One of the more odd aspects of my time here in St. Vincent so far is the way that the island has shown itself to be fans of Michael Bolton. How is this so? Let me recount the ways. A couple of nights ago at dinner the restaurant at our hotel played “I Said I Loved You…But I Lied” on repeat the entire evening we were at the restaurant. The first time I heard the song I was mildly amused, considering it had been a while since I had last heard the song. The next few times I heard the song I was mildly irritated. And by the time I was done with dinner, I was very annoyed and didn’t want to hear the song for a while. Nor is that the only Michael Bolton song that I have heard in the music so far, with songs like “Soul Provider” and Bolton’s version of “When A Man Loves A Woman” showing up as well as other songs. Not being someone who has heard a lot of Michael Bolton for some time, it is a bit of a mystery why he is so popular among the people on St. Vincent I have been around.
Michael Bolton is an easy artist to hate. His brand of romance oriented soft rock only became refined after his first four albums had failed to reach a large audience and he was somehow given the chance to make a fifth album that was a success to establish a track record for future successful albums. Like, say, Bryan Adams, Bolton was a smart and sophisticated songwriter who deliberately sought to create songs that appealed to women who wanted to be viewed with devotion even if the songs he wrote were not designed to express personal relationships. This particular reality appears not to be one that is well-regarded, and Michael Bolton’s career as a songwriter for such artists as Cher and Laura Branigan before establishing his own successful recording career. If he has gained a great deal of credibility thanks to his hilarious performance on the Lonely Island’s Jack Sparrow where he shows his comic chops and his capability as a cinephile, a lot of people tend to be less than fond of his career as a whole, which is to be regretted.
Yet it is very easy to understand how Michael Bolton would appeal to some. His singing style is a bit over the top in terms of its enthusiasm, and that tends to appeal to a great many people not only at the time but also now. I plan on discussing at a later point the appeal and legitimacy of self-insert sorts of songs of the kind that Michael Bolton (and Bryan Adams and others) succeeded in crafting often, but for now I would like to say that the way that people could easily see themselves as either the performers or the target audience of the performer in such songs made them a powerful way for artists to ensure their own popularity by appealing to such powerful longings. And while I have not seen any great romantic aspect of the culture of St. Vincent, human beings as a whole tend to have powerful romantic longings and this tends to either encourage the growth of native romantic traditions (the telenovela, Arabic songs about habibi, and so on) or the appropriation of foreign romantic forms (like Michael Bolton’s music for Vincies) as a way of coping with that reality. Still, it is an interesting mystery as to why Michael Bolton would be the beneficiary of that desire to express romantic longing in music.