The new crop of pop stars could learn a lot from Frank Sinatra. No, they probably won’t match his voice or his depth of feeling. No, they probably will still rely on the celebrity dating and nipple-slips to draw attention when their respective albums fail to. As far as the qualitative end of things, I can’t name one single modern artist who could replace Lanky Frank (this means you, Michael Buble and Josh Groban.) What Sinatra does have in common with Pop ’09 is that he was an interpreter of other people’s music and songs. Even his classic conceptual Capitol albums, including Only the Lonely and Where Are You?, were the work of other minds yet when he set his voice to them, the songs became his. When you think of “High Hopes” it’s his voice singing them. The same holds true for “All of Me” and even if “Love and Marriage” makes you picture Kelly Bundy, you’ll never mistake who was singing it.
While Capitol’s latest collection lacks the sheer magnitude of its predecessor, it is still a serviceable primer full of songs you know very well. It even has a previously unreleased track, “This Can’t Be Love” but that isn’t really a huge selling point for this set. That it’s 21 tracks for the price of a single disc constitutes a hell of a deal, especially considering how skimpy many of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ other compilations have been, is part of the allure. The true fan probably has the albums these cuts came from, and if they don’t at least have Only the Lonely they ought to be ashamed of themselves, but this really isn’t for them.
Sure, somebody who is of a certain, let’s say younger age can’t easily get away with popping in a Sinatra disc without looking like a poser. There are established music artists to the day mining The Great American Songbook and still many can’t put it across as an act of sincerity. These are tunes written by Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, and George (freaking) Gershwin, so how could they possibly get their deserved justice from the new crowd, even if the new crowd might be pushing their sixties (cough, Stewart, cough.) Yet you never really grasp that “I’ve Got A Crush On You” was written by the mastermind behind “Rhapsody in Blue” because Sinatra has assumed the spotlight so completely. It’s quite unlike our modern singers who are mere second stringers to the production teams behind their hits.
As a value, Classic Sinatra II holds up well but I’ll say it one more time. Any modern pop singer worth their salt, and who are truly interested in their craft beyond payday, ought to study Sinatra. They may never become iconic, but at least they’ll get a glimpse of what it means to “own the music.”
Classic Sinatra II (With 5 Bonus Tracks) [Limited Edition] is available from Amazon.com