There seems to be a connection between coffee and Valentine’s Day because this is the fifth Starbucks endorsed Sweetheart series release subtitled “our favorite artists play their favorite love songs.” Letting mostly edgy contemporary acts choose love, not necessarily romantic, songs to cover is an interesting concept, even if the execution on this year’s edition sometimes comes up short.
Things start off promisingly enough with My Morning Jackets’ Jim James sauntering through Bob Marley’s smoldering “Turn Your Lights Down Low” but immediately start drooping with Vampire Weekend’s drum looped, Spanish sung reproduction of Andrea Bocelli’s hit “Time to Say Goodbye.” The pace stays weary as Beck sleepwalks through John Lennon’s “Love” and stays that way for Phosphorescent’s pleasant, stripped down version of Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time.” Bahamas’ “Always on My Mind” is another cure for insomnia and it isn’t until Thao and the Get Down’s somewhat jaunty interpretation of Ray Charles’ seldom covered “If You Were Mine” for the vibe to pick up. Ben Harper mumbles Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” on solo piano as if he just awoke and thought it would be a good idea.
Things improve markedly with Brandi Carlile’s nearly note-for-note traipse through Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” although the romantic thread seems lost here. But it isn’t until the always dependable Sharon Jones and the Dap King’s peppy album closing soul nugget “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” that there is true energy and commitment displayed on this beautifully packaged but mostly disappointing compilation. You’ll need plenty of that Starbucks caffeine to keep awake for much of this lackluster set. This year, stick with flowers instead and hopefully this series has better luck next time.