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