The third and final NOW! album of the year, and possibly the last ever if some reports are to be believed that it could be a high profile casualty of Universal taking over EMI. I myself doubt the series will come to an end altogether, as they still sell well, in fact Now 83 has been the fastest selling album of the year, so I reckon they will try to carry on the brand in some form or another. But for the time being let’s just discuss this particular release.
The Now! albums released in the end of November are obviously for the Christmas market, and as such the album covers usually feature Christmas stuff such as presents, candy canes and snowflakes. This time they’ve gone for a more New Year’s Eve, or maybe Bonfire Night theme by having fireworks. But there is also some snow on there. 1)
The tracks here have a feel of the ’90s making a comeback. Not just with StooShe covering TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’, but with the general feel of many of the tracks. It seems sugar soda-pop type music is coming back to the charts again, not to mention two of the most popular genres in the ’90s dance and indie also having a bit of revival, and then there’s novelty (probable) one-hit-wonder dance craze sorts of tracks such as ‘Gangham Style’ by Korean artist Psy. While I don’t dislike ‘Gangham Style’ I don’t really ‘get’ it. It just seems like the 2010s answer to ‘The Macarena’ to me. Still, it’s not as bad as ‘Bom Bom’ by Sam and The Womp, because, frankly, that song is stupid. 2)
On the high-sugar soda pop corner, we have ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ by Taylor Swift. It sounds like it could easily have come out of the ’90s. I file this song with ‘Fireflies’ by Owl City and this year’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepson, in that those songs are infuriatingly annoying, saccharine and full of vexing “like, Oh my Gawd, like totally, like AWESOME” Americanisms, BUT I still really like them. Speaking of Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson, they did indeed collaborate and in doing so both manage to avoid the one-hit-wonder tag, with another sugar soda pop track ‘Good Times’, which is as you might expect (kind of fun, pleasant enough, gets irritating after a while but is alright really).
Referencing back to the ’90s isn’t all bad news. The 1990s was pretty much the last time Robbie Williams released an enjoyable song, and his new single ‘Candy’ is his best since then. ‘Lost In Your Love’ by Redlight is in a style of dance music which we haven’t seen become a top hit in a while, and it is a welcome return. If you remember when Tori Amos reached number one in 1997 with an Armand van Helden remix of ‘Professional Widow’, retitled ‘Professional Widow (It’s Gotta Be Big)’ then similarly Florence and the Machine got her first number one with a remix of ‘Spectrum’ , retitled ‘Spectrum (Say My Name)’ this year. The remix of ‘Spectrum’ was done by Calvin Harris, who had apparently wanted to work with Florence Welch for some time. They collaborated on another track on this CD, a nice little dance tune called ‘Sweet Nothing’ which also went to the top of the charts
They weren’t the only example of a male dance producer and a female indie vocalist having two big hits this year. David Guetta and Sia previously had a huge hit with ‘Titanium’, and released a follow-up also included on this CD called ‘She Wolf (Falling To Pieces)’, which no isn’t a cover version or a sample of the Shakira hit from a couple of years ago. That might have been more interesting though, as the track they did make is an example of diminishing returns, as it is quite dull and something of an inferior more-of-the-same sequel to ‘Titanium’.
Guitar music appears to be making a comeback of sorts into the charts, with pop-rock acts like Lawson and Karmin included on this album, as well as some indie bands such as fun. and Mumford & Sons who have enjoyed success this year. The last track on the album is ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow, which although was very much a song heard a lot in 2008, after their performance on the Olympics it managed to re-peak at number 4 thanks to download sales.
As seems to have been the case with pop music for the past decade or so, it is a bit of a mix-and-match time. We have indie songstresses having electro backing tracks, like Ellie Goulding – ‘Anything Could Happen’ and we have boybands using guitars like One Direction seemingly trying to sound like the Beatles with ‘Live While We’re Young’. I suppose referencing them is their way of trying to invoke another “British invasion” with their success in the US.
There are a lot of electro beats mixed with rock guitar sounds generally, which I have to say is a sound I’m liking at the moment, and it’s one that features in my favourite songs on here. We have a handful of sassy and energetic pop songs tracks from Pink – ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss), Nicki Minaj – ‘Pound The Alarm’ and Rita Ora – ‘How We Do (Party)’, despite all three of those songs included here being very choppily edited radio versions. My favourite song on this compilation is ‘Wonderful’ by Angel, the strumming guitar, smooth vocals and an electro beat make it quite a creative track. 3)
Special mention though goes to ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ by Labrinth and Emeli Sande, which is a fairly conventional song, but is a lovely classy ballad.
1) There are a lot of summery songs on here, and it sounds very weird listening to songs about sunbathing and beaches like ‘Heatwave’ by Wiley and ‘Under The Sun’ by Cheryl Cole during cold British winter. One of those tracks, ‘Summer Paradise’, is also the most random collaboartion on the album; emo band Simple Plan and “everywhere ten years ago, rarely seen now” dancehall act Sean Paul.
2) ‘Bom Bom’ is the worst song on the album, but it has a run for its money. The Wanted and JLS both have tracks which sees the two boybands release songs with irritating falsettos and messy production which sounds like they are trying to copy off Justin Timberlake from 2006, which is strange as 6 years is a long time in pop music and not really long enough for nostalgia appeal. Still, their voices aren’t as excruciating as Adam Levine from Maroon 5 on ‘One More Night’.
3) Angel is one of those pop stars who was a songwriter for other acts before he was a popstar, the text in the booklet reveals that he co-wrote ‘Green Light’ by Roll Deep.
4) The “Didn’t click with me until hearing it on the Now album” award: Wiley feat. Skepta, JME & Ms D – ‘Can You Hear Me? (Ayayaya)’. The “I like it, there I’ve said it” Award: Amelia Lily – ‘You Bring Me Joy’.