The best Michael Bolton songs cover the singer’s entire career. Though he faded from the spotlight after the 1990s, singer-songwriter Bolton has been in the news more often in the past few years, thanks to his appearances on Dancing With the Stars and Saturday Night Live and the release of his autobiography.
Bolton’s late ’80s and early ’90s success was derided by critics who felt the crooner’s adult contemporary music was too sappy and safe. But Bolton’s music can’t be written off so easily. In 2009 he co-wrote and performed a song with Lady Gaga (see #9.) He wrote the smash hit “I Found Someone” for Cher. He co-wrote a song with Bob Dylan (see #8.)
And most notably, he performed with the legendary Luciano Pavarotti on multiple occasions. All of these big-name collaborations give Bolton some cred. No artist is entirely good or bad, and though Bolton recorded some snoozers, he also recorded some solid tracks. Here are the 10 best Michael Bolton songs.
The 10 Best Michael Bolton Songs
#10: Love is a Wonderful Thing (1991)
The first single from 1991’s Time, Love & Tenderness, “Love is a Wonderful Thing” rocketed to #4 behind its optimistic message and catchy beat. Not everyone was happy, though: The Isley Brothers sued, claiming Bolton had ripped off a similar-sounding song they had recorded. Though most observers question whether the lawsuit had merit, the Isleys won anyway and Michael and his label were forced to fork over $5 million.
#9: Murder My Heart (with Lady Gaga) (2009)
Bolton’s best song of the 2000s was his left-field collaboration with Lady Gaga, “Murder My Heart.” With Gaga singing mostly background vocals, the singers’ voices mesh together very well on the dark piano song, which appears on Bolton’s 2009 album One World One Love.
#8: Steel Bars (1991)
The most rocking song on the album Time, Love & Tenderness was “Steel Bars,” a track he co-wrote with rock legend Bob Dylan, despite being intimidated by Dylan at first. The men completed the track over two sessions. Bolton was told Dylan was interested in writing together again, but that apparently never materialized.
#7: Missing You Now (with Kenny G) (1991)
The gentle ballad “Missing You Now” was highlighted by Kenny G’s guest appearance on saxophone. The song was Bolton’s fourth consecutive chart-topper on the adult contemporary tally, while it reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
#6: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (1987)
Bolton recorded a number of remakes, from “Georgia On My Mind” to “Drift Away,” often to the scorn of critics. Otis Redding’s “The Dock of the Bay” was one of Bolton’s best remakes. The song’s broad appeal was evidenced by the fact that it appeared on the R&B, mainstream rock, pop and adult contemporary charts.
#5: That’s What Love is All About (1987)
After years as a hard rock artist under his given name, Michael Bolotin, Bolton began singing R&B-influenced pop music in 1987 on The Hunger. “That’s What Love is All About,” a simple, soulful tune about “two hearts that find a way somehow to keep the fire burning” became Bolton’s first Top 20 single. Odd trivia: Future American Idol judge Randy Jackson played bass on the song.
#4: When a Man Loves a Woman (1991)
Percy Sledge wrote “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966, and the classic ballad is considered one of the greatest songs of all-time – Rolling Stone ranked it #54. Bolton’s remake of the song became his biggest hit, reaching #1 and winning a Grammy Award.
#3: Jack Sparrow (with the Lonely Island) (2012)
Raise your hand if you expected Michael Bolton to make a grand comeback in the year 2012 with a rap tune in which he shouts the F-word and sings about “snorting mountains of cocaine.” The comedic tune helped Bolton become cool again and scored him a big hit with a new generation of listeners.
#2: How Can We Be Lovers (1989)
Bolton’s most underrated song is probably this up-tempo rocker from 1989’s Soul Provider that asks, “How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?” Written by Bolton with two of the era’s most prolific songwriters, Desmond Child and Dianne Warren, “How Can We Be Lovers” was one of Bolton’s busiest tracks, with an incredibly catchy chorus, “whoa whoa” sing-along chants, and even a guitar solo.
#1: How Am I Supposed to Live Without You (1989)
Laura Branigan recorded “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” after Bolton wrote it in 1983, and though it reached #12, her version didn’t do the song justice. Bolton recorded it himself and in 1990 it became his first #1 single on the pop chart. The heartbreaking lyrics and impressive vocal performance make the track the best Michael Bolton song.