The Latest Trend in Acting: Carrying a Tune

NEWSDAY

Yeah, Jennifer Lopez showed that actors-who-sing can sell millions of records if they put some time and lots of marketing into it. But that's no surprise given the current success of singers-who-can't-really.

The bigger coup belongs to Gwyneth Paltrow, who showed how actors can land hits without even really trying. Heck, her "Duets" duet, "Cruisin'," even pushed Huey Lewis back onto VH1 and up the pop charts.

Now that record companies see that such cross-marketing is possible, they are helping more actors take the plunge. (By the way, despite what the CD says, the "Josie & the Pussycats" actresses don't count because it's really Letters to Cleo frontwoman Kay Hanley singing all those catchy songs.)

Here's a look at some of the current crop of real actors singing.

Ewan McGregor

Song: "Your Song," from "Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film Moulin Rouge" (20th Century Fox/Interscope)

The deal: McGregor does well with a mega-dramatic remake of the Elton John classic that is more vocally challenging than the original. It's no fluke either; his vocals are solid throughout the soundtrack in a variety of situations.

Hitbound? Maybe as an adult-alternative rarity.

Nicole Kidman

Song: "One Day I'll Fly Away," from "Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film Moulin Rouge"

The deal: A pretty Celine Dionesque ballad that proves a bit too difficult for Kidman's limited range. The strain on her voice for the song's climax isn't pretty. (She's not any better on "Come What May" with McGregor.)

Hitbound? Uh, no.

Robert Downey Jr.

Song: "Snakes," from "Ally McBeal: For Once in My Life" (Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax)

The deal: Downey is stunning in this lovely piano-driven pop ballad that he wrote and sang. His take on Bob Seger's "Chances Are," with Vonda Shepard, is solid as well.

Hitbound? A shoulda-been hit that will struggle without a drug-free Downey working to promote it.

Dominic Chianese

Song: "Core 'ngrato," from "The Sopranos: Peppers and Eggs" (Columbia/ Sony Music Soundtrax)

The deal: Chianese sings the, um, heck out of this Italian love song. His upcoming CD "Hits," which combines classics like "Guantanamera" and Chianese's own originals, shows that the former cabaret singer still has quite a range.

Hitbound? No, but it will certainly give Uncle Junior something to fall back on in the event Tony Soprano finally decides to whack him.

Eddie Murphy

Song: "I'm a Believer," from "Shrek--Music From the Original Motion Picture" (Dreamworks)

The deal: Murphy funks up the Monkees' classic well enough to make us forget about "Party All the Time" and remember what a great James Brown impersonation he used to do.

Hitbound? More a joke than an actual song; however, that can be said for a lot of hits, right?

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