Review by Frankie Hagan
The idea behind the soundtrack for De-Lovely (Sony) is to have contemporary pop artists offer new interpretations, following a traditional path, of Cole Porter classics. The film De-Lovely portrays the life of the man behind many of the 20th century’s great classic standards, and it is wholly fitting that modern performers, the majority of them composers themselves, tackle material that was written both from the heart and the experience of someone who lived the very ideas he expressed in his music.
Already familiar with mining the beauty of the standard, Diana Krall stands out superbly on a fast-paced and jazzy rendition of “Just One of Those Things.” It’s hard to compete with Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “Begin the Beguine,” so Sheryl Crow makes a smart move reinterpreting this classic and some of Porter’s best lyrics as a sultry rumba. Alanis Morissette is surprisingly deft in her cover of “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love),” showcasing her ability to perform varied material outside of her personal image.
Among the men, Robbie Williams does an admirable job carrying the film’s glorious title song “It’s De-Lovely,” sounding quite convincingly like he belongs on Broadway. One of the best pieces on the CD is performed by newcomer Lemar, in a stirring rendition of “What is This Thing Called Love?” Lemar’s buttery voice is going to be something to watch. Elvis Costello performs “Let’s Misbehave” with all of the exuberance implied by the lyrics, but his voice has never been about melodic sounds as much as about emotion, a trait he shares with Porter.
The compilation is not without its shortcomings, though, however slight. Kevin Kline betrays his own wonderful singing voice by trying to copy the style of Cole Porter too closely. The song tracks lifted from the film with Kline or Ashley Judd carrying a song play as imminently forgettable, though the understanding of emotion conveyed in “Night and Day” as performed by John Barrowman and Kevin Kline is right in line with lyrical interpretation and what songwriting is really about.
Cole Porter, like a spectral visitor overseeing a project, closes the album with a scratchy old recording of “You’re The Top,” offering a last glimpse at the subject of the work. The soundtrack, along with the film, might not come right out and say something specific about the connection between the substance of an artist’s work and who they are themselves, but it certainly implies it.
(Editor’s Note: For an added dose of de-lovely music, check out Will Viharo’s review of the new Ultra Lounge release, Cocktails with Cole Porter.)