various artists,
Bridget Jones's Diary
(Island, 2001)

Friday. No cigarettes (yet) v.g. No alcohol (yet) v.g. Ate entire bar of dark chocolate for breakfast, must have gained a quarter of a stone* from it alone. v.v.b. Must have low-calorie lunch to make up for it. Received new CD to review. Am very excited -- soundtrack to Bridget Jones's Diary. v.g., I hope. Let's see.

The initial newsworthy item about the film Bridget Jones's Diary on the eastern side of the pond was the fact that Texan Renee Zellweger was cast to play our Bridget. Those fears subsided once Zellweger demonstrated a suitable English accent and gained a stone or so herself to resemble the amusing yet forlorn protagonist. The soundtrack only became an item after the casting controversy was more-or-less resolved. Sold everywhere, including supermarket chains, and even pushed in television advertisements, it's clearly aimed at the film's primary expected audience -- women -- and younger women at that.

While the Spice Girls have topped the charts numerous times in the UK, they've hit No. 1 in the U.S. only once. Former Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell, now blond, extremely trim and ready to take on the U.S. market, already has made the UK top ten with her cover of the Weathergirls' hit "It's Raining Men." While Halliwell tries, her Europop-style rendition just can't top the original version, and I wonder why the soundtrack features her cover instead of the Weathergirls. Was it to appeal to young American Spice Girls fans and thus broaden Halliwell's overseas ratings? Was it to secure a chart-topping British artist for a youthful UK audience?

Similar questions might be asked of Robbie Williams' swing-like cover of Frank Sinatra's "Have You Met Miss Jones?" Although Williams, whose crooning makes it clear he definitely is not Sinatra's equal, is a household name in the UK, he's not that well known in the U.S.

Of course, all things being equal, perhaps to capture American attention, there are two tracks by recent Best New Artist Grammy winner Shelby Lynne. Lynne's up-front and direct "Killin' Kind" opens the CD. Also representing the more alternative side to the soundtrack, Tracey Bonham and Sheryl Crow contribute two previously unreleased songs (the haunting "Just Perfect" and honest, high-noted "Kiss That Girl," respectively). Gabrielle ("Out of Reach") and Dina Carroll ("Someone Like You") contribute pleasing, chart-bound numbers. On the other hand, not all of the selections are by well-known artists from either side of the Atlantic. Island Records' discovery, Rosey, hitherto unknown, climbs in with "Love," its hip beat showing off a strong yet rough-sounding voice.

The classic tunes on the soundtrack, however, have to be Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye's "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" and Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman." Only the genuine articles were used this time, and it's particularly nice to groove to Khan's lively female affirmation. Where, though, I wondered were such other female affirmations as Carole King's "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman," either her original or Aretha Franklin's cover, or even Franklin's "Respect"? Would those songs have given Bridget more confidence than she was meant to possess?

Eric Carmen's composition "All By Myself" is the perfect vehicle for Bridget, the woman with low self-esteem who mourns that she is now in her "32nd year of being single." This song gives her something appropriate to sing to in her sitting room while she wallows in humorous self-pity. Why have Jamie O'Neal cover it instead of going with the original? Would audiences (and Bridget) identify better with a female singing the sad lyrics?

The soundtrack to Bridget Jones's Diary generally is a pop-filled disc with an overall appeal to the relatively youthful female audience that most likely frequented the theatres. Its intended audience probably would rate it v.g. (very good) indeed. Otherwise, it's a pleasant collection with some questionable choices combined with interesting new songs and old classics.

*Note to American readers: One stone equals fourteen pounds.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]
Rambles: 4 August 2001

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