Long story short: while driving around, I heard the same two songs back-to-back on the radio. This happened a couple of times. One song made me mad, and the other made me cry. And they’re such an essential contradiction to one another that I’m going to write about it here.
First Song: “Hollywood” by Michael Bublé.
I don’t want to take you dancin’
if you’re dancin’ with the world.
You can flash your caviar
and your million-dollar car
I don’t need that kind of girl.
Translation: dating Michael Bublé is more important than your dreams of musical stardom.
Mr. Bublé burst onto the scene at some point in the past decade as a poor woman’s Harry Connick, Jr., a soulful retro crooner without HCJ’s piano talent or post-Katrina heroism. He’s a safe magnet for your mother’s sublimated desire, which was fine when he was covering classic torch songs and Motown but is much more annoying now that he’s apparently sold his soul to T-Pain for an Auto-Tune.
And this music superstar thinks wanting to be a music superstar is bullshit. Girl, just stay focused on this one dude—having a legion of adoring fans who’ll do anything for you and listen to what you say is probably just going to turn you into the kind of stuck-up bitch who won’t even wave specifically to Michael Bublé through the mass-media broadcasts you’ll certainly be featured on. You’ll probably just party yourself to death, or have your innocence corrupted by the glitz of the big city.
In short, Michael Bublé is your classic Nice Guy. The bitter kind who gets the opposite of laid by women who are too busy making decisions based on what they want rather than on what the Nice Guy thinks they ought to want.
And then I flash back to all the old songs he covers and remember that, you know, retro nostalgia tends to overshadow things like racism, sexism, and the horrors of the unimagined past.
Frankly, I’ll dance with the world rather than Michael Bublé any day of the week.
Second Song: “Hidden Away” by Josh Groban.
You’re a wonder, how bright you shine
A flickering candle in a short lifetime
A secret dreamer that never shows
If no one sees you then nobody knows
And all these words you were meant to say
Held in silence day after day
Words of kindness that our poor hearts crave
Please don’t keep them
The only things I know about Josh Groban are A) he bears a remarkable resemblance to a friend of mine, and B) his astonishing cameo in the first season of Glee:
Because I heard “Hidden Away” immediately after the Bublé song, I was still thinking about love in terms of music stardom and pursuing your dreams. Groban’s song could be read as a love song; it could also be read as a support song for someone with superstar ambitions.
You get the sense, in that second reading, that Josh Groban would be perfectly thrilled to watch you on tv if he knew that’s what you really wanted. He doesn’t want to control you—he wants a person with passions and loves and the courage to express them. And even though Josh Groban has perhaps the whitest, churchiest delivery since the Reverend Carey Landry, the melody is so achingly earnest and the chord changes so archetypal that my eyes well up even trying to talk about it.
Sing it out / so I can finally breathe, Josh Groban sings. His liberation and yours are tied together: if you’re restricted and limited, so is he.
Josh Groban’s full and open support makes a mockery of Michael Bublé’s statement that you don’t need to be famous if you love yourself/date the Nice Guy. Michael Bublé is only interested in you insofar as you are interested in Michael Bublé.
Josh Groban just wants you to be happy. Yeah, it’s sappy—but I can live with that.
The Videos: Where Things Go All Hunter S. On My Analysis
While writing this post, I watched the videos for both songs. Neither one was what I expected.
Music videos are a difficult art form. Sometimes they hew closely to the lyrics’ narrative (“…Baby One More Time”) and other times they go off in abstract, artsy, or hugely choreographed directions (Daft Punk, OK Go).
The video for “Hidden Away” is a multi-strand narrative about opening up to your loved ones: there’s a father and his young daughter, a teen girl and her female friends/possible lesbian girlfriend, and Josh Groban and Maria (who may or may not be his girlfriend, or just someone he knows, it’s never really clarified).
The strands are only tied together at the end, and then imperfectly: the only thing they have in common is that theme of openly expressing affection. There are many shots of Groban and his band playing in between silent story segments—it’s all pretty predictable and unambitious, but for all that it’s beautifully lit and pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t overwhelm the song, even as it expands the theme from a simple romantic plea to one that applies to all varieties of love.
But the video for “Hollywood”—well, it’s just weird.
Apparently Michael Bublé is singing a kind-of love song to—himself? But his alter egos are singing as well? It’s the furthest thing from clear or coherent. I mean, yeah, he’s telling us about how false Hollywood is, but the whole video is basically having a great time with costumes and sets and action scenes. Making movies looks like a fucking blast in this video. Why wouldn’t we all want to move to Hollywood? Because it’s inauthentic? It’s better than authentic!
See? I’ve been corrupted already.
But while the intended message is soupy, the unintended one is crystal clear. Women in this world are accessories, trophies, arm candy, decorative objects, anything except feeling, thinking, acting people. At the end, our Nice Guy drives off not with his best girl by his side, but in a car with three other dudebros. Dudebros, of course, are Real Authentic People, not Hollywood Types or Women.
On the other hand, anything that keeps Michael Bublé among the dudebros and away from ladies like myself is pretty okay. That guy’s starting to creep me out.