All Hat, No Cattle

Featuring a Dr. Dre/Eminem collaboration.

After the relative disappointment of the soundtrack to "Austin Powers:

The Spy Who Shagged Me," a soundtrack-buying nation turns its lonely

eyes and ears to Music Inspired By The Motion Picture Wild Wild

West. It's summertime, so most people are casting around in search

of a collection with songs they can dance to, bouncy songs good for road

trips and mellow ballads to listen to while relaxing beside the pool.

A few stellar singles aside, Music Inspired By The Motion Picture

Wild Wild West falls short of this ideal. A handful of engaging

grooves can't save this collection from blurring together and,

ultimately, sounding like one long contemporary R&B song with rappers

dropping verses that refer to showdowns and riding off into the sunset.

There's no denying that Will Smith's (with Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee)

"Wild Wild West" (RealAudio excerpt)

is a great pop-rap jam, though it would be an amazing

feat to make a terrible song using the groove from Stevie Wonder's "I

Wish" like "Wild Wild West" does. It is much more impressive to make a

great tune out of a lame song, as Will Smith did with Patrice Rushen's

disco chestnut "Forget Me Nots" on his smash "Men In Black."

The album's other stellar singles seem spread out among the 15 tracks

like tent poles intent on keeping the whole affair from crashing in on

itself due to the sheer weight of mediocrity. Tatyana Ali's "Getting

Closer" (RealAudio excerpt)

is delightful teen-pop, a song like Britney Spears' "... Baby

One More Time" that you find yourself liking despite your otherwise

impeccable taste. Tra-Knox's "Lucky Day" (RealAudio excerpt),

meanwhile, drips with

sensuality without being explicit -- a bit like R. Kelly for the PG-13

crowd. Reunited new jack swing pioneers Guy come charging in like the

cavalry with the aptly titled "The Best," an electro-funk fueled song

that leaves the listener praying the group keeps it together long enough

to get a full-length album out on the market.

"Wild Wild West" kicks off the collection in grand style, but it's a

patchy downhill tumble from there. Up next is Enrique Iglesias'

"Bailamos." Iglesias' soulful singing and Latin acoustic guitar over

synthesized dance rhythms sound like George Michael covering Madonna's

"La Isla Bonita" -- and that isn't necessarily a criticism. Soccer moms

across the United States will secretly swoon in their SUVs once it

inevitably gets added to the stations they listen to.

Blackstreet and MC Lyte follow with disposable, B-side level material,

especially MC Lyte's attempt at a Dirty South bounce, "Keep It Movin'."

Please, do.

Also on the disposable tip is Faith Evans' limp "Mailman," the

cookie-cutter R&B of Breeze's "Hero" and Neutral's "Chocolate Form" and

the so-close-to-good-yet-so-far-away that is Kel Spencer's "I'm Wanted."

Spencer's fast-paced Southern rap is interesting enough, but his attempt

at looping guitars in the chorus from Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive"

(featuring new guitars and vocals from axeman Ritchie Sambora) is

muddled by synths and bouncy electro beats. Plus, Ghetto Commission's

"I'm A Soulja" did the same thing better nearly a year ago. Not that

many people heard it; still, it happened. (And that, ladies and gents, is the last time you'll ever hear a critic praise the work of Ghetto Commission.)

In short, Music Inspired By The Motion Picture Wild Wild West

isn't the great collection of singles that usually distinguishes good

soundtracks from bad. More than anything, it suffers from a lack of

originality. Not that we were expecting new jack covers of Gene Autry

singing cowboy songs, but that certainly would've distinguished this

soundtrack from the pack.