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Close-up on Matthew Sweet

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When Matthew Sweet picked a photo of the young Tuesday Weld for the cover of his latest album, Girlfriend, it was partly because ”I figured I’d rather see that than my own face every time I have to look at my record.” Sweet, 27, can afford to be self-effacing: With its buoyant pop melodies and wistful reflections on infatuation and heartbreak, Girlfriend has won kudos from critics and is climbing the charts.

The singer-songwriter grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and briefly attended the University of Georgia. After two albums for as many labels, Sweet struggled to get a deal for his breakthrough disc. ”The noose was hanging from the ceiling,” he jokes.

Reprieved, he now lives happily in Princeton, N.J., with the real-life girlfriend he met in 1989, after separating from his wife of six years (they divorced in 1990) and just before recording Girlfriend. ”People say, ‘This is your big breakup record — will you still be able to write good songs?”’ Sweet doesn’t worry: ”I’m sure I’ll be just as depressed at some other point in my life.”

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