Music of the Heart

If Music of the Heart is not the best-selling soundtrack album of 1999, it won't be for lack of trying. The title song, written by the most successful love song writer of the day, Diane Warren, is a duet -- if that's the word -- between *NSYNC and Gloria Estefan. It's a triumph of marketing: the group, in a contract dispute at the time of this release, was unable to put out its own album, so this kept it in the marketplace, while Estefan was making her acting debut in the film. As a piece of music, well, it's a Diane Warren song, and that means a long, slow melody and lyrics of unlimited devotion, rendered with the usual plastic emotion that the boy groups specialize in -- Estefan is just another among the voices. Clichés abound, but that hasn't stopped any of Warren's other musical greeting cards from topping the charts. Otherwise, the album takes advantage of the cultural crossover of the film, which finds a white music teacher in an inner-city school, creating the opportunity for more ballads ("Turn the Page," by Aaliyah), Latin music ("Baila," by Jennifer Lopez), and rap ("Seventeen," by Tre-O). Add in other up-and-comers like C Note (with "One Night with You," another Warren song), Macy Gray, and Julio Iglesias, Jr., and you have a compilation that crosses many contemporary genres and potential audiences, even if it doesn't make much sense as an album in strictly aural terms. ~ William Ruhlmann

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