white slavery” as it was called then, but has since been used much more as a “gotcha!” for uppity Blacks like Clash and Chuck Berry, as well as some uppity whites, who’ve got on the wrong side of America’s moral police) and a “ghost duet” with Bing Crosby on “White Christmas.” Crosby’s part was taken from a 1971 NBC special (his face looked like old leather and his voice had seen better days, but as the start of the line of crooners that includes Sinatra, Bennett and Bublé, he’s still superbly musical) and the “ghost duet” could have been genuinely moving (the way Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” duet with her dad was) if Bublé hadn’t gagged his way through it and answered Crosby’s straight lines from the original telecast with rather lame jokes.

The low point of the show was Rod Stewart’s appearance to promote his Christmas album with the Mel Tormé-Bob Wells “The Christmas Song,” which was a hit for Nat “King” Cole in 1946; I joked that Stewart sang it just like Nat “King” Cole would now (just so you know, Cole has been dead for 47 years), and whereas I used to joke that Stewart sang like his throat has been used to strop straight razors to sharpen them, now he looks like his face has been used to strop straight razors to sharpen them. I’ve generally detested Rod Stewart — yes, “Maggie May” is a great song (though his voice sounded old, hoarse and worn even that early!), and his cover of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” with Faces sounded stronger, ballsier and more soulful than Paul’s original, but for the most part I can’t stand the sound of his voice, and he’s even worse singing standards than he is singing rock: every time the old North Park Rite Aid’s Muzak system played his version of “These Foolish Things” in the last months before it was torn down to make room for the La Bohème condo complex (a rich people’s building named after a novel and opera about the struggles of poor people!) I would feel compelled, once I got home, to play Billie Holiday’s record of the same song just to get the foul memories of Stewart’s God-awful version out of my ears … and Stewart’s “The Christmas Song” compares to Cole’s (or to the two versions I have of Tormé singing it himself) about the way his “These Foolish Things” compares to Billie’s. And it does seem rather odd that in a Christmas special called Home for the Holidays, the song of that title wasn’t sung at all.