Various Artists – The Next Best Thing

To be honest, it’s pretty common when I hear soundtrack albums that I haven’t actually seen the original film. And so it is with The Next Best Thing, a movie which probably has something to do with Madonna, and may or may not be any good.

What it does have is a pretty good soundtrack, kicking off with the fun – if largely incomprehensible – Boom Boom Ba by Métisse. When I say incomprehensible, I don’t mean because much of it is sung in what is presumably French – just that the vocal styles used on here are rather odd.

Of course, the same is true for Manu Chao‘s Bongo Bong, but its charming Latin stylings somehow never seem to grow tired. He may have spent most of his full albums going on and on about marijuana, but in edited form, he’s really rather good.

Madonna‘s hand never seems to be far away from this album, and so the poor grammar of Christina Aguilera‘s Don’t Make Me Love You (‘Til I’m Ready) is the first and only truly pointless inclusion on this album. Then Madonna turns up in person, with her widely derided cover version of American Pie.

Whatever you might think of it, you have to appreciate the production of William Orbit, which although perhaps a little formulaic by the time this album came out in 2000 is always a pleasure to hear. And frankly, if you’re not singing along by the time it reaches the chorus, then I’ll be very surprised indeed.

Mandalay may have very little to do with the Burmese city after which they name themselves, but This Life, which follows, is very good indeed. It’s an extremely sweet love song, which makes for a slightly odd contrast next to If Everybody Looked the Same, the 1999 hit single for Groove Armada. It’s at times like this that you find yourself wishing you had actually bothered to watch the film (OK, maybe not).

The narrative – of this album at least – seems to be a very simple one, as Moby turns up with Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? sounding every bit as brilliant as it ever does, but bringing a touch of melancholy which continues into Olive‘s cover of I’m Not in Love, the one and only single from their not-entirely-successful second album Trickle, the story of which we should probably explore on this blog one of these days.

Another friend of William Orbit turns up next, with Beth Orton‘s exceptional Stars All Seem to Weep, brilliantly produced by Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl. Orton’s haunting vocal and the ethereal synth backing come together to make an absolutely perfect song here.

Next Madonna turns up again for the pleasant but ultimately rather dull and entirely forgettable Time Stood Still, before passing the baton onto Solar Twins for the ambient sound of Swayambhu. Finally, Gabriel Yared is brought in to close matters with the beautiful Forever and Always, and this album is already over.

So The Next Best Thing may – for all I now – be an awful film or a really good one, but its accompanying soundtrack album is definitely worth hearing. It’s a concise selection of just twelve songs, collected together to tell what seems to be a very simple love story, but which also makes a pretty good album.

You can still find the soundtrack to The Next Best Thing at all major retailers, including Amazon here.

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One thought on “Various Artists – The Next Best Thing

  1. Pingback: Beginner’s guide to Olive | Music for stowaways

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