Now 94

now94Now 94 has one of the most beautiful covers the franchise has ever done, set in an ocean or aquarium surounded by colourful coral and fish. It was probably inspired by the summer blockbuster film Finding Dory, and some of the fish include clownfish, which is what Nemo and Marlin are, though I can’t see any regal blue tang fish, which is what Dory herself is.

What is remarkable about Now 94 is it’s one of the few Now! compilations to have no number one singles whatsoever.  There haven’t been many number ones in the last few months, with ‘One Dance’ by Drake feat. Wizkid and Kyla, staying at number one for 15 weeks! It isn’t included on this compilation. ‘One Dance’ hasn’t really had much of an impact despite its long run. It has been slightly controversial though, as it stayed at number one for so long due to streaming. On the sales only chart it was only number one for 4 weeks, and ‘One Dance’ wasn’t even top ten on sales only in its final week as an official number one.

I wonder if this may lead to a rethink in the chart rules in how much streaming counts towards the chart, as its debatable how accurate a reflection it is on a songs popularity, and its becoming too easy to manipulate, plus for a while this year people have been complaining about how static the charts have become since streaming was included. But I’m supposed to be talking about Now 94, and ‘One Dance’ isn’t even on it, so let’s move on.

The song which is track 1 on CD 1, ‘This Is What You Came For’ by Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna, has something in common with ‘One Dance’ though, in that its a very bland, boring and forgettable song that has been overshadowed by a controversy around it.

‘This Is What You Came For’ was written by Calvin Harris and Taylor Swift while they were still together, but apparently given the level of publicity the couple were getting at the time, it was decided that Taylor Swift would be credited under a pseudonym, Nils Sjöberg . Then they split up, and after the song became a big hit Taylor Swift’s team stated that it was indeed co-written by her, and Calvin Harris confirmed it on his Twitter account, and went on to imply she was trying to make him look bad, and that she makes a habit of doing that such as to Katy Perry and others. Then a bit later, in response to Taylor Swift’s earlier offence taking about Kanye West’s track ‘Famous’, Kanye West’s wife Kim Kardashian released recordings of Kanye West and Taylor Swift discussing, on seemingly friendly terms, lyrics to what would become ‘Famous’. It was all a bit like those high school movies and TV shows where the spoilt, manipulative chief Mean Girl finally gets her comeuppance, only this was involving famous celebrities who are grown adults!

‘Work From Home’ is a slickly produced song performed by pop-R&B girlgroup Fifth Harmony and rapper Ty Dolla $ign. (How is that pronounced then? Ty Dolla dollar signign?!) ‘Work From Home’ peaked at number 2 in the UK. It is Fifth Harmony’s biggest
hit to date, and rightly as it is a great track!

‘Cake By The Ocean’ by DNCE is a fun, summery track. The video shows the band performing on a beach where there is a ginormous slice of cake. The title however was inspired by the song’s Swedish producers Mattman & Robin mistranslating the cocktail Sex on the Beach as “cake by the ocean”. Which makes me remember the 1997 Eurodance hit ‘Sex On The Beach’ by T-Spoon, which was NINETEEN YEARS AGO!!! That’s showing my age!

To be fair, the 1990s resurgence is still continuing. ‘Give Me Your Love’ by Sigala feat. John Newman & Nile Rodgers sounds very like something that could have come out in the mid-’90s. Cheat Codes x Kriss Kross Amsterdam – ‘Sex’ is a reworking of Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s 1991 number 2 hit ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’. The video for the Cheat Codes x Kriss Kross Amsterdam version is very funny. Finbarr Saunders from Viz would like all the innuendos. A night school sex education class featuring a saucy glamorous teacher pours cream over bananas and gets her class of awkward looking men to stuff a sausage into a muffin, smack a salmon, butter a biscuit, slam down a ham, knock boots, hide a bishop pawn, bury a bone etc. It’ll probably be better at attempt at a modern Carry On film than the one which might end up being made.

Louisa Johnson’s The X Factor winner’s single didn’t make Now 93, but her first “proper” release as a new popstar does, in a collaboration with dance act Clean Bandit titled ‘Tears’, and it’s very good! Clean Bandit deliver another classy track, and it suits Louisa’s voice, so this kind of music might be a good direction for her to go in.

‘Just Like Fire’ by Pink is from the new Alice Through The Looking Glass film. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the film lyrically, though it is a decent pop-rock song, and the video features memorable images inspired by the story, such as going through a magic mirror, living chess pieces, and a Mad Hatter’s teaparty. It also features Pink’s husband and daughter, as well as Pink performing some acrobatics.

The Chainsmokers songs I’ve heard so far have ranged from the awful (‘#SELFIE’) to the marvellous (‘Roses’), and the track on this compilation ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ is very much in the middle. It’s quite nice, it’s OK, it’s fine, it doesn’t particularly stand out, it’s radio friendly.

Justins Timberlake and Bieber as well as first names in common both have incredibly generic songs on here, ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ and ‘Company’ respectively. Seriously, you could swap the titles or the surnames around and nobody would be able to tell the difference.

Calum Scott was on Britain’s Got Talent singing a cover of Robyn’s brilliant ‘Dancing On My Own’, and it has been re-recorded and released professionally, and has outpeaked the original. Why do the British public always buy flavourless, dull versions of songs if they’ve seen someone perform it on one of Simon Cowell’s reality TV programmes? Calum Scott’s version of this song even sounds bored of itself, it’s not a The X Factor winner’s song, but it might as well be.

Meghan Trainor’s new single ‘NO’ sounds a bit retro, as usual, but like pop-R&B from the late ’90s/early 2000s. See, she might make it to the 21st century yet! It’s a bit irritating in that usual “oooh, aren’t I sassy?” way she does, but ‘NO’ is her best/least awful song to date.

‘Close’ by Nick Jonas feat. Tove Lo has icy production and a tropical house sound at the same time, which makes me think of ‘Tropical Ice-Land’ by the Fiery Furnaces, even though ‘Close’ and ‘Tropical Ice-Land’ sound nothing like each other.

Tove Lo also appears on ‘Desire’ by Years & Years. It’s a collaboration that works well, if anything she’s a bit underused. Maybe they could work together again?

The compilation gets a bit more indie-ish towards the end of CD1. I’d love it if ‘Good Grief’ by Bastille was inspired by Coldplay’s ‘Charlie Brown’, but I don’t think it was. Coldplay themselves appear with ‘Up & Up’, which is a bit of an all-star cast as it features Beyonce on backing vocals and Noel Gallagher performing a guitar solo.

Coldplay covered Viola Beach’s ‘Boys That Sing’ at Glastonbury this year as a tribute to the band who tragically died along with their manager in a car accident earlier this year, and Viola Beach’s original version is on this CD. ‘Boys That Sing’ is by far one of the best songs on here. Their posthumously released debut album made it to number one in the album charts.

CD2 opens with Gnash feat. Olivia O’Brien – ‘I Hate U, I Love U’, which is written all in lowercase for some reason. It’s a bit like in Now 91 when Rita Ora and Walk The Moon’s names were written all in capital letters. I’m guessing it’s some kind of glitch. Anyway, I imagine Gnash has nothing to do with Dennis The Menace’s pet dog Gnasher, not sure where he got his name from though. If you think I’m putting off having to talk about the song then you’d be right, as I can’t think of much to say about the song. It’s boring, mopey, moany and lethargic.

‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’ by Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez is just as much of a slog to get through as ‘I Hate U, I Love U’, but on a larger budget… and it manages to be the worse of the two songs.

On the whole, CD2 is much more urban. While ‘One Dance’ isn’t on this compilation, another Drake song ‘Hotline Bling’ is, and for me it’s a much better song than ‘One Dance’ anyway. People have jokingly connected ‘Hotline Bling’ with Adele’s ‘Hello’, with them both being about break-ups and late night phone calls.

Rapper Desiigner might have a bit of a daft spelling, like The Weeknd and Shift K3Y, but to be fair I suppose it might be so they are easy to find on internet search engines and easier to register on social media. Anyway, ‘Panda’ by Desiigner is pretty good and made it to number one in the US. It’s not about the black and white bamboo munching bear which lives in China, but about a car. Not a panda car either, but a BMW X6. Personally, I’d quite like a pop song about Panda Pops soft drink.

‘This One’s For You’ by David Guetta feat. Zara Larsson was the official song for UEFA Euro 2016, and is quite uplifting in that international sports tournament “lots of countries coming together” sort of way.

I hated what Jonas Blue did to Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, but I do like the follow-up single, a tropical house number called ‘Perfect Strangers’, which Jonas Blue wrote himself along with collaborator JP Cooper

Now 94, despite having one of the nicest covers, is one of the worst compilations since I’ve been reviewing them. A pattern is emerging in that while there aren’t any drastic lowpoints, it’s all a bit banal. There are loads of dreary acoustic tracks and faceless forgettable dance which just blur into one. It’s like the aural equivalent of the pots of murky water that are used to wash paint brushes. A lot of the tracks sound very much like they are supposed to be in the background, played while you’re concentrating on something else on your phone or laptop. Perhaps its to do with streaming being included on the charts, I’m not sure, but while there are a lot of songs here I like, Now 94 is one of the least interesting in the Now! series.

NOTES

1) The X Factor series 12  runners-up Reggie ‘N’ Bollie appear too, with ‘New Girl’. It’s amazing just how long ago it seems though. The new series hasn’t even started yet at the time of writing, and it feels like so much time has passed since then.

2) With Joe Jonas as the frontman of DNCE and Nick Jonas having a solo career, I wondered what the other Jonas brother Kevin is up to these days. While his brothers are still popstars, Kevin Jonas has gone down the route of reality TV like being a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and a cameo in The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Poor Kevin.

3) Sia originally wrote ‘Cheap Thrills’ intending it to be sung by Rihanna, but ended up releasing it herself. Sometimes you wonder how a song might have sounded had the act who it was originally intended had sung it, but to be honest I doubt it would have sounded much different in this case. Sia and Rihanna’s songs sound so similar these days people often confuse them when they hear them.

4) Shawn Mendes – ‘Treat You Better’ is pretty decent, and I think on evidence of this and
‘Stitches’ he shows potential to be a very good popstar one day. There, I’ve said it.

5) ‘The Sound’ by The 1975 was on Now 93, and I didn’t even mention it then, but in between the release of Now 93 and Now 94, ‘The Sound’ has become one of my favorite tracks of the year!

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