Garth Brooks' Rock Alter Ego, Chris Gaines, Scores A Hit

'Lost in You' being marketed to pop radio, not country stations.

If Chris Gaines, whose debut single has become a hit on

adult-contemporary radio, sounds familiar, it's because he probably is.

Under his real name, Garth Brooks, he's been near the top of the

country charts almost continuously for the past decade, with songs

such as "Friends in Low Places" and "Longneck Bottle" (RealAudio excerpt).

"Lost in You" (RealAudio excerpt),

at #10 and climbing on the adult-contemporary chart in the radio trade

magazine Radio & Records, is the first single from

Garth Brooks in ... The Life of Chris Gaines (Sept. 28), a

13-track album that purports to be the greatest hits of a fictional

rock singer Brooks portrays in the upcoming movie "The Lamb." The CD

was produced by Don Was (Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones).

"This is not a country record; it's being worked strictly to pop

radio," R&R music editor Steve Wonsiewicz said of the track, a

slinky R&B ballad that Brooks sings in a falsetto voice. The song

could easily be mistaken for a Babyface hit; in fact, R&B

singer/producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is the movie's executive

producer.

"It's doing quite well for his first experiment [in] the pop world,"

Wonsiewicz said. He said he could not recall any artist, whether pop

or country, who has been so immediately successful with a conceptual

alter ego like Gaines'.

"Lost in You," Brooks' first-ever commercially available single,

according to label spokesperson Nancy Henderson, was released to

radio in late July and made available in stores Aug. 24. It's backed

by a more traditional Brooks country tune, "It Don't Matter to the Sun,"

which is at #23 and climbing on the R&R country chart under

the name Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines.

Brooks' vocals are nearly unrecognizable on the single, which,

according to several published news reports, is indicative of the rest

of the album. The singer uses a high-register, oddly cadenced

delivery in place of his customary warm baritone.

"Garth has accomplished a feat of Herculean proportions," Was said in

statement. "He has summoned up the long-gone thrill of innovation,

adventure and risk that was once the foundation of rock 'n' roll

music."

There's no release date yet for "The Lamb," which tells the fictional

story of Gaines, a 32-year-old Australian rock star who had extensive

plastic surgery, rendering him almost unrecognizable, after a violent

car crash. The movie was written by Jeb Stuart ("Die Hard").

Brooks, 37, has made no secret of his love for such rockers as

grease-painted heavy metalers Kiss and classic rock band Styx. He has

covered songs by Aerosmith ("The Fever") and Billy Joel ("Shameless").

He also recorded Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" for the

"Hope Floats" soundtrack (1998), which gave him an earlier

adult-contemporary hit.

Brooks' fans don't seem put off by the singer's explorations.

"I'm not surprised that Garth made the jump to rock," 23-year-old fan

Brandon Wiesner wrote in an e-mail in which he called Brooks a

"marketing wizard." The Missouri webmaster of Planet Garth, an

unofficial website, said he believes Brooks created the Gaines

character to cross over to a new audience.

"Garth is too loyal to country music to cross over himself," Wiesner

said. "[Neither] I, nor other Garth fans ... feel betrayed with the

crossover. It's more like an added bonus, but [I] hope it isn't a

full-time gig."

Brooks has adopted a morose rock-star look for the project, with a

mini-goatee and jet-black hair hanging in his mascaraed eyes. He is

expected to appear as himself when he promotes the album.

In May, Brooks was named the Academy of Country Music's artist of the

decade and entertainer of the year, the latest plaudits in an

unprecedented country career in which he has sold more than 95

million records in the United States.