We’ve made it to ONE DOZEN installments in our NOW journey!
There aren’t many series that make it to a dozen entries, but “NOW That’s What I Call Music!” is one of the lucky few to reach that magical number. Let’s take a look at what “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 12” had to offer after 11 other releases.
“NOW That’s What I Call Music! 12” was released on March 25, 2003 – the first entry for that year – and this album doesn’t quite match the quality of the previous entry. It has several problems in both song selection and track distribution that really keep it from standing out. Out of the 20 tracks on “NOW 12,” 14 of them could be classified under the “R&B” and “Hip-Hop” genres. While the tracks included in said genres aren’t necessarily bad, it causes the album to stagnate as a whole. Regardless, let’s start our in-depth evaluation from the top.
The first track is “03 Bonnie & Clyde” by Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé. This is a typical combination rap/hip-hop track that I recall having some amount of radio play at the time. Having airplay and being popular doesn’t make it a good track, necessarily, but this is an okay opener. The song is a little slower, which usually makes for a bad opening, but Jay-Z’s rap combined with Beyoncé’s singing make up for a lot of it. It’s a shame the musical backing sounds really cheap and rushed. There is some good in the first few hip-hop songs, though.
Specifically, the 8th track on the album, “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg featuring a much younger Pharrell, is a standout. I’m not usually one for slower beats, but they pair so well with Snoop’s strong rap that he makes me interested in the tracks. Pharrell’s backup vocals are also a very positive addition, with him showcasing the high-pitched voice that we’ve come to know quite well in modern times. But, again, this album is a real back-and-forth when it comes to track choices.
Immediately following “Beautiful” is the track “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love)” by JC Chasez. This guy was with the Backstreet Boys and is apparently continuing their downward spiral, even in a solo career. This track is incredibly grating. It consists of a musical backing that jumps in so many directions at once that it only succeeds in confusing your ears. The vocals are a combination of whispers, high pitches, and backup vocals that are as all over the place as the music. It’s like this song had no idea what it wanted to be.
Moving out of the “R&B” section, we find that the last few songs are hit-and-miss as well. Vanessa Carlton’s “Pretty Baby” is a hard miss for her. It lacks the individuality of her previous two tracks and cuts out her own unique sound. It’s bland, flat, and really disappointing considering her track record. While it is nice to step away from the “R&B” packed beginning, this was a poor song to get the train moving away from that section.
In an oddly refreshing change of pace, “NOW 12” actually features a country song. “Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban is your typical country-pop hit, but in this context it’s actually refreshing on the ears. Normally, I’m not one for twangy guitar and southern drawls, but after an hour of nothing but synth-beats and slow jams, this song was a welcome respite, regardless of the genre.
Overall, “NOW 12” goes back to the lackluster quality that has dominated the series. The imbalance of musical types, the poor pacing, and the generally poor song choice leads to an entry that fails to impress. It’s hard to imagine that they can’t get it right after 12 entries – but, admittedly, they have to work with what’s popular at the time. Instead of questioning the producers of the “NOW” series, we should probably question the populace at the time of release. How could you make JC Chasez a hit? Do you really listen to 75% R&B and Hip-Hop? Why that one country song?
Regardless of the answers, “NOW 12” earns its place squarely on the “do not buy” list.
For those of you that are really, really into R&B (or just love that one Keith Urban song), here’s the complete track listing for “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 12”:
1. “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” by Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé
2. “Bump, Bump, Bump” by B2K featuring P. Diddy
3. “Jenny from the Block” by Jennifer Lopez
4. “Don’t Mess with My Man” by Nivea ft. Brian & Brandon Casey of Jagged Edge
5. “Luv U Better” by LL Cool J
6. “Air Force Ones” by Nelly featuring St. Lunatics
7. “Made You Look” by Nas
8. “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell and Uncle Charlie Wilson
9. “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love)” by JC Chasez
10. “Like I Love You” by Justin Timberlake featuring Clipse
11. “Breathe” by Télépopmusik
12. “I Should Be…” by Dru Hill
13. “Stole” by Kelly Rowland
14. “Miss You” by Aaliyah
15. “Angel” by Amanda Perez
16. “Pretty Baby” by Vanessa Carlton
17. “Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban
18. “The Red” by Chevelle
19. “Always” by Saliva
20. “When I’m Gone” by 3 Doors Down