For decades now, Michael Bolton's undisputed commitment to his craft continues to earn him our undying respect as the White Lion of R&B. Long after the '90s, after shedding his long, golden mane, he's continued a multi-multi-multi-platinum career, churning out raspy soul with the kind of God-given sexiness that your mom would totally leave your dad for (and you can bet he'd understand). On the heels of his 2013 release Ain't No Mountain High Enough--A Tribute to Hitsville, prepare for a sensual, soft-rockin' trip through the last half century of soul music at the City National Grove of Anaheim on Thursday as Bolton grabs a mic, unbuttons his shirt, and unleashes hit, after hit, after hit. This time around, he's bringing you everything from Motown staples to his crooning '90s classics, and even a little opera (cuz Bolton's got it like that).
But before stepping on the stage at the Grove, we caught up with Bolton himself on the phone to go over another important part of his legacy...those music videos! We've never met a Michael Bolton video we didn't like (or at least made us laugh a little). Any true Bolton fan is well aware of those unforgettable scenes of him standing on a mountain or a beach somewhere, wind in his hair, ready to whisk you off to paradise through your television. Or maybe you're a Lonely Island fan who knows him as some crazy guy pretending to be Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. One by one, the R&B legend gave us some behind the scenes stories of some of his most epic videos, while we add in our own analysis about what earns them the distinction of "Classic Bolton."
"How Am I Supposed to Live Without You", (1989) Michael Bolton:What happened leading up to the video for "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" is all pretty funny. In context, you're looking at someone who had nine albums out in 18 years and my first good album was the one before "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," called The Hunger in 1987. At that point, you'd be speaking to an artist who barely had a clue of what success felt like. Suddenly now I have a career as an artist. My career as a songwriter took off, even though I kept putting out albums that were failing one after another for different record labels and production companies that are going out of business. Now, I'm suddenly lip-synching to a video with this beautiful woman with a better video budget than I've ever seen before. They were giving me a stylist and she was introducing me to Armani and Versace and brands I'd seen before but I could never think of affording. It all happened so fast and furiously.
Classic Bolton: Full-fledged '90s rocker mullet (which we'll refer to as the Lion's Mane of Triumph), shirt unbuttoned, a romance turned sour with nameless hot chick, shoulder pads--big ones, left ear piercing, arched back with clenched fists on the high notes (aka the "soulful werewolf" pose), forlorn chair hugging."Fools Game", (1983)
Michael Bolton: When Fool's Game came out, it was a regular video on MTV and that was the beginning of me walking down the street and having people stare at me. I thought they were people who knew me but I realized they just recognized me. It was all about the power of MTV at that point. On set, I remember the constant sweating and makeup, even when I was doing rock'n'roll and opening for Ozzy I wasn't wearing that kind of stuff. And I learned how to say "No" when I felt like I was at the mercy of the machine, or the record industry who didn't want to alienate people who could be important to my career. And later on I realized, "Wait a second some of these guys, pardon my French, don't know what the fuck they're doing! So why am I listening to them?" But there are also going to be people along the way who are gonna be knowledgeable and make sure you're comfortable and you start to feel a certain amount of self-confidence and awareness of who you are and what your music feels like to other people. Classic Bolton: Squealing guitar solos (yeah, Bolton can shred), two love interests instead of just one (because, lets' face it, he deserves two), soulful werewolf pose, tight leather pants (for the ladies!), sweaty, glowing aura, soaring stage jump at the end of the video (wait for it).I Said I Loved You But I Lied (1993)
Michael Bolton: This is the most expensive video I've ever done, or I ever will do. It was done by Rebecca Blake, who's an industry director who directs some of the most expensive commercials in the world. At that time in my career, I'd had about 10 or 12 hit singles already. I wasn't being told what to do any more, I was being asked how I felt about certain things. We agreed Rebecca was going to do it...the next thing I knew I was on my way to a Navajo Nation ranch not far from Lake Tahoe and they were telling us we were going to have to make a bit of a trek and walk to a few buttes. There were 40 crew hands carrying cranes and equipment on the way to where we were going to shoot.
The only way up to the top of this butte we were shooting on was by helicopter so now I'm getting on a helicopter and landing on the top of this beautiful ancient red stone mountain and helicopters are flying around me with people hanging out of them holding cameras to shoot as I'm lip-synching. The wind's blowing, you're hair's all over the place but the natural light is gonna be better than anything you could ever do in a studio...you just hope a gust of wind doesn't come along and take you off the butte. I walked a couple steps to the left and right and realized if I closed my eyes and lost track of what I was doing, I could be gone.
Classic Bolton: The Lion's Mane of Triumph, galloping stallions, soaring eagles, raging flames, chest hair, wind (oh, sweet glorious wind!), werewolf pose, tight jeans (for the ladies), making out on a rock, denim on denim, singing on top of a cliff, walking on water.
"Jack Sparrow" (with Lonely Island), 2011 Michael Bolton: It took about eight months to formulate that video because the first couple of drafts, even though I wanted to work with them, I realized that something funny to their fans wouldn't necessarily translate as something funny to my fans. The first thing they pitched was so dark and nasty. It was funny as hell, but it was crude and I just told them I couldn't do it. I'm going to turn off a lot of my core fans who aren't gonna get their brand. So they said they'd work on it, but I figured they'd be too busy and I'd never hear from them again.
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I was on tour for about seven months before I got another email from Andy and I smiled and said "I can do this one." It's a lot more lighthearted and fun for me to have a laugh at my own expense at what I think is actually really funny. The hook is a hit. The fact that people couldn't get the song out of their heads was a big part of the success. For the first 14 days, we had a million views a day and its now over 120 million views. That put me on the radar of people on TV from Two and a Half Men to every script writer on prime time TV. So now we're pitching network shows and I wanna do that.
Classic Bolton: Big sexy hook, self-deprecating humor (Bolton's a good sport like that), gettin' buck wild in da club, shirt unbuttoned, mystical quest to the Isle of Tortuga, kissing seagulls, Forrest Gump (w/ ear piercing), Erin Brockovich, cross dressing, Scarface, automatic weapons, mountains of cocaine...ah, classic Bolton!
Michael Bolton performs this Thursday at the City National Grove of Anaheim, 8 p.m., $45-$75. For full show details, click here.
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