“It stopped him cold”: The singer Jeff Buckley hated being compared to

Meta Description: Discover how Jeff Buckley reacted to being compared to Michael Bolton and how it influenced the creation of his iconic debut album, Grace.

Jeff Buckley’s Reaction to the Michael Bolton Comparison

Most artists resist comparison to their peers and predecessors. They wince when critics or fans assign them “For fans of” tags, witnessing their art being reduced to a derivative of another’s. This was particularly true for Jeff Buckley, whose unique sound drew from a wide range of influences to create something distinctly his own.

Jeff Buckley’s Influences and Unique Sound

To create his sparkling, singular sound, Buckley pulled from a wide range of influences. One of his biggest inspirations was Led Zeppelin, whose unique take on rock bled into his style, but you could also find the influence of Nina Simone’s powerful vocals, poetic lyricists like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and his contemporaries like Cocteau Twins.

The result was a striking sound that was definitively Buckley’s. With his glittering guitars, grand soundscapes, and emotional yet strong vocals, he became almost immune to comparison. However, one comparison during the recording of his debut album Grace in the early 1990s struck a nerve.

The Michael Bolton Comparison

A Newsday reviewer likened Buckley’s voice to that of ‘How Am I Supposed to Live Without You’ singer Michael Bolton. This comparison, particularly offensive to Buckley, “stopped him cold,” according to Grace producer Andy Wallace. Wallace explained, “If someone had thought, ‘Who can I use to really get his goat?’ You couldn’t have chosen somebody better than Michael Bolton.”

It’s easy to understand why this comparison got under Buckley’s skin. Though they both had powerful delivery, the likeness between them mostly stopped there. Bolton was making radio-friendly pop-rock, borrowing from soul to concoct palatable love songs with little regard for poeticism.

Buckley’s Response and Creation of Grace

After reading the comparison of his work to Bolton’s, Buckley halted work on his album for two days. Fortunately, the crisis didn’t extend beyond that, and Buckley got back to work on making an album that would blow every offering from Bolton out of the water. Shrugging off the contempt he felt for the comment, he carved out one of the greatest debuts of all time in Grace.

Between the shimmering strums of ‘Last Goodbye’ and the desperate longing of ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’, between the gorgeous imagery of ‘Lilac Wine’ and a now-iconic cover of Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, Buckley proved that he was a completely different artist from Bolton. Even as he took influence from Led Zeppelin and covered Leonard Cohen, he resisted the criticisms Bolton had been subjected to through his singular vision and truly original artistry.

The Legacy of Grace

Three decades on, Grace still remains one of the greatest albums of all time, attracting the admiration of everyone from David Bowie to Buckley’s hero, Jimmy Page. A collection of real emotion, of Buckley’s truly beautiful voice, of his shimmering guitars and varied influences, it sits on an entirely different level from Bolton’s work.

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