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'Austin Powers' Snags Madonna

May 16, 1999|STEVE HOCHMAN

The language and style of hip-hop have become the essence of '90s pop culture, but there's something else that in the last couple of years has also cast a spell on America's youth. And it's shagadelic.

You can hardly turn on the radio or watch TV--and certainly not enter a schoolyard--without encountering someone making a reference to Mike Myers' 1997 movie "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery." It's so pervasive that even people who haven't seen the film (a group that doesn't include many people younger than 25) know the source when someone contorts his or her face into a mischievous grin and, in their best swingin' London accent, crows, "Yeah, baby!" or "Be-haaave!"

Given that presence, the expectations are high for the soundtrack album being put together for the sequel, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

How high?

Well, how many soundtracks has Madonna contributed a new song to when she wasn't in the movie?

This is the first. Her "Beautiful Stranger," written for the film and produced by her "Ray of Light" collaborator William Orbit, will be the first single from the project. A video has just been shot by Brett Ratner, the director of "Rush Hour."

FOR THE RECORD - Correction
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 23, 1999 Home Edition Calendar Page 83 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Pop Eye--Madonna contributed songs to the soundtracks of "At Close Range" (1986) and "With Honors" (1994), though she appeared in neither film. Last week's Pop Eye incorrectly stated that her first such song was for the new "Austin Powers" soundtrack.

And Madonna is only one of several big draws on the collection. R.E.M. is doing a version of Tommy James' "Draggin' the Line"; Lenny Kravitz's version of the Guess Who's "American Woman" is the second single; and Mel G., a.k.a. Scary Spice, recorded Cameo's "Word Up," produced by Timbaland (the planned third single). There's already talk of a second volume from the film, with a last-minute contribution by the Bangles tentatively slated for that disc.

"This album will be huge for us," says Michael Steele, music director of L.A. pop radio station KIIS-FM (102.7). "Mike Myers' appeal to the younger generation [with his spy spoof character] has been tremendous."

The album, to be released June 1 on Madonna's Warner Bros.-distributed Maverick Records label, also teams two music business powerhouses. Warner Bros. senior vice president Danny Bramson (who was behind last year's 4.7-million-selling "City of Angels" soundtrack) is the project's producer and the film's executive music producer, while Maverick co-owner Guy Oseary (who is riding a current hit soundtrack with "The Matrix") served as the album's co-producer.

With the "Austin Powers" phenomenon rolling strong, as well as a recent string of multimillion-selling soundtrack albums ("Titanic," "City of Angels" and "The Wedding Singer" in particular), the stakes are clearly much higher now than when the first film's soundtrack, a collection mostly of '60s tracks, sold a modest 330,000.

"What Mike Myers unleashed onto the culture was remarkable," says Bramson, whose credits also include the hit soundtrack to "Jerry Maguire" and the star-laden "Batman and Robin" collection.

Both executives aggressively pursued the project and ultimately decided they should collaborate rather than compete for the gig.

They weren't the only ones pursuing aggressively, though. One manager connected to the project described the fight for prime song placement and potential single releases as "a blood bath."

Bramson and Oseary acknowledge that the competition was intense, but say it never got nasty.

"In every movie it's like that, with people looking for good placement," Oseary says. "And in the last few weeks we've gotten so many calls from artists who wanted to be part of this that it got overwhelming."

The trick, they say, was to have 1999 artists contribute without breaking the mood of the film's predominantly '60s setting. To that end, Kravitz's track will be used over the end credits, but the original Guess Who version of the song is heard during the film, which opens June 11.

Madonna, though, succeeded at bridging the eras, says Steele, who heard the track recently .

"Here's something that sounds almost like it could have been recorded in 1964," he says. "Yet it's got Madonna's flair and appeal."

EARS WIDE OPEN: The challenge of working on "Austin Powers" was one thing for Danny Bramson. But now he's in the middle of what might be the biggest challenge of his career so far--the album of music from "Eyes Wide Shut," the final film from the late Stanley Kubrick.

The director was renowned for his keen use of music as an integral part of his films, and albums from "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining" are considered landmarks of the form--audio representations of the movies, not mere collections of music pieces.

"Kubrick was the master," Bramson says. "It's a matter of absolute pride to maintain that legacy and ensure that it's true to him. I'm the custodian of this. We're now in the midst of putting together the final compilation . . . and it will be a musical recollection of the movie."

Kubrick had designated music choices for "Eyes Wide Shut," and Bramson is working with Kubrick's plans, as well as with the producers to keep things true to the director's vision.

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