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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

BareNaked

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Musicians making the jump from recordings to film have fared well in recent years, as hip-hop luminaries Ice-T (NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”), Ice Cube (Friday) and the late Tupac Shakur (Juice, Poetic Justice) have shown that the move from audio to video doesn’t have to be fatal. Hip-hop wannabes and boy-band sensations have also parlayed their short-lived music careers into full-time thespian gigs, as the brothers Wahlberg (onetime New Kid on the Block Donnie and the former Marky Mark) have given critically applauded performances in TV’s “Boomtown” (Donnie) and screen hits Boogie Nights and Three Kings (Mark). Dwight Yoakam was convincingly evil in Panic Room and Sling Blade, and even hair-metal god Jon Bon Jovi held his own as a hunky maintenance worker on “Ally McBeal.”

For whatever reason, the transition from acting to the recording studio has rarely been as smooth for Hollywood stars. A-listers Don Johnson, Bruce Willis and Eddie Murphy have all stumbled on the path to pop stardom, relying on novelty and name recognition to sell albums that can be described, charitably, as undistinguished and bland. Only Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, The Wedding Planner) has recently made the leap, enjoying success first as an actress, beginning with 1997’s Selena, and later as a pop singer on 1999’s On the 6. Whether Jennifer Love Hewitt, the former sitcom star who graduated to big-screen fame with teen flicks such as Can’t Hardly Wait and I Know What You Did Last Summer, succeeds in her bid to become the next J-Lo is anyone’s guess. But judging from the self-assured BareNaked — her third album, and her first since 1996’s Jennifer Love Hewitt — it’s conceivable that J-Love just might make it as a pop chanteuse. To be sure, she’s come a long way since her 1995 debut, Let’s Go Bang: Rather than churning out more of the generic, synth-heavy dance-pop popularized by pinups Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Hewitt shows off her impressive vocal range against a background of slinky guitar riffs (courtesy of Meredith Brooks) and infectious melodies that sound, not surprisingly, more like the work of Sheryl Crow, Brooks and Tracy Chapman than any teen siren. From a genuinely original take on Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” to the vibrant title track, BareNaked boasts enough promise to make up for the occasional misstep (“Stand in Your Way”) and lyrics (“You ever try your luck/With a pick-up line/But you just sucked/You tell yourself it wasn’t you”) that would make even Don Johnson blush.

E-mail Rossiter Drake at letters@metrotimes.com.

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