Now 98

Now 98 goes for a skiing themed cover. I guess I can see how they arrived there:  winter-snow-skiing. The first track isn’t very snowy at all, as Latin influenced pop is back in the charts again. It is a well deserved track 1 CD 1 placing for ‘Havana’ by Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug.

Camila Cabello is Cuban-American, so it references her heritage, Havana being the capital city of Cuba.

The track ‘Havana’ is a very fun, sexy Latin pop song and has been a massive hit, topping the UK singles chart for 5 weeks. I LOVE the video, it’s very funny and Camila Cabello does a good job playing different characters.

‘rockstar’ by Post Malone feat. 21 Savage was a Translantic charttopper. As songs titled “Rockstar” go, it’s not as terrible as the Nickelback song, but it’s nowhere near as good as the N*E*R*D song.

The title of the Post Malone feat. 21 Savage ‘rockstar’ is all in lowercase, which is in contrast on this compilation to all the artists who have their name spelled all in capital letters, namely CNCO, ZAYN, SZA, ALMA and MK.

‘What About Us’ by Pink is not a cover of the Saturdays feat. Sean Paul charttopper from 2012. It is a very nice song though, in fact it’s lovely. But it’s one of those songs that sounds good every time you hear it in the radio, but you kind of forget about after it’s finished no matter how many times you hear it, and this song has been played a lot on the radio. A lot.

‘Galway Girl’ by Ed Sheeran seems a bit of a random inclusion considering it was from the beginning of the year, though Now albums occasionally include songs like that on the last album if they didn’t get them on before. ‘Galway Girl’ is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, I know it’s very novelty “Oirish”, but I really enjoy it. It’s clearly a very popular song despite lots of people saying they hate it, but I suppose, to quote a famous Irishman Terry Wogan, “It’s just the public that like it then”.

Sam Smith went to number one with ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’, the first single from his second album. The version included on Now 98 is the main ballad version, but to be honest I find it very slow and boring. But I LOVE the Galantis remix which turns into more of a dance track, and I think it actually showcases Sam Smith’s voice a lot more.

‘Anywhere’ by Rita Ora is a nice pop-dance track and it was a big hit, reaching number 2, but personally I prefer Rita Ora’s song with Avicci on here, ‘Lonely Together’, it’s a gorgeous track. The first thought I had when I saw the title was a line from the Futurama Christmas episode ‘Xmas Story’ in which Leela says to Fry that they are “lonely together”, and I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, and I won’t spoiler it here, but the video is very like ‘Meanwhile’, the final ever episode of Futurama.

‘Young, Dumb & Broke’ by Khalid has a church organ and electro beats, and is a little miserable. Khalid also has a track with Marshmello, ‘Silence’, which is an elegant dance track. Khalid makes a third appearance on this compilation, but I’ll talk about that later on.

‘Friends’ by Justin Bieber & BloodPop is really good, mainly due to BloodPop’s excellent production, but working with good producers is why Justin Bieber has turned out to do well as a popstar now. A lot of the songs on Now 98 show that teaming up with the right producer can work wonders.

‘More Than Friends’ by James Hype feat. Kelli-Leigh is not a one-upmanship battle with the above Justin Bieber track, like when Big Brother 8 contestant Chanelle Hayes released a song called ‘I Want It’ so her rival Charley Uchea released a track called ‘I Want It More’. That reference is increasingly obscure, but then BB8 was, let’s look it up, 10 YEARS AGO!!!

Anyway, ‘More Than Friends’ is actually a reworking of the ’90s classic ‘Don’t Let Go (Love)’ by En Vogue, which was a number 5 hit 20 YEARS AGO!!!!!! Time marches on
faster than any of us notice, doesn’t it? ‘More Than Friends’ is a good cover/remake, but I definitely think the original is better.

CNCO are a boyband who won an American Spanish singing contest, and they have been launched in the UK by collaborating with Little Mix, who we all know as a girlgroup who won The X Factor. The song is ‘Reggaeton Lento (Remix)’ and it’s a decent track.

The former One Direction boys continue with their solo careers. ZAYN feat. Sia – ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ is by far the best. It’s a little melodramatic, but it is the classiest of the One Direction solo stuff on here. Louis Tomlinson’s effort ‘Back To You’ is described in the CD booklet as his “second solo single which features Bebe Rexha and Digital Farm Animals”. But most of it is sung by Bebe Rexha, she even sings some of Louis Tomlinson’s parts with him! He gets a vocoder effect on his voice too, because let’s face it, he still can’t sing. As Digital Farm Animals are the producers, then Louis Tomlinson probably contributes the least to this track, but he gets top billing  because, well, he used to be in One Direction. ‘Get Low’ by Zedd & Liam Payne isn’t a cover of the Lil Jon & The East Side Boys track, it’s an original, if incredibly generic, song. Liam Payne has another song too, the worst of the ex-One Direction songs on here, ‘Bedroom Floor’. The CD booklet mentions that Liam Payne is an “avid Harry Potter fan”. That has nothing to do with the song, apparently they just thought they’d mention it.

Dua Lipa has ‘New Rules’ on here, which reached number one. She seems to be everywhere, she does exceptionally well on streaming, but she seems oddly anonymous somehow? Like she isn’t making much of an impression despite the success.

Speaking of anonymous, Charlie Puth has a track called ‘How Long’, which sounds like something Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars might do, and I think people when hearing
this song will just assume that it is them.

Craig David’s comeback continues to go well, with his song on Now 98 ‘Heartlines’ one of his best in years. It was produced by Jonas Blue.

‘Swish Swish’ by Katy Perry feat. Nicki Minaj samples ‘Star 69’ by Fatboy Slim, which in turn sampled ‘I Get Deep’ by Roland Clark. Yep, I bet we’re going to see more and more songs which sample something which was already a sample in the first place, they’ll be like matryoshka nesting dolls. Anyway, ‘Swish Swish’ is something to do with when Taylor Swift’s petty, vindictive wrath was directed at Katy Perry in the form of ‘Bad Blood’ because Katy Perry, I don’t know, used the same dancers as Taylor Swift or whatever the hell it was.

Chris Brown has a track on here, ‘Questions’. Yeah, Chris Brown is still “a thing”, apparently. The track samples the 2004 number 2 hit ‘Turn Me On’ by Kevin Lyttle,
but I’d hardly call how much of it ended up in ‘Questions’ a “sample”, it has so much of ‘Turn Me On’ it might as well be a cover version of it. Stick with the original.

‘Finders Keepers’ by Mabel feat. Kojo Funds has nothing to do with the ’90s CITV gameshow presented by Neil Buchanan, and Jet from Gladiators in later years. That’s
really showing my age if I haven’t already. I am technically a Millenial, but one of the older ones. Mabel is the daughter of Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack record producer Cameron McVey.

Marshmello is a dance DJ who does that same kind of “dance producer wearing a mask” thing as Daft Punk and deadmau5 do, in Marshmello’s case the mask is of, what else, a marshmallow, with crosses for eyes and a smile drawn on. He has a second song after ‘Silence’, called ‘Wolves’, sung by Selena Gomez. In the CD booklet, the picture for it is of Selena Gomez, Marshmello and a wolf, with the word WOLVES in big letters and the ‘O’ being the full moon. It looks like a badly photoshopped bootleg horror movie poster.

Clean Bandit have another guest singer, Julia Michaels, on ‘I Miss You’, and her voice is so whiney! The vocoder makes it worse if anything. I somewhat like how psychotic and bunny boiler-ish the lyrics are though. The protagonist says she’s saved all the best texts over the years and how she is “wishing I could be your bottle so I could be close to your lips again” (!)

The video for Charli XCX – ‘Boys’ was massively hyped up on social media, but after all that the song only reached number 31 in the charts. Dare I suggest that the song’s flimsy and vapid and musically it sounds like a dying ancient games console, so that’s why it couldn’t stand up on its own terms?

Big Shaq – ‘Mans Not Hot’ has been a big internet meme and a top ten hit, getting to number 5. Big Shaq technically doesn’t exist however, he’s a fictional rapper played by comedian Michael Dapaah for a mockumentary YouTube series SWIL. I haven’t seen it, but from ‘Mans Not Hot’ it is, like Spinal Tap, believable and well-observed parody of the type of music it is affectionately sending up, so I kind of like it.

CamelPhat & Elderbrook – ‘Cola’ sounds like a particularly unappetising option on a menu, but it is actually 3 DJs, 2 are CamelPhat and 1 is Elderbrook. The song… has a lot of different noises in it I guess, but on the whole it’s awful.

The worst track on the compilation though is ‘Little Bit Leave It’ by Chris and Kem, it’s annoying crap. Apparently they are two guys from Love Island, which yes I know “the
whole nation was talking about it” etc, but frankly I didn’t watch Love Island, I don’t care about Love Island.

I quite like ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ by Demi Lovato as a track, vocally and musically it’s good, though I don’t like the phrase “Sorry not sorry”. I know the list of popular slang I don’t care for seems to be getting longer by the day, but it is annoying! Don’t say “sorry” in the first place if you don’t mean it.

Still, that saying is kind of harmless. “Man up” is a phrase I really hate, I think that one is harmful in some ways. Paloma Faith isn’t a fan of it either, as she says on her song ‘Crybaby’ “you don’t have to Man Up. That phrase kind of sucks”. The song is about men not being afraid of their emotions and not to keep bottling things up, which is a very real issue currently given how high male suicide rates are.

Suicide, of course, can effect anyone. Towards the end of CD2, we have Logic, Alessia Cara & Khalid – ‘1-800-273-8255’. The number in the song title is America’s national suicide prevention lifeline. In the UK we have The Samaritans, I suppose this line is something very similar. The song is a bit of a tearjerker, about feelings of depression, suicide and loneliness, but also about getting through it, and for people in the US that the number is there if they need someone to talk to about it. For those of us in the UK, there is The
Samaritans.

‘Wall Of Glass’ by Liam Gallagher is, believe it or not, his debut solo single! He is best known for being in Oasis, and he was in another band later called Beady Eye. He has made appearances in other charted songs though. He provided handclaps on ‘History’ by The Verve, which got to number 24 in 1995. He got to number 6 in 1999 with ‘Carnation’, which was a duet with Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene. He also got to number 14 in 2002 with ‘Scorpio Rising’, as a guest vocalist for Death In Vegas. But, technically, ‘Wall Of Glass’ is his first single as a solo performer.

Now 98 feels a bit more like a summer Now album than a winter one somehow. The winter release often has summer songs on it, but I mean more in the sense that Now 98
doesn’t really feel like a big Christmas release. But it’s fine, as often is the case it’s a decent selection and has variety.

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