Seth MacFarlane, creator of the animated TV series Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad, is now releasing an album. It's called Music Is Better Than Words, and it's no joke.
"It's almost like you need the reverse of a Parental Advisory sticker," MacFarlane says. "It's just relaxed, great old music."
The album is a collection of big-band gems from the Great American Songbook. On it, MacFarlane's vocal style falls in line with the famous crooners of the 1940s and '50s. MacFarlane tells NPR's Robert Smith that he's been singing his whole life — but that when he moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago, he stepped up his game.
"I started training with an extraordinary couple, Lee and Sally Sweetland," he says. "They trained Streisand; I believe they trained Sinatra at one point. They were both in their 90s when I hooked up with them. And they just whipped my vocal cords into better shape than they'd ever been in, and that was what really enabled me to do this."
Music Is Better Than Words is MacFarlane's first release under his own name, but his singing can often be heard coming from the cartoon characters he voices. In early seasons of Family Guy, he and his creative team began sneaking song-and-dance numbers into episodes.
"There was an episode in which the Griffins inherit a mansion, and we did a parody of the 'I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here' song from Annie," he says. "Once you hear that, it's kind of addictive. An orchestra, to me, is like crack: It's the greatest thing in the world.
"As ridiculous as a lot of these songs were, I wanted them to sound good," MacFarlane adds. "I think if a song is funny and absurd, and it sounds great, it's just going to be that much funnier."