Like the TV series (and apparently the movie) that spawned it, the "Sex and the City Soundtrack" (New Line) has a tender heart beneath all the consumerism and frivolity, but it requires some digging.
Sure, placing Fergie's crass single "Labels or Love," with its bargain-basement beats and ridiculous lyrics ("Prada dresses never broke my heart before"), doesn't exactly raise expectations. But there is plenty here to search for.
Jennifer Hudson's "All Dressed in Love" is really everything that "Labels or Love" isn't. The Motown-tinged pop suits the Dreamgirl's big voice well, keeping things lighthearted and upbeat. India.Arie's simple, restrained version of Don Henley's "The Heart of the Matter" lets her gorgeous vocals shine and gathers strength as the song builds, providing a welcome surprise.
The best interpretations, though, are the reworkings of Bee Gees' classics. Al Green and Joss Stone's epic, seven-minute take on "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" is stirring and vulnerable, with Green sounding truly wounded while Stone soothingly coos. The Bird and the Bee's version of "How Deep Is Your Love" is practically the opposite - an airy, subtle reading that nearly floats away on the ethereal music-box synths.
"Sex and the City" has its share of experiments that don't quite work. The dance remix of Nina Simone's "The Look of Love" is nearly unrecognizable and Morningwood's rocked-up " New York Girls" doesn't quite fit in. But in the end, the heart of the "Sex and the City" soundtrack is in the right place and, as the show has proved, that makes up for a lot of shortcomings.
SEX AND THE CITY SOUNDTRACK. New pop that's stylish, but uneven, from Fergie, India.Arie, Jennifer Hudson and others. In stores now. Grade: C+.