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Music / Michael Bolton

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No, not the Office Space character.

Michael Bolton (born Michael Bolotin, February 26, 1953) is a phenomenon of The '90s. There is no other singer quite like him.

Let's explain. There are many metal bands out there which, despite having what fans would consider decent metal, are known solely for their power ballads by the general public. Michael Bolton got his start as the singer and occasional guitarist in a mostly-forgotten metal group called Blackjack, which explains the quality of his voice. However, for his entire solo career, which is most of his known career, Michael Bolton has done nothing but power ballads, with some mid-tempo songs thrown in. What is more, they are almost all Silly Love Songs or Obsession Songs (those types often overlap in the popular consciousness).

He did chart well during his peak, and he was more than a One-Hit Wonder. He had several top ten albums, including two number ones, at least one live DVD concert, and a Grammy award.


Younger audiences will know him for singing "Go The Distance" from the 1997 Disney film Hercules, a song pretty much required by law to be played at every high school graduation. He is also known these days for being found guilty of plagiarizing "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" by the Isley Brothers. (Note: if you are writing your own songs, never let your music stray too close to anything published by Motown.)

He also made a cameo and is a minor plot point in the infamous Cuba Gooding Jr.. film Snow Dogs. A little known fact is he helped write the song "Forever" for Kiss.

His career took a very interesting turn, to say the least, when The Lonely Island featured him in one of their videos. While he was hesitant to do a particularly filthy comedy song at first, "Jack Sparrow" proved to be a massive viral hit. It gave Bolton a semi-ironic new generation of fans, which he embraced with a 2017 Netflix special, Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special.


Now back to the good tropes:

  • Adam Westing
    • "Jack Sparrow" has him in his standard hamminess.
    • He started doing tongue-in-cheek hammy ballads in Honda television ads in late 2013 as well as Starburst commercials.
    • Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special is chock full of this.
    • He also made several appearances on Two and a Half Men, all of which reduced him to "When A Man Loves A Woman".
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Bellows a big one during his stint with The Lonely Island in "Jack Sparrow".
  • Carpet of Virility: Shown off in the video for "Said I Loved You But I Lied."
  • Cover Album
  • Cover Version: Recorded quite a few covers of old soul songs (for example, his first major hit as an artist was a cover of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.")
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Although some people like it better, the AOR, pop-metal style of his earliest albums will no doubt surprise most listeners more familiar with his soft rock material. His really early installments (which came out in the 1970s when he was still going by his birth name, Michael Bolotin) were even weirder, sounding kind of like Joe Cocker.
  • '80s Hair: Kept his mullet well into The '90s, which earned him some scorn but eventually cut his hair short in 1997.
  • Exact Words: Well, he did write that big sexy hook for The Lonely Island...
  • Floating Head Syndrome: More than one of his albums, including Time, Love and Tenderness.
  • Greatest Hits Album: The compilation covering his first ten years was the most successful.
  • Large Ham: His overly-emotional singing style was notably parodied by Jim Carrey on an episode of In Living Color!. He also shows up for that SNL/The Lonely Island video belting out a power chorus in hamtastic fashion.
    • "Said I Loved You But I Lied" is the most over-the-top music video ever produced for a Silly Love Song. It features, among other things, Bolton singing from on top of a mountain, his shirt completely unbuttoned, with the camera spinning around him, while horses run through fire on a beach.
  • Obsession Song
  • Playing Against Type: In 2006, opera legend Luciano Pavarotti (who, it turned out, was a gigantic fan of Michael Bolton) invited Michael Bolton to sing with him on stage. At first Bolton was bemused and terrified, but he went ahead and went. The results turned out a hell of a lot better than anyone ever had any right to expect given that Bolton does not have the "pure" voice that is required in opera. Bolton has since regularly added several arias to his stage performances, and they are always well-received.
  • Self-Titled Album: His first album (Michael Bolotin) and his third album (Michael Bolton). Thanks to Sequel Displacement, the former (and the album that came after it) are usually forgotten, and the latter is often mistaken for his first album.
  • Signature Style: A husky, full-throated tenor with no qualms whatsoever about big, showy Melismatic Vocals. He successfully applied that singing style to old R&B covers, contemporary pop, smoky ballads, show tunes and rock & roll.
  • Silly Love Songs: Prior to "Jack Sparrow" he was primarily known as an adult contemporary balladeer, and that style lends itself to lots of this trope.
  • Stage Name: A minor case — his real surname is Bolotin, and he released his first two albums under that name.
  • Take That, Critics!: After receiving negative criticism for over-reliance on covers of old Soul songs, Bolton recorded the all-covers album Timeless: The Classics at the height of his fame, sending it number one in the American chart. How successful he was really depends very much on whether you think his covers are any good.


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