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Rent pays off.

Rent * Original Motion Picture Soundtrack * Warner Bros.

Listening to the satisfying movie recording of Rent, with six of the eight original leads from the 1996 Broadway production, it's easy to imagine what an overwrought mess it might have become had Justin Timberlake and other pop divas swooped in with their production posses. (Insert full-body shiver here.) The film soundtrack is marginally slicker than the stage recording, and it's considerably abridged (no "Christmas Bells," no answering machine messages, etc.). But the need to cut to the chase benefits Rent's showpiece songs--about poverty, AIDS, queer love, and death--which are tighter and a notch bigger. I think Jonathan Larson, the show's late creator, would be pleased.

The title song, "One Song Glory," and "What You Own" rock hard; "Take Me or Leave Me" tears it up as the best lesbian duet ever penned by a straight man; "Without You," passionately sung by new cast member Rosario Dawson, is as heartbreaking as ever. Returning stars Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, and Anthony Rapp, in particular, reignite the fire they had in the '90s. (Jesse L. Martin tries a throaty new take on Tom Collins that's several degrees colder than the raw emotion he had onstage.)

The closing bonus track, "Love Heals," is greeting-card earnest, a reminder that Rent at its best is an undistilled elixir of anger, love, despair, and hope, without a drop of sentimentality. Anyway, what other CD at Wal-Mart offers, "Sodomy / It's between God and me"?--B.C.S.
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Author:Steele, Bruce C.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Nov 22, 2005
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