Label markets Krall's legs, lips instead of voice

The jazz artist's abundant talent and playful performing have, unfortunately, taken a back seat to her physical charms.

Pop Music

September 30, 2001|By Steve Greenlee | Steve Greenlee,New York Times News Service

This doesn't look good.

OK, it looks good, but it doesn't bode well for Diana Krall's future as a serious jazz artist.

Let's start with the jacket photos accompanying her just-released CD, The Look of Love. There's Krall showing some leg. There's Krall in a swimsuit. And whoa -- a cleavage shot. Is this a jazz record or a fashion ad?

Then consider the music: a chain of torch-song languor unbroken by any kind of pep, nothing like "Devil May Care" or "Popsicle Toes" from her last album, or "My Love Is" or "I Don't Know Enough About You" from the one before. Here she goes straight for the schmaltz, which is a shame, because she can be a blast, as she was in August at the Newport Jazz Festival, singing ahead of and behind the beat, playing long solos on the piano, having a great time and treating the crowd to one.

Instead of trying to have fun, she's trying to be perfect.

In a word, it's dull.

What happened? Why is she squandering her talent, John Pizzarelli-ing her jazz? After all, her last album, 1999's When I Look in Your Eyes, sold 2 million copies and was the first jazz recording in 20 years to be nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy.

But that's the problem. The Look of Love may represent the mainstreaming of Krall. This is what happens when marketing usurps the music. "This may be jazz, but it's pop marketing time," Ron Goldstein, president of the Verve Music Group, told Billboard. He meant that in a positive way.

Surprise, surprise. A major label has taken hold of a successful artist -- a commercially successful jazz artist, at that -- and is squeezing her for every dollar she's worth. If dulling her down for the masses will sell more records, if taking pictures of just her legs or aiming the camera down her chest will sell more records, so be it.

It's just a shame Krall consented to it.

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