NOW That’s What I Call A History returns today with Volume 18.
This anthology of then-recent hit songs dropped on March 15, 2005, the first for the year. To its credit, this album continues the trend of presenting a balanced selection of popular music with almost a perfect balance for both the R&B and “rock” sides. I welcome this kind of balance because it usually helps to keep the album fresh across all of the tracks. Where was I when this album released? I was finishing up the eighth grade – but I heard a ton of the songs on this album back then, including the first track.
“NOW 18” opens with “Vertigo,” a U2 song that pretty much goes with all of the other U2 songs; right in the wastebasket. While the musical backing for this particular track is upbeat with some good rock elements, the vocal accompaniment sounds like screeching for the most part. Bono’s strained performance and the filters put over the voice just lead to an overall uncomfortable feel. The energy level is appropriate, but it’s just not a quality song.
A song I found myself enjoying immensely was Ashanti’s “Only U.” This song hit the right notes when it came to a female-led R&B love song. Ashanti has a pleasant voice that lends well to this type of song. The way her voice mixes with the typical backing music is almost perfect. It’s like the music wasn’t terrible, it just needed to find the right voice to go with it. Subject matter, of course, is still the same shallow theme that many songs of this genre possess, but I could listen to Ashanti sing about them all day. I probably would’ve passed on this as a kid, but I really enjoy it now.
Other positive additions to this album include “Collide” by Howie Day, “I Just Wanna Live” by Good Charlotte, and, heck, even “You’re My Better Half” by Keith Urban. “Collide” is a great slow-jam to help temper some of the faster hits in the second half. “I Just Wanna Live” had a ton of play in different media back in the day and even though it’s a little overplayed, it’s still a fun, upbeat song to include as a positive note. Finally, Keith Urban’s pop-country sound with “You’re My Better Half” is a super-refreshing finisher, cleansing your palate with something that sounds nothing like the rest of the songs. Plus, it’s not Gretchen Wilson, so it gets major kudos for that.
Negatively, the album features a few “bad” choices, but this is to be expected with an anthology of this type.
One such “bad” choice is Gwen Stefani’s “What Are You Waiting For” right at the beginning of the album. Following U2’s catastrophe of an opener, this song made me feel really glum about the album’s fate. However, I kept on listening and got past it. Something about Stefani’s voice, perhaps the way her words seem short and stunted, is just plain off-putting. We could’ve really done without her.
A couple of the songs fall into the “bad” category simply because they still fit into that homogenized mold that I talked about in the “NOW 17” article. “Soldier” by Destiny’s Child featuring T.I. and Lil Wayne, “Balla Baby” by Chingy, and “Over and Over” by Nelly featuring Tim McGraw fit that mold pretty well, but they definitely don’t detract too much from the overall rating of this album.
As a whole, “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 18” shows that the series still has a bit of a pulse. There are a few songs on the R&B side that break the homogenized trend, giving me hope for the future. The rock/pop side of the album features some pretty positive additions as well. It’s nothing like the great revival of “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 8,” but even ten volumes later it demonstrates how this series has struggled its way to 55 unique entries.
Give “NOW 18” a listen, though. You may find some old hits you love and new favorites you didn’t know existed.
For those of you who’ve been waiting on a positive combination of songs, here’s the full track listing for “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 18”:
1. “Vertigo” by U2
2. “What You Waiting For?” by Gwen Stefani
3. “Rumors” by Lindsay Lohan
4. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell
5. “Soldier” by Destiny’s Child featuring T.I. and Lil Wayne
6. “Only U” by Ashanti
7. “Balla Baby” by Chingy
8. “Used to Love U” by John Legend
9. “Over and Over” by Nelly featuring Tim McGraw
10. “Obsession (No Es Amor)” by Frankie J featuring Baby Bash
11. “O” by Omarion
12. “Collide” by Howie Day
13. “Disappear” by Hoobastank
14. “Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)” by Chevelle
15. “Home” by Three Days Grace
16. “Lady” by Lenny Kravitz
17. “I Just Wanna Live” by Good Charlotte
18. “Jessie’s Girl” by Frickin’ A
19. “Tangled Up in Me” by Skye Sweetnam
20. “You’re My Better Half” by Keith Urban