Many is the pop star who harbors a dark secret beneath his wholesome faÁ§ade. Michael BublÁ©’s is that he is an evil death robot from the future, sent back in time to annihilate mankind.
I’ll admit that I lack ironclad proof of BublÁ©’s status as a remorseless genocidal automaton, but there is circumstantial evidence aplenty encoded into his — its — latest release, Crazy Love. Careful listening can leave no doubt: This so-called ”BublÁ©” is in fact a B.U.B.L.Á‰. — a Binary-logic Undercover Bio-Life Eliminator, With The Accent On ”Eliminator,” an emissary from some dystopian robocratic hell, and if he is not stopped he will bring humanity to extinction by ensuring that no one ever gets laid again.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this is the sheer arrogance of the plan. The mechanical entity they’re passing off as a big-band singer isn’t even a particularly convincing AI; performance clips and interviews suggest that the BublÁ©-creature would not pass the Turing test, let alone the more rigorous Voight-Kampff inventory. And this weakness extends also to the musical component of BublÁ©’s cover story. Without reading the filenames, compare and contrast these two performances of well-known pop songs. Can you tell which one is being performed by a computer?
It’s a trick question; actually, they both are. Hard to believe, I know. You’d never mistake the Eagles tune for the work of a human being — but the Stone Roses cover, which sounds so natural and organic by comparison, is actually ”sung” by a tricked-out Windows laptop. Now, if a part-time programmer and DJ can cobble together an approximation of emotional connectedness and allow for proper phrasing (giveaway: BublÁ© consistently lags behind the beat, not out of any approximation of ”swing” but because the algorithm cannot mesh the demands of the rhythm with the telltale over-pronunciation), and do it using only consumer software, the failure of the B.U.B.L.Á‰. to conform to basic standards of believability bespeaks the dreadful contempt of our would-be robot conquerors for gullible humanity. To call these machine overlords ”brazen” would be an understatement (and also painfully literal).
But what is the threat, you may ask? How is this extinction-level cockblock to be perpetrated? As is often the case, the mythic past predicts our sci-fi nightmare future. Consider: this BublÁ© entity — let’s face it, the ladies love him. And why shouldn’t they? (Aside from the whole destroy-the-human-race thing, I mean.) He has been designed and packaged specifically to win their affections. His essential ratio of swagger to vulnerability has been precisely calculated, and his raffishness quotient calibrated to tolerances of less than one-tenth of one picoRaff. In short, he’s as cute as a fucking button, all perfectly-engineered teeth and stubble, and he looks better in a suit than anyone this side of the Mad Men wrap party. He looks so good, in fact, that he makes it gaddam impossible for any flesh and blood bio-boy to measure up. As the legendary sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with the lifeless statue Galatea, as the youth Narcissus was transfixed by his own beauty, women invest the B.U.B.L.Á‰. with an amorous importance, forsaking all others — an attraction that has no outlet.
Straight males, by contrast, hate the guy — perhaps sensing, even unconsciously, his inhuman origins and exterminationatist goals. Some few may misguidedly feign an interest in the BublÁ©-droid and its music, with the aim of getting into a girl’s pants — but such efforts are doomed to fail. The ”romance” in which BublÁ© trafficks is puppy-dog stuff; it resists any attempt to advance beyond kissing and holding hands. It requires inhuman skill to take a swooner like ”All Of Me” (download) and denude it of any hint of sex — but such is the BublÁ©bot’s malign genius. Nobody’s getting’ lucky after an evening of this stuff; this is a prelude to an evening of cuddling. And cuddling’s all well and good, friends, but it doesn’t keep the population numbers up.
Of course, no sort of pop success is possible without the help of many collaborators — and in this case, the word has never been so apt. Chief among these musical Quislings is none other than David Foster; not content with merely badgering poor Terje into a nervous breakdown, the ”Hit Man” has the entire human race in his assassinatory sights now, abetting BublÁ©’s musical mass-gelding by buffing the album’s sound to an appropriate gloss. How much did you get for your soul, Foster? What they offer you, to sell out your own species? Did they promise you a seat at the cold, steely right hand of power? (That would explain a lot, actually.)
Thanks in no small part to the assistance of Foster, Crazy Love — not unlike the B.U.B.L.Á‰. itself — is a thing of seductive surfaces. But the truth will out; in navigating the human institution of the music industry, the AI betrays itself in small and telling ways. The marketplace demands that the artist take a hand in writing the songs, and so the machine intelligence does as machines do — hewing to a successful template. There’s probably no grounds for a plagiarism suit — you can’t copyright a rhythm, after all (if you could, the estate of Bo Diddley would be worth more than George Soros) — but the blatancy of the cop, the laziness and completeness of it, again indicates the BublÁ©-construct’s absolute disregard for human niceties.
In the end, paradoxically, that very contempt provides a glimmer of hope. Our future doom is not inevitable; the machines are overconfident, and their hubris has made them vulnerable. There is still a chance for humanity to beat back the B.U.B.L.Á‰., but it will require a strong application of human-made music, music for and about sex and nothing but sex, music dedicated entirely to gettin’ it on. If anybody’s asking, I’ve got a suggestion to start with…