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How the music captures the mood for a new generation

June 27, 2004|Don Heckman

Various artists

"De-Lovely: Music From the Motion Picture" (Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax)

***

The inclusion of artists such as Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall on the soundtrack album for the Cole Porter biopic -- as well as their presence in the film itself -- suggests an effort to hype the Porter songs to a young audience. But if the album succeeds, it will do so because of the timeless qualities of the songs and the persuasive effect of the film rather than the pop and jazz powers of the performers.

Heard strictly as music tracks, Morissette's quirky take on "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)," Costello's over-the-top rendering of "Let's Misbehave" and Krall's briskly swinging "Just One of Those Things" are intriguing, if not particularly compelling. Crow, inexplicably saddled with a harmonically altered version of "Begin the Beguine," does the best she can with a minor-key version of the familiar melody.

Seen in the picture, however, thoroughly invested with their importance as plot-moving elements, the songs suddenly come alive. The reason is obvious: The stars here are not the pop artists but the magnificent Porter words and music. And, appropriately, the most engaging performances are those (including "Be a Clown" and "In the Still of the Night") sung by Kevin Kline (in his portrayal of the songwriter), who intimately captures the Porteresque essence of each song.

*

-- Don Heckman

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