Let us go once more unto the breach, dear friends, to find, analyze, and determine the quality of “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 13.” Hopefully, that number isn’t unlucky for this particular series of albums.
Do the things the buttons tell you to do!
“NOW 13” came out on July 22, 2003, a few days before I turned 12 years old. It’s really a shame I didn’t ask for it for a birthday present, but back then I had no intention of listening to hours upon hours of subjectively popular music and recording my reaction to it. Being eleven, it probably would’ve read something like, “Not enough Nickelodeon. Needs more fart sounds.” Regardless, let’s take a look at the album through a pair of adult lenses.
Starting from the top, the album opens with Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body.” It could certainly qualify as a slow opening song, but there’s something about the music, the beat, and Timberlake’s voice that lend a sense of energy and vigor to the track. It makes a great “warm-up” to the album, kicking us off with great energy and not something that’s too in-your-face or just plain boring. Plus, it’s Justin Timberlake. He showed his prowess even with the late-game N’Sync, and his solo work is pretty good too.
A few songs later, we encounter “I Can” by Nas. This song is highly reminiscent of 90s rap, with a similar flow and feel. The difference in this one is that the lyrics espouse the totally opposite view that most of those 90s rap songs held. Nas talks about getting an education, respecting yourself, and being wary of HIV. It’s refreshing, and the song as just a song is pretty good, too. I may not listen to it multiple times, but just putting in on this album seemed like a really cool gesture.
Another positive inclusion is “Don’t Wanna Try” by Frankie J. Now, if you’ve been keeping up with these articles, you’ll know that I’m not usually one to compliment slow jams. But, this particular love song/R & B track really hit a home run for me. The musical backing is nothing special, but Frankie J’s combination of quick, rap-like vocals and soothing singing make for a really good love song. I’d actually put this one on a regular playlist.
There are a few bad choices on the album, but they can largely be overlooked. “Girlfriend” by B2K is a boy-band take on rap and hip-hop, but the lyrics are whiny and unpleasant. Maybe if you didn’t simultaneously boast and complain so much, girls would hang out with you more. “Lights Out” by Lisa Marie Presley is just a crappy country-pop-rock hybrid that sounds way over-produced and tries too hard. “Feel” by Robbie Williams sounds like a late-80s, early-90s oddball techno jam. It’s slow and the vocals sound incredibly out of place with the tone.
Overall, though, the album is packed to the brim with excellent songs. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton, “Girl All the Bad Guys Want” by Bowling for Soup, and “In This Diary” by the Ataris are just a few of the tracks that shine on this album. It’s hard to pinpoint and name every track that really stood out because a majority of them were well worth the space on the album and merit repeated listens.
In addition to having an exceptional track list, NOW 13 is balanced as well. Instead of being overloaded with R & B, rap, rock, or any particular genre, the album is split roughly down the middle. With of a 20 track album, balance is key and 13 seems to have found that key. If you’re looking for a varied, exceptional “NOW” listening experience, “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 13” is really the one you should grab. I’d hazard to say that it’s been the best “NOW” I’ve listened to so far. What’s even funnier, if the Wikipedia page on the album is to be believed, “This was the first album in the series not to contain any Billboard Hot 100 #1 Hits.”
The album with no #1s is arguably the best. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to “NOW 13” again. You should, too.
For those craving an awesome selection of music to plug straight into their library, here’s the full track listing for “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 13”:
1. “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake
2. “I’m Glad” by Jennifer Lopez
3. “Girlfriend” by B2K
4. “Excuse Me Miss” by Jay-Z
5. “Hell Yeah” by Ginuwine featuring Baby
6. “Pump It Up” by Joe Budden
7. “I Can” by Nas
8. “Don’t Wanna Try” by Frankie J
9. “If You’re Not the One” by Daniel Bedingfield
10. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton
11. “Feel” by Robbie Williams
12. “Stuck” by Stacie Orrico
13. “Lights Out” by Lisa Marie Presley
14. “Girl All the Bad Guys Want” by Bowling for Soup
15. “In This Diary” by The Ataris
16. “The Hell Song” by Sum 41
17. “Send the Pain Below” by Chevelle
18. “The Road I’m On” by 3 Doors Down
19. “Serenity” by Godsmack
20. “Clocks” by Coldplay