Bolt of new energy

Television and streaming projects have garnered veteran singer Michael Bolton young fans

Singer Michael Bolton, 64, who is on a concert tour, has no plans to retire yet.
Singer Michael Bolton, 64, who is on a concert tour, has no plans to retire yet.PHOTO: SUBARU ASIA

American singer Michael Bolton has accomplished a lot in his long music career - mainstream success, multi-million album sales and evergreen hit tunes.

A few years ago, the 64-year-old picked up a whole new generation of younger fans through his comedy work online and on television.

He is as active as ever, with worldwide tours and other projects, such as his recently concluded reality singing contest for aspiring Asian singers, Bolt Of Talent.

There is still a lot more work to do, he tells The Straits Times in a recent press event to promote his upcoming concert at The Star Theatre on Wednesday, a show that is part of his Asian Dream tour.

"I'm not even close to retirement. When you're working for a living, then I think you get to a point where you think of retirement, where you think, 'OK, I'm going to do this until I wind down at this point of my life'," says Bolton, who made his debut as a singer in the mid-1970s.

"When you're looking at art, do you ever see a painter tell you that he's going to stop painting at 60 or at a certain age? Is a poet going to stop writing poetry?"

The singer, who has released 17 albums and has had several No. 1 hits in the early 1990s with songs such as When A Man Loves A Woman, Love Is A Wonderful Thing and Time, Love And Tenderness, says he takes short breaks once in a while, including a recent retreat in Bali. Longer holidays are out of the question.


  • WHERE: The Star Theatre, 04-01 The Star Performing Arts Centre, 1 Vista Exchange Green

    WHEN: Wednesday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $68 to $350 from Sistic (go to or call 6348-5555)

"I saw Bon Jovi about a year ago and I asked him what he's up to and he said, 'I took a year off', and I got jealous. I went, 'Oh my God, a year'. I'm thinking (I could only take) two weeks. What would a month feel like?"

While his output in the 2000s did not match the mainstream success of his work in the previous decade, his music still charted in the adult contemporary charts. He has sold 65 million records to date and has two Grammys for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

In 2011, he stumbled into comedy, courtesy of a collaboration with American comedy trio The Lonely Island.

The group, known for their work on long-running American television variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL), got him to sing in Jack Sparrow, a song and music video that parodies the blockbuster Pirates Of The Caribbean film series.

It features Bolton dressed up in several costumes, including the titular pirate character made popular by actor Johnny Depp, and made its debut on SNL, quickly going viral online.

To put it in perspective, Jack Sparrow has so far clocked 175.2 million views on YouTube, compared with 88 million views for Bolton's second-most popular video, Said I Loved You... But I Lied, from 1993 album The One Thing.

The video has become so popular that Bolton, who has three daughters and five grandchildren, says many younger fans only know him for playing the pirate character.

"I was in China and I was getting ready to do concerts there and met my promoter, and there was somebody who worked for him who was about 14 or 15, maybe 17 or 18, and he was coming closer and getting really, really nervous.

"I thought, 'OK, he knows who I am, he's afraid to say hello'. So I said hello and he said, 'I can't believe I'm talking to Captain Jack Sparrow'."

Jack Sparrow led to more comedy work, including Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special, a show for streaming service Netflix earlier this year, as well as roles in television comedies Two And A Half Men from 2012 to 2014 and Fresh Off The Boat earlier this year.

He is also using his years of experience in the music business to help groom young talent, most notably through Bolt Of Talent.

Filipino singer Lance Busa, 22, won the reality show, which featured Singapore singer Sandra Riley Tang, 26, from pop band The Sam Willows, as co-host. Both Busa and Tang will feature as guests on the shows in Bolton's Asian tour.

"You bring your life's experience to all of your work," he says of his projects. "Television and streaming have given me this vigour, this new energy to do not only something fresh, but also bring something classic that I can enjoy and have fun with respectfully."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline 'Bolt of new energy'. Subscribe