Music Review: Now That's What I Call Music! 26
by Paul Schultz
Published: December 27, 2007
In a sense, the Now That's What I Call Music! series is beyond criticism. Here's the songs that are popular right now -- take them or leave them. About every four months they roll out another compilation, and the newest is NOW 26. As always, it's a mixed bag of genres guaranteed to please nobody all the way through. Consistently sequenced with the crap first, I always find myself listening to these discs in reverse order. But that's just my musical taste. This collection actually has more than a handful of memorable tunes to make it worth a listen.
The first track is not one of these. You definitely have to be in the mood to get your dance groove on, or this slow-jam rap number will just annoy the hell out of you. Regardless, "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" was a #1 hit, as was the next track, Timbaland's far more danceable "The Way I Are," featuring Keri Hilson and D.O.E.
This series latches onto favorites -- a trick I got wise to back when I noticed they would include, like, everything Vanessa Carlton ever released. Thus, you get several repeats from NOW 25 including Justin Timberlake ("Lovestoned"), Avril Lavigne ("When You’re Gone"), Pink ("Who Knew?"), Fergie ("Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)"), T-Pain ("Cyclone"), Daughtry ("Over You"), and Ne-Yo ("Make Me Better"). And, is it just me, or has every Nickelback song ever recorded landed on one of these discs?
Yawn. I'm sorry, that was rude. These are not throwaway songs, but it sure makes you wonder if hearing from the same artists over and over is symptomatic of a radio industry that has become increasingly corporate, with miniscule diversity in their playlists.
Speaking of corporate formats, this is the second of the last three collections to exclude a representative country song. Both Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" and Keith Urban's "I Told You So" appeared on the last release, and apparently the producers felt they needed to back off on the honky-tonk. As if Kenny Chesney doesn't have a new album (Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates)?
But for every R&B standby like J. Holiday's "Bed," and Chris Brown's "Wall To Wall," the NOW folks hit a homerun with a diamond in the rough from artists that seem to have come from out of the blue. Like the Fray's "How to Save a Life" from NOW 24, this compilation's "Freakin' Awesome Song Award" goes to "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T’s. Why, it's almost like discovering Charlie Dore's "Pilot of the Airwaves" on an old K-Tel record. In fact, "I get the tingles in a silly place." (Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself... that'll be a song sure to make it onto NOW 27.)
The "guilty pleasure" track for this time around has to be the super-infectious Jamaican-flavored "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston, though my co-worker's two-year-old daughter likes to repeat the "You have me suicidal, suicidal..." line, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Kanye West talks about himself enough, so there's no need to mention him here.
Nickelback's goofy "Rockstar" makes the cut (of course it does... they recorded it, didn't they?), and strangely it is completely unedited. I mean, they whack out the word "cocaine" on the radio when they play Kid Rock's "Picture" but here they let the kiddies get all sorts of unsavory ideas about the life of a professional musician, like "the girls come easy and the drugs come cheap" or "everybody’s got a drug dealer on speed dial." Yikes!
Finally, we get to the beefed-up music with Good Charlotte's "I Don’t Wanna Be In Love (Dance Floor Anthem)" and it's-sure-nice-to-hear-you-again-where-have-you-been Lifehouse with "First Time." Another swell inclusion is "Pictures Of You" by The Last Goodnight, as well as Three Days Grace's great modern rocker "Never Too Late."
At least platinum status has been achieved by every volume in the Now That's What I Call Music! multi-artist album series. NOW 26 debuted at #4 on the Billboard Hot 200, ensuring that the formula will continue. I suppose it's too much to ask to mix up the sequencing, but on the other hand, it is handy to be able to skip over the first half dozen songs. The series remains highly predictable, yet still delivers a fine sampler of current hits.
|Now That's What I Call Music! 26