I originally approached this Spotlight with a bit of snark, wanting to draw the reader in with jokey shenanigans. But I realized that’s dishonest. I don’t enjoy the distancing effect of irony or insincerity when it comes to things I genuinely appreciate. When I love something, I embrace it, and Michael Bolton’s low-key charm and dorky silliness (not to mention talent) make him someone to celebrate.
Blessed with a multi-octave range and the hair of a god, Michael Bolton began his professional music career as a teenager in the 70s. Originally gravitating to a more folky sound, he was signed and dropped from a handful of record deals before meeting with the business manager for Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, who envisioned Bolton as a rock and roll leading man. Playing with future KISS member Bruce Kulick in the band Blackjack, Bolton (then working under his real name Bolotin) had a natural talent for engaging with the audience. Blackjack had a catchy, arena-light sound that was widespread at the time. This video for the band contains their two main singles “Love Me Tonight” and “Without Your Love” as well as some promotional patter.
After two records Blackjack was released from their contract, and Bolton made money by writing and singing commercial jingles. He wrote the iconic 80s Army jingle “Be All That You Can Be,” as well as jingles for Dr. Pepper, McDonald’s, and many others.
The strength of Bolton’s voice got him signed to Columbia Records, where his career as a solo artist slowly gained traction. Bolton honed his songwriting skills on Journey-esque gems such as “Fool’s Game” and “Everybody’s Crazy.”
His writing and composing skills also made pop hits for Laura Branigan (“How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” which he later sang himself) and Cher (“I Found Someone”).
As Bolton gained success, he transitioned to an R&B sound, and struck gold. This isn’t my jam, but I’m glad that his work ethic and talent finally paid off. Expanding out of adult contemporary, Bolton also garnered recognition in the world of opera.
He’s earned acclaim for his comedic chops, working with Lonely Island on the most-viewed YouTube video of 2011, “Jack Sparrow,” and starring in his own Funny Or Die video. He’s immune to mockery because he’s having a great time.
This year, he starred in a Valentine’s Day special on Netflix, where his unnatural acting style and pitch-perfect reactions were comedy gold.
If you have any doubts about my sincerity in praising Bolton’s phenomenal talent, check out these annotated demonstrations of his vocal range:
He’s also a kind and compassionate person, and has done extensive charity work, including having his own charity network that assists women and children in situations of poverty and abuse.
Even though I don’t celebrate his entire catalog, I hope I’ve conveyed why I unironically celebrate Michael Bolton’s unique talent, and why we can love artists for who they are but not love everything they do.