The Q&A

Grant's Tunesmith

Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne tells us what it was like coaching Brit actor Hugh for his role as an '80s pop star in ''Music and Lyrics''

ADAM AND THE GRANT Schlesinger (right) gave ''Music and Lyrics'' star Hugh a ''Meaningless Kiss'' — the faux '80s hit performed in the film
Image credit: Hugh Grant: Gene Page; Adam Schlesinger: Jemal Countess/WireImage.com
ADAM AND THE GRANT Schlesinger (right) gave ''Music and Lyrics'' star Hugh a ''Meaningless Kiss'' — the faux '80s hit performed in the film

Hugh Grant can't sing. Or, to be more accurate, the Brit actor had never really sung before being cast in his new movie, the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics (opening on Valentine's Day). The problem? In the film, Grant plays a faded '80s pop star (think a less successful — and less prone to arrest — George Michael).

Enter Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, who was given the task of helping Grant discover his inner New Romantic. The songsmith, who previously earned an Oscar nomination for writing the title track from the Tom Hanks-directed That Thing You Do!, also penned several of the film's songs, including the very ''Careless Whisper''-ish ''Meaningless Kiss.'' EW talked to Schlesinger about coming up with deliberately stupid lyrics, and why that dude singing back-up vocals at the next Fountains of Wayne show might look oddly familiar.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So was it easy turning Hugh Grant into a pop star?
ADAM SCHLESINGER: Well, he was the first one to admit that he had no singing experience and really doesn't know anything at all about pop music. He has been saying from day one that he was completely miscast in this role. We would throw out various '80s references to him while we were working, and he didn't know one single person we were talking about. He approached the recording sessions more as an actor than a singer, in the sense that he really wanted to do performances from beginning to end. And actually some of the best vocal takes we got were when we set it up more like he was being filmed and went through the whole thing. He's actually a good singer.

I don't mean to be rude, but I have no idea how serious the song ''Meaningless Kiss'' is supposed to be.
It's supposed to be a bit of a goof, but also somewhat believable. We didn't want to cross the line into total parody.

It's easy to think of stupider songs from the '80s that were actually hits.
[Laughs] Right. I'm a fan of a lot of hits from that era, so it was kind of a fun thing to do. But I did want the lyrics to be leaning toward the stupid side a little bit. The one I'm most proud of is ''Two hearts beat as one/Three hearts are one too many.''

The song also very authentically re-creates that distinctively god-awful '80s production sound.
Well, it's funny, because records from the '70s now, in general sound so much more timeless than records from the '80s. In the '80s they were using an awful lot of technology, but hadn't really figured out how it worked yet... You had these really great, simple pop songs turned into these gigantic overproductions.

So, would you be happy to have Hugh come on and sing with the Fountains?
Oh, he's got an open invitation. I'm sure it would help ticket sales!

The soundtrack to Music and Lyrics is now in stores; the new Fountains of Wayne CD, Traffic and Weather, is released on April 3.

Originally posted Feb 13, 2007