Michael Bublé on his new CD, 'To Be Loved'

Michael Buble performs at the Academy of Television

Michael Buble performs at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Presents "An Evening With Michael Buble" at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles. (April 28, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Michael Bublé didn't want his new album, "To Be Loved" (Reprise), to sound perfect.

He laughs when asked about his passionate version of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You," where some notes work well in context, but aren't exactly right. "Yeah," he says. "We're a little pitchy, but I think it makes it sound like the songs of when I was growing up. . . . I sing Elvis Presley's 'Have I Told You Lately That I Love You' and, OK, there's parts where I'm a little pitchy. I'm a human being, and that's what you're going to get. I was trying to be honest in every way."

It was all part of a new approach for Bublé, who, after a decade of success with a mix of crooning pop standards and writing sweet love songs, wanted something different. After the massive success of his "Christmas" album -- the second-biggest album of 2011, behind Adele's "21" -- Bublé felt now was the time to stretch.

He has seemingly chosen right, considering "To Be Loved" shot straight to No. 1 last week.

"I felt like I had hopefully earned the right to make the record I wanted to make," Bublé says. "For me, it felt like I was taking a risk, to be honest with you, but I was having a baby and I wasn't scared."

Bublé and his wife, Argentine actress Luisana Lopilato, are expecting their first child, a son, in August. And that landmark has the 37-year-old re-evaluating his priorities -- both artistic and personal.

"I had a hard time sometimes listening to my older records," Bublé says, explaining why he wanted to record much of "To Be Loved" with a live band playing together in the studio, rather than today's norm of recording each instrument and vocal separately so they can be manipulated through computer programs like ProTools. "I'm proud of them, and I never want to put down what they've done and how great they've been. But what moves me is sometimes the imperfection of music."

Bublé says he wanted to recapture the sound and the feel of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. He enlisted producer Bob Rock, best known for his work with Metallica, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe, to help.

"Me and Bob Rock just went out and tried to make an authentic, live-sounding, awesome record," Bublé says. "I wanted to write some more songs and do some soul stuff and put my voice in a place it's never been. I wanted to make a soul record. I wanted to make a record that felt like you were sitting at the Copa, and I think we achieved it."

Bublé says he thinks he also achieved making a record that will surprise some people. "I think it's a more polarizing record than I've ever had before," he says. "It's not as clean."

Even the pop songs Bublé has written are a bit more complex. While his current hit "It's a Beautiful Day" sounds upbeat and sweet, the lyrics tell a different story: The cause for celebration is a breakup. ("Oh, baby, any day that you're gone away, it's a beautiful day," he sings.)

Bublé says he wondered whether it was too much, so he ran the song past his mother. "She was laughing her ass off," he says. "She said, 'Well, it's not exactly what you're known for.' "

Even more polarizing, though, is the song "I Got It Easy," where he counts his blessings and declares, "I feel guilty a little -- I've been given so much -- people are dying in the dark, while I'm lying in the sun."

"It's basically a song that says I appreciate everything I have," says Bublé, who added that the song was inspired in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. "Some people hear it and think it's crass. The record company, my own manager -- they did not want it on the record at all. . . . I think it's a beautiful song. I don't think every song has to be a radio hit."

Of course, that doesn't mean Bublé doesn't want "To Be Loved" to be a success. He's planning a massive tour -- starting with 10 nights at the O2 Arena in London in July, though he'll take August off for the birth of his son. He'll schedule more time off during the world tour that will start in the fall, with his wife and child in tow -- three weeks on, two weeks off.

"My priorities have changed," he says. "My kid and my family come first, but I'm still hungry. . . . I don't want to turn a 180 and turn into something else. I want to show growth without alienating 40 million people. But if I didn't do it this way, I couldn't go on tour. I couldn't do it unless I felt like I was growing. I had to do it for myself. I'm in it for the long haul. I want to win this marathon."

 

For album sales, call him unbelievable

Michael Bublé may not have the buzz of Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga or other tabloid faves, but those stars may wish they had Bublé's strong sales. (Keep in mind, these are American numbers only, and his popularity is even bigger in Canada, his home.)

 

Here's how Bublé's other albums stack up:

- 'Christmas' (2011)

SALES 2.5 million

PEAK No. 1

YEAR-END RANK No. 2 (behind only Adele's "21")

HITS "White Christmas," "All I Want for Christmas Is You"

 

- 'Crazy Love' (2009)

SALES 2 million

PEAK No. 1

YEAR-END RANK No. 16

HITS "Haven't Met You Yet," "Hollywood," "Hold On"

 

- 'Call Me Irresponsible' (2007)

SALES 2.2 million

PEAK No. 1

YEAR-END RANK N/A

HITS "Everything," "Lost"

 

- 'It's Time' (2005)

SALES 3.5 million

PEAK No. 7

YEAR-END RANK N/A

HITS "Home," "Save the Last Dance for Me"

 

- 'Michael Bublé' (2003)

SALES 2.5 million

PEAK No. 47

YEAR-END RANK N/A

HITS "Kissing a Fool," "Sway"

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