We’ve made it to the 17th iteration of the “NOW That’s What I Call Music!” series. That may sound like a lot, but we’ve currently got 38 more of these bad boys to tackle. On with 17!
“NOW That’s What I Call Music! 17” was released on November 2, 2004. It’s the first album in a little while that features an almost perfect split between its R&B half and its “other” half. While that equates to a balanced album, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a good album. This NOW in particular seems to have a weak first half and a strong second half, a development that has rarely happened in the past. We’ll go from track 1.
The album opens with – literally – the perfect song for opening any album. “Let’s Get It Started” by The Black Eyed Peas can open anything from a senior prom to a can of cola and make it great. High energy, a-lot-but-not-too-much radio play, and it puts you in a mood to listen to great music.
Unfortunately, the album strings you along with mediocre music for a majority of the first half.
I hate to generalize, but with this particular time period in music, I feel like I must: R&B and hip-hop songs during the mid-2000s all sound very, very similar to one another. It was during my listening of this particular “NOW” that I noticed it. During the first half, the traditionally “R&B and hip-hop” section, I found myself repeatedly checking to see if the song had changed. The tracks sounded so much alike, with the same super-processed beats and synthesized tracks, that I almost thought they were one giant (long) song.
Now, it may just be a problem with the songs on “NOW 17,” but it’s a serious one. It’s all bland and homogenized. The second half opens up a little more and allows more interesting tunes to pop through, so we’ll discuss those tracks in detail.
The second half gets off to a rough start itself. I’d consider the 12th track the starting point for it. That track happens to be “Angels” by Jessica Simpson. Miss Simpson has apparently become the next Mandy Moore for this series because I can’t seem to find a nice word to say. This particular cover is whiny, aggravating, and not much better than a cat crying. Funny enough, though, Simpson’s sister also makes an appearance on this album with a much better performance.
Ashlee Simpson makes her “NOW” debut with “Pieces of Me.” It’s an upbeat, punk-pop tune that’s almost reminiscent of the Britney Spears pop-princess era. It’s different than those songs, though, relying on a few more real instruments and non-synthesized tunes to make it more interesting. I found myself groaning when I saw who the song was by, but it grew on me.
Another positive track in the second half is “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand. This is probably the MVP of the album. I never heard it when I was younger. The first time I heard it was well past the 2004 “hit” period, but it was exceptional. Like any of Cake’s songs, it feels ahead of its time. It has unique vocals and structure making it a totally pleasant and surprising listen.
The album ends with a surprising insertion of country music. I mean, it sucks that Gretchen Wilson is back with “Here for the Party,” but Keith Urban redeems the country inclusion with his track “Days Go By.” It has just enough of a country edge combined with a fast-paced, modern sound to be a worthwhile, listenable song. “1985” by Bowling for Soup is another listenable, if not overplayed, track. I really only advocate this track in lieu of other seriously good tracks. This is one of those “NOW”s.
Overall, “NOW 17” is irredeemable. The opening selections are so bad that they have to be grouped into one giant negative comment and even the second half is weighted down by several bad tracks. If you haven’t gathered by now, “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 17” is a complete pass. It’s a shame Franz Ferdinand had to be buried among the piles of musical garbage.
For those who enjoy giant musical garbage dumps, here’s the full track listing for “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 17”:
1. “Let’s Get It Started” by The Black Eyed Peas 3:36
2. “Lean Back” by Terror Squad featuring Fat Joe and Remy 4:07
3. “Goodies” by Ciara featuring Petey Pablo 3:43
4. “I Like That” by Houston featuring Chingy, Nate Dogg & I-20 3:46
5. “Ch-Check It Out” by Beastie Boys 3:10
6. “My Place” by Nelly featuring Jaheim 4:31
7. “Sunshine” by Lil’ Flip featuring Lea 3:40
8. “You & Me” by J-Kwon 4:23
9. “Why?” by Jadakiss featuring Anthony Hamilton 4:01
10. “Locked Up” by Akon featuring Styles P 3:49
11. “Baby It’s You” by JoJo 3:12
12. “Angels” by Jessica Simpson 4:03
13. “One Thing” by Finger Eleven 4:30
14. “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot 4:06
15. “Cold” by Crossfade 3:13
16. “Pieces of Me” by Ashlee Simpson 3:35
17. “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand 3:56
18. “1985” by Bowling for Soup 3:12
19. “Here for the Party” by Gretchen Wilson 3:16
20. “Days Go By” by Keith Urban 3:44