Unlike so many of the various-artists samplers that masquerade as soundtrack albums, The Next Best Thing has a consistent sound: it's filled with bouncy dance music propelled by the latest in synthesized beats, and many of the vocals are either by the film's star Madonna or a virtual soundalike. The copycats include British artist Mandalay, singing "This Life," and Metisse with "Boom Boom Ba," though teen sensation Christina Aguilera, doing another par-for-the-course teen anthem called "Don't Make Me Love You," and Beth Orton on "Stars All Seem to Weep" also seem to be singing in Madonna's register. The star herself continues in the electronica-styled music of her most recent album, Ray of Light, once again enlisting producer William Orbit for her two tracks. Manhandled cover tunes seem to be inevitable in this sort of collection, and this one has two: an inoffensive but unimaginative remake of 10cc's 1975 hit "I'm Not in Love" by recent Maverick signee Olive, and Madonna's take on "American Pie." Once you get over the surprise of Madonna covering such a song (it's as strange an idea as Donna Summer singing "MacArthur Park"), you find that she has done exactly what you'd expect -- keyed off the opening verse's line "I could make those people dance" and dumped most of those pesky lyrics. The result is perhaps less ridiculous in the context of an album full of cut-up, mix-and-match sounds such as this than it will be to fans of the original recording hearing it on the radio, but it's been almost 30 years since Don McLean took his version to number one, and probably most of Madonna's fans will be hearing the song for the first time. If it doesn't make any sense, so what? Most of them will be dancing too hard to notice.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann