Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Mickey Bubbles, King of Canadian Pop
I am not the first to write about this subject, and probably won't be the last, but I remain so astonished and angered about the matter at hand that I feel compelled to add my three cents' worth. Bear with me, then, or just head elsewhere in cyberspace if you're bored of hearing about it.
Last Sunday, April 1 - surely, it's no coincidence that this occurred on April Fool's Day - something pretty tragic happened to the Canadian music industry. At the Juno Awards, being Canada's equivalent of the Grammys or, to an extent, the Brit Awards, Michael Buble's "Christmas" album was awarded Album of the Year. Yeah, if you have somehow avoided this news, it really happened. No kidding.
This album contains Buble's renditions of Christmas standards that have been recorded a trillion times previously by as many bands and artists, and will continue to be recorded for seasonal releases until the end of the world. This release by its very nature is narrowly restricted in terms of both lyrical expression and sonic palette, and regardless of that, is nothing but a covers album. No more, no less. Yet, according to the utter buffoons that decide these things, it was voted the BEST album to be released by a Canadian musician in the last twelve months. Let me repeat that: the best album out of Canada in 2011. Yikes. How can this possibly happen?
I have absolutely nothing against Michael Buble, or Mickey Bubbles as I like to call him for my own amusement. He's a proud Canadian with a great singing voice, and uses it to do what he does very well, selling millions in the process. He's a fine modern crooner, and whether his music is to my taste or not - it isn't - I happily acknowledge his talent. He's a local boy (that is if, like me, you live in British Columbia), like me an avid Vancouver Canucks fan, part owner of the Vancouver Giants, and from the interviews I've seen, seemingly a really nice bloke. I must add that I have not heard the album in question, nor have any need to, but have no doubt it is impeccably performed by Buble and all the musicians present. I'm sure it is beautifully produced and packaged, and made a fine Christmas present for the so-inclined. Indeed, "Christmas" has to date sold something like 4,500,000 worldwide, so it was a huge success.
But, surely quite obviously, unless the artistic merit genuinely matches a release's commercial success, like, say, Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," a gargantuan sales figure does NOT equal BEST. It is simply inconceivable that a seasonal release of this nature, one that trots out songs heard by generation after generation since the concept of the Christmas song first took flight, should ever be considered an album of the year. I would apply that to any Christmas release, including the classic Phil Spector collection. It may be that the arrangements or instrumentation are more adventurous than ever previously presented, or that in some way the recording is groundbreaking (3D, perhaps?!), but even fresh approaches make no difference whatsoever to the cold, hard fact that it is NOT original material. In fact, I would go as far as to say that no covers album should ever be awarded such a prize. All this can do is damage, sending a message to songwriters the world over that, however hard they try, they just don't make 'em like they used to!
I'm thinking this travesty could well signal the death knell for music awards ceremonies in general. I do hope so, as they are increasingly irrelevant, and this is your proof. I mean, after this, really, what is the point? The decision to award "Christmas" Album of the Year status is plain embarrassing for the Canadian music industry, and I would bet a couple of bucks that Buble himself is amazed. If the intention in handing out this award was to recognize the impact of a Canadian musical artist on the world stage, that's all well and good if units shifted is all that matters, but it does absolutely nothing to further the reputation of Canadian music in general. This country is blessed with musical talent in all genres, but that those who have striven to deliver original and exciting work are brushed aside in the name of economics is nothing short of a disgrace. Shame on you, Junos!
Deep breath... and relax.