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Madonna has the summer's most-deserving hit

Ken Tucker weighs in on this season’s movie soundtracks and calls Adam Sandler a dirty word: progressive

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Madonna has the summer’s most-deserving hit

As far as I’m concerned, the song — and, for that matter, video — of the summer is Madonna’s ”Beautiful Stranger,” a piece of psychedelic pop at once so ’60s and so ’90s that to sully it with a ”shagalicious” joke would be an insult. The song reminds me once again why I love Madonna’s music so much — the way she has of making her voice merge into indistinguishability with the surging instrumentation in the chorus, the way she sings the title phrase with an ache in her voice that’s at once urgent and playful. (The way she rubs her bottom on Mike Meyers’ cheek in the video is a small landmark in Madonna-ology too.)

”Beautiful Stranger” leads off the soundtrack CD to ”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (Maverick), the by-now-standard motley assortment of oldies (the Who’s ”My Generation”), film fillips (Dr. Evil and Mini-Me’s ”Just the Two of Us”), and young acts covering old ones. Lenny Kravitz lumbers through the Guess Who’s ”American Woman” while REM makes Tommy James’ ”Draggin’ the Line” sound like the vital hit single the Georgia band needed on its last collection.

The high point of another soundtrack CD, this one for Adam Sandler’s ”Big Daddy” (American/Sony), is Rufus Wainwright’s performance of ”Instant Pleasure.” Wainwright, whose recent debut album of assiduously quirky originals didn’t get him as much attention as his Gap TV ad did, is doing a tune written by Seth Swirsky, and pardon me if I haven’t heard of the composer. But the song is perfect for Wainwright’s studied world weariness: a languid demand for love ‘n’ sex on demand that achieves a creamy romanticism.

The fact that Wainwright, an openly gay artist, has his CD cut preceded by a snippet of ”Big Daddy” dialogue in which Sandler defends homosexuality in talking to an unenlightened friend lends the soundtrack an aura of something I never thought I’d think about in regard to Sandler: progressivism.

Postscript: By an odd pop-culture coincidence, each soundtrack contains a selection by a former Spice Girl; dismayingly, both stink. On ”Daddy,” Melanie C’s ”Ga Ga” is merely failed funk; but on ”Spy,” Melanie G’s version of Cameo’s great ”Word Up” is nothing short of desecration. Too bad; you’d think the camp crudeness of these movies would have inspired these crass opportunists.