Various Artists: Now That’s What I Call Music, Volume 11

Various Artists
Now That's What I Call Music, Volume 11

That the tricksters at Universal have released no less than 11 Now That’s What I Call Music compilations since October of 1998 indicates just how rapidly brand new hits become stale oldies. Take their latest release, for example — three months after the release of the CD, many of these songs are already old news, some having long ago left the Billboard charts.

This isn’t really a problem, though, if you’re the type of consumer who picks up these little packages in order to save money on CD singles, or because you haven’t figured out how to steal them off the Net (count me among this group), or you could just dig some of the tracks, and hey, you’ve already got the other 10. Or maybe, you’re one of those rare individuals who actually likes all the songs collected. If you are, you have my praise, because among them, I can only pick out six songs I actually know, and two I’d listen to again.

Whatever the case, a run down of the latest track listing instantly lets you know whether or not you’re in line with the cool kids, because these songs, as the title suggests, are (or, at least, were) just so damn Now.

The first five songs on the CD — Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”, N.O.R.E.’s “Nothin'”, Eve and Alicia Keys pseudo-duet “Gangsta Lovin'”, Beenie Man’s “Feel it Boy” and Dirty Vegas’ “Days Go By” — suggest I’m way out of the musical loop. Hell, I’m not even in the ballpark. There may very well be some tasty grooves in there with Eve and Alicia, but it’s the only thing even remotely familiar to me. I have no idea why Nelly chooses not to be able to spell a simple word in his song’s title, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what a Beenie Man is, but I digress — these are obviously the moves of the moment, no matter how similar they sound, especially bunched together at the start of the disc.

Following this, we’re given Kylie Minogue’s “Love at First Sight”. Now, while there’s no denying Kylie’s present popularity across the globe, the jury is still out on whether or not after 15 years making hits she’s actually any good. “Love” doesn’t help her cause any being that it’s really a dumb song with a boring “dumb girl” chorus which just makes you want to tilt your head back and forth like a dog who doesn’t quite understand the meaning of the word “sit”.

The next six tracks are all by women and tend to slide back and forth between something mirroring Kylie’s airhead gargling and something with a little more substance. Shakira’s delicious “Objection (Tango)”, Aaliyah’s gorgeous Missy Elliott-penned “I Care 4 U” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Landslide” (written by Stevie Nicks) make up the smart contingent. Each is a rare moment of musical goodness with just enough emotion to make them challenging and enough funk to make them fun.

Surrounding these tracks though, are a couple of annoying chart-toppers from Jennifer Love Hewitt, Vanessa Carlton, and No Doubt. Hewitt’s “BareNaked” is just the kind of sexy-but-safe pap you’d expect from the girl who loves nothing more than to take most of her clothes off while ranting about how dirty she ain’t, while Carlton adopt the cheese-laden, gloss-edged vocals of so many of her pop contemporaries on “Ordinary Day” — she may play a few instruments and write her own songs but the girl’s got a lot way to go before she makes anything genuinely affecting. And, though No Doubt’s collaboration with Lady Saw (and Dave Stewart), “Underneath it All”, is easy to listen to, it still reeks of the band’s inability to develop their sound past the wop-wop-wop of “Just a Girl” all those years ago.

Apart from the welcome inclusion of Norah Jones’s “Don’t Know Why”, the remainder of the album is all guys — some good, some bad and some completely awful. Ginuwine’s “Stingy” from the Barbershop soundtrack is an energetic fireball of a song, showcasing the singer’s unique, tingling vocals which gave “Pony” its edge back in the late 90s. Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott’s “Hero” is a neat power-rock tune with obligatory inspirational chorus fitting right in there alongside Bon Jovi’s uplifting “Everyday”, Our Lady Peace’s fitful “Somewhere Out There” and Hoobastank’s sultry “Running Away”, yet they’re sandwiched in amongst Creed (how are they still popular?) and Coldplay, who continue on their quest to release the same boring song over and over again.

There you have it, Universal Music’s choices for the best songs of the October/November/December period of last year. I realise I probably like all the dorky tracks on here, but I don’t mind all that much as in five minutes it’s all gonna be dorky anyway making room for the new cool jams of Now 12.