Various Artists

Sweetheart: Love Songs [2005]

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Starbucks' second-annual collection of starry-eyed, swoonworthy covers of classic love songs is as sticky-sweet as the coffee chain's Chantico chocolate drink -- i.e., it's good in small doses, but too much might compel you to blow chunks. Like most Starbucks compilations, Sweetheart 2005 caters to the NPR crowd, offering smart and heartfelt performances that somehow fail to challenge listeners in any respect -- it's music meant for the background, not the foreground, no matter how much it should command the latter. In a perfect world, the best performances here (among them Rufus Wainwright's "My Funny Valentine," Neko Case's "Buckets of Rain," and Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips' "Forever") would compel anyone hearing these artists for the first time to seek out more of their work, but a world where Clear Channel's fascistic play lists dictate that left-of-center artists must depend on coffeehouse mix CDs for exposure is hardly perfect, is it?

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