Now That's What I Call Music

Various Artists

Virgin Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Everyone seemed so shocked earlier this year when the compilation album Now 4 topped the Billboard charts. I don't know why; albums such as these have been popular in Great Britain for many years, and similar (albeit low-budget) compilations have occasionally been released here.

But in 1998, what Now That's What I Call Music (hereafter called Now) did was open the floodgates in American music. Here was a disc which dared to take some of the popular songs of that moment and throw them together for the pop music fan. Commercial suicide? Less of an incentive to buy the original album? In both cases, I think the answer is "no".my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This disc is aimed at the top-40 radio fan, with a mixture of alternative hits and smooth r&b permeating the disc. And while some of these songs may already feel like relics only two years after their peak success, it's still a fun disc to listen to.

Some of the selections on Now are blatantly obvious; you couldn't put together a collection from this time and not include Backstreet Boys ("As Long As You Love Me"), Spice Girls ("Say You'll Be There") or Hanson ("Mmm Bop"). You don't even need to be a fan of any of these groups to enjoy these songs in the context of their historical place in music; placed among other songs of their generation, they fit well.

There are some pleasant surprises on Now, as well. Brian McKnight absolutely pleases with "Anytime," and his appearance on this disc is sure to win him a much larger fanbase than he currently enjoys. Likewise, as much as I got sick of hearing "Fly Away" by Lenny Kravitz (or, as my four-year-old calls it, "the getaway song"), it feels right to hear it on this disc. The same can be said for groups like Fastball ("The Way") and Harvey Danger ("Flagpole Sitta" - in all its edited glory).

Yet there are a few moments on Now that will leave you scratching your head. Why would a slow number like "Karma Police" from Radiohead be included - a song I don't remember hearing on the airwaves that much? Marcy Playground may have had a minor hit with "Sex And Candy," but it is not the greatest choice to end this disc. And I know it was a slice of 1998 history, but it is kind of weird to hear "Barbie Girl" by Aqua.

Still, the level of fun that Now provides is high, and is a definite disc to slap in the changer when it's time to party. More importantly, Now showed the record companies that people would buy well-produced singles compilations without sacrificing total album sales. Whether the hot streak would continue onto Now 2 is something we'll talk about next week.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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