Can Gwyneth Paltrow sing country music?
In "Country Strong," she comes on like Taylor Swift on one song, Faith Hill on another and Shania Twain on the next. She sure looks Nashville pretty, which is a big part of being a country star, female or male. But "Gwyneth" doesn't roll off your tongue like Reba, Dolly or even Miranda.
Oh, I didn't answer the question, did I?
Yes, Gwyneth can sing country strong enough -- much like Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott. But, just as Sissy Spacek didn't have a music career after her Oscar-winning performance as Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter," Gwynie isn't likely to cut it in country.
Paltrow, who happens to be married to superstar pop vocalist Chris Martin of Coldplay, hasn't found her comfort zone yet. Maybe it's prudent that she's talking about making a pop album with producer/singer/songwriter Cee-Lo Green, whose hit "Forget You" she sang on "Glee" this fall. (Perhaps they'll sing together when they both appear on "Saturday Night Live" Jan. 15.)
But the best part of "Country Strong" isn't the singing -- it's the songwriting.
Paltrow and the capable Leighton Meester (as a cute but nervous newbie) were given a series of commercial country tunes by A-list writers. Better yet are the songs handed to Minnesota-bred Garrett Hedlund, playing a barroom poet and Garth Brooks-in-the-rough. These are traditional-country gems worthy of a Merle Haggard (many written by Hayes Carll).
Hedlund doesn't have a voice for radio -- on the movie's soundtrack CD, his songs are turned over to pros such as Trace Adkins and Chris Young -- but his numbers are the best music in the movie.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719