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.