ABC/Matt Brown(NEW YORK) — Michael Bolton is back in the studio, not to record another passionate break-up song, but to lay down tracks for a new line of greeting cards.
The ‘90s R&B icon who made us swoon with tear-jerking ballads like “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” has launched a second career as a celebrity pitchman, selling all kinds of things from e-cards to Starbursts and Hondas.
The mullet is gone, but the pipes are as solid as ever. In all of his spots, Bolton plays a version of himself. “So far they all want me to be Michael Bolton,” the Grammy-winning artist said, laughing.
Bolton, who has sold nearly 55 million albums, clearly doesn’t need the money. He is just the latest celebrity to lend their persona to commercials.
Recently, Matthew McConaughey starred in two Lincoln car commercials and Will Ferrell became Ron Burgundy for a few Dodge Durango spots. William Shatner has also starred in commercials where he too plays an over-the-top version of himself. Not only is Shatner in on the joke, he’s cashing in. Those Priceline ads have led to new roles, including his Emmy-winning star turn on The Practice.
For Bolton, the ads have brought his career full circle. Back when he was a starving singer-songwriter, struggling to pay the bills, Bolton wrote and sang product jingles.
“’Be all you can be, get an edge on life in the Army,’” Bolton said. “That was me plus 20 great singers.” Bolton likes to joke that he has done a jingle for every drink in the picnic cooler, including spots for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7Up, Cherry 7Up and Dr. Pepper.
“Dr. Pepper was huge,” Bolton said, bursting into song: “’Dr. Pepper, give me the news, I got a bad case of loving you.’” Somewhere along the way, his music career took over, and Bolton remembers the moment he realized it.
“I was driving to New York, and one of my commercials comes on,” he said. “Then the commercial is off and my single comes on and now I’m in my heart.”
“I’m thinking, “This is what I’ve worked my whole life for. It’s happening,’” Bolton continued. “And just as it finishes another of my jingles comes on after it. They were bookends to my single.
He said when he heard a second jingle, he called his manager from the car.
“‘We have to stop doing the jingles.’ I told him,” Bolton said. “I don’t want people at radio trying to guess whether I’m a real singer or whether I’m a jingle guy.”
But what brought Bolton back to the commercial airwaves was a music video parody called “Jack Sparrow” that first aired on Saturday Night Live in 2011. In the skit, Bolton is working on a song with Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island, and while the guys sing about partying in the club, Bolton keeps singing about a Disney Pirates of the Caribbean fantasy. (The Walt Disney Company, which owns the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, is also the parent company of ABC News.)
Bolton said Samberg didn’t have to twist his arm to participate. He jumped at the chance.
“We met at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and they gave us this boardroom,” he said. “We sat across from each other and I said, “Okay first of all my daughters are flipping out that I’m meeting with you guys right now.” And Andy says to me, “My mother is going insane that I’m sitting here with you!”
Through ads, Bolton can re-connect with fans who once weathered a break-up with a Michael Bolton tune, and reach their kids too.
“You are now stepping in front of an audience that record companies can’t even hope to get in front of,” he said. “There’s no comparison… Because you don’t have MTV and VH1 doing that anymore. Top 40’s not looking at us… We can’t look at them to get a new record out. It’s not realistic. It could happen, but it’s not realistic.”
Now the quirky ads have given Bolton a new way to remind his fans he’s still going strong.
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