Now 85

now85For the summer release the Now! album have gone as is tradition with a beach holiday theme. This one has surfboards, a tropical beach background with palm trees, seagulls and frisbees. It’s a similar cover to this year’s US summer Now album Now 46.

The first track is the big hit of the first half of 2013, the million selling ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk. It was co-written by Nile Rodgers from Chic and features vocals from Pharrell Williams. It has been by far Daft Punk’s biggest hit. With all that in mind I feel that I should like it more than I do. While it is a good song I only somewhat like it. I was in a similar position last year with ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ by Gotye featuring Kimbra. Still, I like ‘Get Lucky’ a lot more than the other big song of the year ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. The appeal of this song is lost on me. I just find it tedious and annoying to listen to. Like ‘Get Lucky’ though it also features vocals from Pharrell Williams. Who would have thought Pharrell Williams would be on two of the biggest songs of 2013?

Both ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Blurred Lines’ show a trend which a few male solo singers are going for, that is towards using funk, disco and soul influences and brass sounds in their songs. On this album we have Justin Timberlake – ‘Mirrors’ and Bruno Mars – ‘Treasure’ also  moving in that direction. (1)

While he’s never been the “coolest” male solo singer, Michael Buble has a brassy trumpet heavy summer track ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’. The cheerful title and backing track contrast with the song lyrics which are bitter comments aimed at a cheating ex. It’s also kind of a remake of Buble’s biggest “pop” moment ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’.

It is similar case with Taylor Swift’s ’22’, which again is a “happy” song filled with passive aggressive barbs at an ex, and is strikingly similar to a previous big pop hit from the act, in Swift’s case ’22’ is very like her ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’. I quite like ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’, but can’t stand ’22’. Maybe it’s because I always zigzag with whether I like Taylor Swift or not anyway. Sometimes I just find her annoying, and ’22’ is an incredibly annoying song.

It’s far from the most annoying song on the album though. That would be ‘La La La’ by Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith. The hook of that song is a kid putting fingers in their ears and saying “La la la”. I’m aware there have been worse songs that have got to the top but seriously, this was a number one hit?!?

Dance music has done well in the charts in the first half of 2013 though. As well as Daft Punk scoring their biggest hit to date we’ve had classy, finely produced dance hits such as ‘I Need Your Love’ by Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding, ‘Need U (100%)’ by Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E and ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ by Armin Van Buuren feat. Trevor Guthrie. (2)

On the other end of the scale in quality is ‘Feel This Moment’ by Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera. It uses a re-recorded melody from the A-Ha classic ‘Take On Me’, but neither that nor Xtina belting out can lift such a throwaway track as ‘Feel This Moment’. Similarly there is ‘Play Hard’ by David Guetta feat. Ne-Yo & Akon. This track is just plain uninspired. It has a cliched “work hard and play hard” lyrics and dreary vocals from Ne-Yo and Akon. The song it samples is ‘Better Off Alone’ by DJ Jurgen presents Alice Deejay, which probably deserved better than to be used to make ‘Play Hard’.

‘I Love It’ by Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX was released over a year ago in other countries before we got it in the UK, but in some ways I think this summer was a great time to release it here. We’ve had a heatwave this year, while last year it was rather cloudy throughout, and the song suits genuinely warm weather. I also think it fits in better with the current music landscape than it would have done last year. In any case I hope it allows Charli XCX to have more hits, as she has done some songs I like a lot such as ‘Stay Away’ and ‘What I Like’.

With UK urban music, Wiley has been more consistent commercially speaking than he has before. I’m not sure he will ever crossover into the mainstream quite as much as Dizzee Rascal has managed, but Wiley has had several top ten hits in the last couple of years. The one included on this compilation is ‘Lights On’ which features Angel and Tinchy Stryder, and personally I really like it. Dizzee Rascal also features on a couple of songs on this album, on his own track ‘Goin’ Crazy’ which features Robbie Williams, and on Jessie J’s track ‘Wild’ along with a US rapper Big Sean.

Passenger’s ‘Let Her Go’, a pleasant if melancholy ballad, was one of the surprise hits of the year. The name Passenger might make people think the act is a full band, and it used to be, but in its current incarnation it just the frontman, singer and guitarist Mike Rosenberg. On the male singer-songwriter front we also have Tom Odell with eerie, sombre piano ballad ‘Another Love’.

The album also includes a couple of slow burner indie rock tracks, which climbed and stayed on the top 40 for months, ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons and ‘Chocolate’ by The 1975. ‘Radioactive’ is one of those tracks that is proving to be a popular soundtrack choice, seeming to appear on pretty much everything. It may be that reason that of the two I prefer ‘Chocolate’. While both are good songs, ‘Chocolate’ hasn’t become as ubiquitous, so I’m not as desensitised to hearing it as I’ve become with ‘Radioactive’.

This CD includes many summer anthems on it for people to choose. It contains two of my personal favourite summer tracks from this year. One is the incredibly catchy ‘Antenna’ by British-Ghanaian rapper Fuse ODG, and the other is ‘Still Into You’ by Paramore, which is a very fun and lively pop-rock track.

Notes

1) The male solo pop singers seem to be moving away from  the electro-dance pop sound they have been doing for the last few years, although I quite like an example of it on this album, ‘The Other Side’ by Jason Derulo, even if it is very generic.

2) According to the booklet, Armin Van Buuren has a law degree which was apparently a “backup plan” in case his DJ/producing career failed to take off.

3) Pink has a track ‘True Love’ which features Lily Allen. I thought Lily Allen was going by Lily Rose Cooper now? She’s credited as that in the  writing credits for the song anyway.

4) Both Psy and The Saturdays have songs called ‘Gentleman’ on this album. Coincidentally both songs were also underperforming follow-ups to number one hits. In Psy’s case, ‘Gentleman’ is a bit of a rehash of ‘Gangnam Style’, and it looks like that he’ll probably fit into the “not technically a one-hit-wonder, but might as well have been” file. As for The Saturdays, ‘Gentleman’ isn’t a rehash of ‘What About Us?’, but they might have been better off doing that as ‘Gentleman’ is a bit of a random mess of a song.

5) You sometimes get old songs on a Now CD if they have come back in the charts, and this time we have ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble’ by PJ & Duncan, now better known as Ant & Dec. The song only made number 9 when it was first released in 1994, but went to number one earlier this year after Ant & Dec performed it on their Saturday Night Takeaway show, giving all the royalties they got from that to charity. I’m not quite sure why it’s been included on this CD though, as most people have forgotten about it happening already.

6) The Wanted – ‘Walks Like Rihanna’ is by far the most interesting song they’ve ever done, which OK isn’t saying much. It references Rihanna, the video spoofs ’90s boyband videos by N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys and Take That, and the song idea is similar to ‘Do It With Madonna’ by The Androids. It seems The Wanted are most interesting the less a song has to do with them.

7)  I have a couple of sort-of guilty pleasures on the CD, in that they are songs I quite enjoy but which I can see flaws in. One is ‘Heart Attack’ by Demi Lovato, a melodramatic ballad with stormy production and Lovato showing that yes, she has a good voice, but she oversings so much it sounds a bit like she’s trying to blow someone’s brick house down like the Big Bad Wolf. The other is ‘Hey Porsche’ by Nelly, which is fun enough but is basically just “aren’t I cheeky?” innuendo of him talking about fixing his car/chatting up a hot girl.

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