Now 25 (U.S.)

So I had a big holiday in America ten years ago, and while I was there I bought Now 25. 10 years on, it might be worth looking back.

They started doing Now That’s What I Call Music compilations in the U.S. in 1998. In the U.K. we were on about Now 40/41 at that point.

The cover for the American Now 25 goes for a beach balls in pool design. Now 67 in the U.K., released at around the same time mid-July 2007 had the same cover design, obviously with a different title.

I don’t know if things have changed since, but on Now 25 the first thing I noticed was that you don’t get as much as what you get in the U.K. version. There are only 20 tracks on one CD, in the U.K. it’s two CDs which tend to have 22 tracks each. Also in the American one the booklet just has the pictures of the album the track is taken from and the writing credits, no mini write-ups like you get in the U.K. version. Though nowadays the U.K. versions don’t give you the writing credits anymore.

The first track on Now 25 is by Fall Out Boy – ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmmrs’, or Thanks For The Memories. They just took the vowels out of the title. It was what txt spk on mobile phones (or should I say “cell phones” considering we’re talking about an American compilation?) was like at the time. As such, now it looks extremely dated. The song itself isn’t bad though. In fact, I think I like it more than I did at the time, when it came out it mostly passed me by. Lyrically it’s a bitter break-up song (“thanks for the memories even though they weren’t so great”), but the instrumental is pretty good, it’s quite dramatic and almost circus-like, not so much as ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance, but around that same area.

Then we have Avril Lavigne with ‘Girlfriend’, a Billboard Hot 100 number one. It’s a cheerleader type song, and cheerleading is one aspect of American culture that has
always baffled me a bit. Not that it exists per se, but that it appears to be taken so seriously when it’s an incredibly superficial thing. Anyway, you can file  ‘Girlfriend’ with other cheerleader tracks like ‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil, ‘Get Ready For This’ by 2 Unlimited, ‘Hollaback Girl’ by Gwen Stefani or ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift. ‘Girlfriend’ is probably even more Valley Girl than all of those, as it literally contains lyrics such as “she’s like so whatever”.Then again, ‘Shake It Off’ goes “she’s like Oh My God”, which is probably a bit more irritating.

‘Girlfriend’ has a pretty nasty, spiteful sentiment to it, as it is about stealing someone else’s boyfriend, so I don’t like it much for that reason, but to be honest the main reason I’m not keen on it is it is so ANNOYING! It’s repetitive and you just want it to shut up! Listening to it ten years on though, it is a lot rockier than I remember it. It is still on the pop side of pop-rock, but I remember it being more electronic.

I mentioned Gwen Stefani before, and she is next on track 3 with ‘The Sweet Escape’, which featured Akon. The song comes from Gwen Stefani’s album of the same name,
and there is an argument that it is the best of her solo songs. When making this song, they were trying to make it sound like something her band No Doubt might do, and Gwen Stefani’s best work probably was with No Doubt to be honest. ‘The Sweet Escape’ is quite sassy, the horns are used well. It has a slightly gangster’s moll feel to it. The track seems more remembered than any of Gwen Stefani’s other solo stuff, and certainly more remembered than any of Akon’s songs nowadays.

‘What You Waiting For’, from Gwen Stefani’s first solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby, is the other main contender for her best solo song, and it is a lot more interesting, but ‘The Sweet Escape’ works better as a pop song. ‘The Sweet Escape’ is her highest charting solo song in the UK, it reached number 2, the same position it got in America.

Pink is next with ‘U + Ur Hand’, another txt spk pop-rock one, and is about just wanting to go out and have a good time, and telling horny loser guys that they won’t be going with her, they’ll have to make do with wanking instead. I loved this song at the time, and I danced to it while I was in America. In the U.S. ‘U + Ur Hand’ becoming a hit revived interest in its album, I Am Not Dead.

I wasn’t a fan of Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie‘s mostly awful solo career, but I did really like the song on this compilation, ‘Glamorous’, which features Ludacris. I suppose I found it strangely moving. It’s about coming a long way, now having a lot of money living a glamorous lifestyle but how it hasn’t changed her and she still has her feet on the ground. ‘Glamorous’ was a U.S. number one.

Superstar collaborations usually end up as a disappointment, but ‘Beautiful Liar’ by Beyonce & Shakira was one of the better ones. It has been semi-forgotten now, which is odd because it has aged better than a lot of the songs on this CD! Like a few female pop duets, it’s about two women talking about the same man. Sometimes in those songs they are fighting over him, but this is one where they realise that he’s been cheating on both of them and decide to both dump him and remain friends with each other. The video is memorable as it showed how much Beyonce and Shakira look a lot like each other! In the U.K., this reached number 1, as it did in several countries, but in the U.S. it made number 3.

‘Summer Love’ by Justin Timberlake was a song I’d never heard before, and I’ve never heard since. It was a reasonably big hit in the U.S, reaching number 6. For whatever reason, it was never released as a single in the U.K. I’m quite grateful for that though, as it’s a bit rubbish!

Ne-Yo is next with ‘Because Of You’, not to be confused with the Kelly Clarkson song of the same name. Despite the identical titles, the two tracks are very different. Obviously, Ne-Yo and Kelly Clarkson are two very different artists to begin with, Ne-Yo is a black male R&B singer while Kelly Clarkson is a white female pop-rock singer. The Kelly Clarkson ‘Because Of You’ is about how the breakdown of her parents relationship affected her , while Ne-Yo’s ‘Because Of You’ is about falling in love. The Ne-Yo track is a nice enough mid-tempo R&B love song, he has a nice voice, and it’s overall very nice. It reached number 2 in the U.S., number 4 in the U.K.

There is then a run of hip hop tracks, and while urban and hip hop is quite popular in the U.K.it is MUCH more popular in the U.S. In the 2000s in general, urban music was HUGE, I think it has somewhat gone down in popularity in the current decade. ‘Buy You A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)’ by T-Pain feat. Yung Joc is the third and final U.S. number one on Now 25, and I’m not sure it would be a hit today. I’m not saying it’s bad as such, I did like it at the time.

I had completely forgotten about ‘Get It Shawty’ by Lloyd, but listening to it again now I like it more than ‘Buy You A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)’, mainly due to  the production. Apparently the producer of ‘Get It Shawty’ was Usher’s younger brother!

I remember ‘Pop, Lock & Drop It’ by Huey, even though it never charted in the U.K. Crunk was a big new genre around 2006/2007. ‘Pop Lock + Drop It’ has great production, and still sounds pretty good today. Huey was a one hit wonder in the U.S., and his name is his actual surname, which is similar to the next act, MIMS.

MIMS is another rapper and his name is his actual surname, but in his case he also used it to make an acronym for his album Music Is My Saviour. I very much remember MIMS’ track ‘This Is Why I’m Hot’, a U.S. number one which made number 18 in the U.K. That track isn’t included on Now 25, it’s a song called ‘Like This’. That song does reference ‘This Is Why I’m Hot’ though, and that it was “top ten number one download ringtones”. ‘Like This’ is pretty generic, boring and forgettable to be honest, and it only made number 32 in the U.S., and 82 in the U.K. Perhaps it was asking for trouble by referencing ‘This Is Why I’m Hot’ so heavily, like that’s the big hit song people will know, this song is just the follow-up single. ‘Like This’ is even overshadowed by ‘This Is Why I’m Hot’ with its own lyrics!

‘I Tried’ by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony feat. Akon was Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s first U.S. top ten hit in ten years, and to date it is their last one. I thought ‘I Tried’ sampled an old song, but apparently it doesn’t. I’ve only heard this track on this CD, but I love it! It talks of how struggling to get through life when it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, feeling like he is taking “five steps forward, ten steps back”. I like the “sleet, hail, snow” line too.

‘Outta My System’ by Bow Wow feat. T-Pain & Johnta Austin is… OK. It’s another track that’s a bit on the forgettable side.

‘Never Again’ by Kelly Clarkson was from her My December album, and was a bit like Pink’s Try This album in that it moved into more of a rocky direction. It’s  interesting just how similar Kelly Clarkson and Pink’s careers have been actually. First album was a very poppy R&B album which ended up half-forgotten (Can’t Take Me Home for Pink, Thankful for Kelly Clarkson). Second album was more pop-rock and was a massive hit (Missundaztood for Pink, Breakaway for Kelly Clarkson). Third album was more rocky, but ended up with lower sales (Try This for Pink, My December for Kelly Clarkson). From then on, both pretty much stuck with a lighter, mainstream pop-rock sound and went on to have more Billboard Hot 100 number ones, and release Greatest Hits albums which implied they would release another Best Of one day. Pink’s was called Greatest Hits…So Far!!! and Kelly Clarkson’s was called Greatest Hits – Chapter One.

I heard ‘Never Again’ on the radio not so long ago, and my friend thought it was by Pink! I found ‘Never Again’ a bit tuneless in 2007, but I like it more now!

‘The Great Escape’ by Boys Like Girls is another song I first heard on this CD, and it’s one I’ve listened to a fair bit since! It’s in a bit of an awkward somewhere-between-pop-rock-and-alternative-rock lane, but ‘The Great Escape’ is a happy song. It’s very much a “start of the holidays” anthem, specifically graduating from high school and starting the next chapter in your life. ‘The Great Escape’ still brings a smile to my face, and it is my favourite song on Now 25.

Keith Urban has ‘I Told You So’. Despite the name Urban, he is a country artist. Country music is even more of a genre which is huge in the U.S. but not as popular in
the U.K. than urban is! ‘I Told You So’ is a rekindling romance song rather than a break-up song or a falling in love song, so that’s a bit different I suppose. If you think I’m struggling to think of things to say about this track, you’d be right. Erm…. if you like country music, you might like it I suppose.

‘Before He Cheats’ by Carrie Underwood is another country-pop song, and I quite like it! It’s sort of a guilty pleasure. It was criticised at the time for being incredibly vindictive – the protagonist drags her key across her cheating boyfriend’s car to punish him, and she’s pretty bitchy towards the woman he might be with, when this woman doesn’t sound like she knows he’s cheating on someone. All of those criticisms are fair, but I still can’t help but enjoy this song. I suppose it’s the “don’t mess with me” thing it has going on.

The ballad ‘Wait For You’ by Elliot Yamin is the sort of track that sounds like it was made to play at the end credits of a ’90s movie. It also sounds like something Westlife might record.

Speaking of Westlife, they famously recorded an enfeebled cover of ‘What About Now’ by U.S. rock band Daughtry. Seriously, the original is much better. Daughtry have the
last track on Now 25, ‘Home’. ‘Home’ is such a generic title, particularly for rock bands, so you can probably imagine what it sounds like. Like ‘Wait For You’, ‘Home’  also sounds like it would be played on the end credits to a movie. It’s a decent song, but I feel like I’ve heard it millions of times, even though I’m sure I haven’t. ‘Home’ wasn’t covered by Westlife, but it WAS covered by member Kian Egan for his solo album.

Daughtry’s version of ‘Home’ was actually a bigger hit in the U.S. than ‘What About Now’, the former got to number 5, the latter got to number 18. Oddly enough, Daughty’s version of ‘What About Now’ outpeaked it’s U.S. chart placing, charting at number 11 in the U.K.

The U.K. Now albums usually try to bunch similar tracks together, and the U.S. version is even more structured from this CD. It starts with pop-rock(ish), then goes into pop-R&B, then hip hop, then rock, then country.

On the whole, Now 25 is a good selection of songs. The pop world has moved on in ten years obviously, but they still sound pretty good, and it is interesting to look back at what was popular a decade ago. Personally the three songs I enjoyed listening to the most this time were songs which I only heard from buying this CD and which weren’t big hits in the U.K. (‘I Tried’, ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Before He Cheats’), while with a lot of the songs that were big hits in both countries, my interest has diminished a little over time from hearing them played so much, so I am pleased I bought this complialtion as I heard songs I liked I might not have heard otherwise.

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Months Of The Year in the UK Singles Chart

Having done songs named after days of the week, now I move on to how the months of the year have been represented through chart entries in the Official UK Singles Chart.

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Now 97

The cover for Now 97 has sun, sea, sand, speedboats, surfboards and ships, as well as planes, parachutes, palm trees and parrots. As often with the middle Now! release of the year it’s going for a summer holiday theme, in this case on a tropical island.

Track 1 on CD 1 is the unfortunately inescapable ‘Despacito (Remix)’ by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, the remix adding some English lyrics and Justin Bieber. It’s very generic latin pop, and seeing a translation of the full lyrics into English, it’s incredibly sleazy. Still, it could be worse. At least it’s not track 2, ‘I’m The One’.

‘I’m The One’ has a long list of acts on it. They are, deep breath, DJ. Khaled feat. Justin Bieber (yep, him again), Quavo, Chance The Rapper & Lil Wayne. It’s an awful track though. The music is mind numbing and in your ear for ages, the sound of it is like a cheap old mobile phone circa 1998.

Then there’s track 3, ‘Feels’. God, I can’t stand it when people use “feels” to mean “feelings”. It just looks and sounds stupid! Anyway, it’s another track with a long cast list. Calvin Harris feat. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean. I honestly don’t think this track would have been a hit without all those big names attached, as it is bland and forgettable.

The first song I actually liked on Now 97 is track 4, ‘Mama’ by Jonas Blue feat. William Singe. It’s a tropical house track about staying out all night, but telling their mother not to worry as they’ll be back in the morning. The CD booklet informs us that William Singe was in a boyband on the Australian version of The X Factor. Speaking of former X Factor boyband members, some of the former One Direction lads have solo material on here.

Liam Payne has the shrug of a pop-R&B song ‘Strip That Down’. It features Quavo. I always think of Quavers crisps whenever I see Quavo’s name! Harry Styles has ‘Sign
Of The Times’. The title is similar to one of Prince’s albums, Sign O’The Times and the track itself sounds like it was trying to be a David Bowie song, but it’s a little bit dull and pretentious really. Niall Horan has ‘Slow Hands’ which contains a line “like sweat dripping down my dirty laundry”. A romantic image for sure. Other than that, it’s a little boring. Songs by Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson aren’t on here, but I didn’t like those either. So, I’m afraid I haven’t liked any of the One Direction solo careers so far.

We also have a solo song from a former X Factor girlgroup member, though from the American version of the show. Ex-Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello has ‘Crying In
The Club’, which is a pretty good moody, smoky dance-pop track which samples ‘Genie In A Bottle’ by Christina Aguilera.

‘Crying In The Club’ is track 19 on CD 1, and track 19 on CD 2 is none other than Fifth Harmony themselves! Although it’s unclear if they can be called Fifth Harmony anymore if there are only four of them. They could do what Five did when they got a cardboard cutout of Sean to stand in for him in the ‘Let’s Dance’ video after he left the band. Though for now the booklet says guest rapper Gucci Mane counts as the fifth member for the track on CD 2, ‘Down’.

The first track on CD 2 is French Montana feat. Swae Lee – ‘Unforgettable’. Oh, it’s just too easy to make a joke out of that song title. I wouldn’t say it was forgettable as such though, more it just blends into the background.

Clean Bandit feat. Zara Larsson got to number one with ‘Symphony’, which is quite a nice song, but one of those songs that when it’s on the radio and it comes on you and you change to another station and you find it’s on that one too!

Bruno Mars – ‘That’s What I Like’ talks of strawberries, champagne, jewellery, diamonds, silk sheets, making love by the fireplace, holidays abroad. Not a bad song as such, but it is very cheesy.

‘Power’ by Little Mix feat. Stormzy is a bit of an obnoixous, noisy mess, regardless of whether the point is to be “in your face” or not.

Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson duet on ‘Unpredictable’, which I think is the first time two The X Factor acts have collaborated! Well, apart from all those X Factor Finalist charity singles.

I like ‘Sun Comes Up’ by Rudimental feat. James Arthur more than any other track I’ve heard of James Arthur’s, but it is still a bit summer-song-by-the-numbers.

‘Swalla’, by Jason Derulo feat. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign, has an annoying, repetitive electronic beat, and it’s like they keep shouting random words out like Father Jack Hackett in Father Ted. One of those random words is even “DRINK!”.

‘Remember I Told You’ by Nick Jonas feat. Anne-Marie & Mike Posner reminded me of “‘member I told you!” Alexandra from Big Brother 9. Although I can’t remember what Alexandra told us, and I can’t remember how the song ‘Remember I Told You’ goes either.

CD 2 has lots of random capitalisation, which makes it look like you should be SHOUTING that word out: Maggie Lindemann – ‘Pretty Girl (Cheat Codes X CAPE Remix)’. Kendrick Lamar – ‘HUMBLE’. Some acts too, NEIKID feat. MIMI. HAIM and RAYE.

Speaking of RAYE, Jax Jones feat. RAYE – ‘You Don’t Know Me’ was one of the best dance songs of this year, and they are both on Now 97 with separate tracks. Producer Jax Jones teams up with Demi Lovato & Stefflon Don for ‘Instruction’, a song about being in a club. Meanwhile singer RAYE has ‘The Line’, a song about queueing up for a club. I do like the video for ‘The Line’, it’s fun and quite brilliantly trashy.

My favourite song on here is ‘Something Just Like This’ by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay. They surprisingly produce a nice sound together! Granted, it’s nothing groundbreaking. The drop is recycled from Chainsmokers feat. ROZES’ song ‘Roses’, and lyrically the song sounds like almost any stadium rock band being asked to write a superhero movie end credits theme song. But I still really like it! The protagonist compares himself to superheroes and legendary figures and thinks he doesn’t measure up, but his girlfriend tells him she isn’t looking for a fairytale anyway, and she loves him for who he is. It’s quite sweet really!

The other contender for my favourite song on Now 97 is ‘Came Here For Love’ by Sigala & Ella Eyre. This tropical house track is such an uplifting song, and Ella Eyre’s vocals are great!

I also like ‘Your Song’ by Rita Ora. It’s not a cover of the Elton John track, it’s a pop song about falling in love, and only wanting to hear love songs rather than sad songs. It was co-written by Ed Sheeran, and you can probably tell with some of the more down to earth lyrics (sleeping on a best friend’s couch, flats and taxis).

Despite his dominance of the UK singles chart, Ed Sheeran doesn’t appear on here himself, but he still makes his way in the background. As well as co-writing ‘Your Song’ for Rita Ora,  he also co-wrote Liam Payne’s song.

‘The Cure’ by Lady Gaga is one of the best songs on here. While it is quite generic R&B-pop ballad, the icy production and the rather understated way Lady Gaga sings it make it all the more powerful really. Lady Gaga might not be as popular as she once was, but she is good.

‘There For You’ by Martin Garrix & Troye Sivian is a song I feel I should like more than I actually do. It’s well put together, and I think they are both very talented, but the song doesn’t really do anything for me.

I LOVE ‘Most Girls’ by Hailee Steinfeld. It has a catchy tune and a brilliant message. From the title I thought it was going to be one of those “I’m not like all those other girls” songs, which are mostly about putting down other girls. Not so! It says that most girls are strong, smart and beautiful, they should embrace what makes them unique and individual because they are all great in their own way. This song is so refreshing!

I feel I should say that on my Now 96 review I said I didn’t like ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ by Sigrid, which I take back wholeheartedly now, I like Sigrid’s voice and ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ has become one of my top tracks of the year so far!

The final tracks on CD 1 and CD 2 are charity singles released after horrific tragedies.

I always thought ‘One Last Time’ by Ariana Grande was a great song, but it has an added poignancy now. It has become and anthem for and a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester Arena earlier this year. It was re-released as a charity single after the One Love Manchester benefit concert that Ariana Grande organised to raise money for the victims and their families.

CD 2 ends with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Artists For Grenfell. It is a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s famous song and was released with proceeds going to help people effected by the Grenfell Tower fire. It managed to go to the top of the UK singles chart on just 2 days of sales.

As for Now 97 as a whole, it is fine. The good ones here are great, and even the average ones are reasonable. It’s a decent compilation.

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Big Brother 18

Big Brother 18 made a big deal about how it was reflecting the state of Britain in 2017, and they also said that everyone had to audition in pairs. It turned out, as per usual, that these new gimmicks didn’t really matter. It also followed the pattern of the most recent civilian series of being very messy and not really knowing what kind of show it wants to be.

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Doctor Who – ‘The Doctor Falls’

Series 10, Episode 12, Part 2 of Finale

CONTAINS SPOILERS

After the intense events of the previous episode, this episodes opens with scenes of a beautiful countryside with happy children playing. However, there is more to this idyllic picture. Look closer at the blue sky and its the ceiling of a metal spaceship. The sky is merely a hologram. The scarecrows are in fact Mondasian Cybermen!

There is an alert, and the children are told to hide under their beds while the adults shoot at the invading Cybermen. Then later, a small spaceship comes up from underground, and out of the spaceship comes a Cyberman carrying the Doctor!

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Doctor Who – ‘World Enough and Time’

Series 10, Episode 11, Part 1 of Finale

CONTAINS SPOILERS

The Doctor, Bill, Nardole… and Missy go to answer a distress call from a ship. Other than Missy coming along there is nothing unusual about that, but the events started in this episode are going to have massive consequences for all four of them.

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Mid-Year Limbo: Songs from 2016 I’ve listened to more in 2017

Once again, there have been songs which technically came out last year that I’ve ended up listening to more during this year, which means they don’t make it into top ten lists of favourite songs. As we’ve just passed the halfway point of 2017, here’s my list of tracks from 2016 I’ve listened to more in 2017.

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