Here’s this week’s look at “NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 2.” The titles of the albums do not get more creative as they go along.
“NOW 2” hit shelves on July 27, 1999, and for a few more days I was still seven years old. I never purchased this album when I was younger, however, I do remember being exposed to many more of the tracks on “NOW 2” than the first. Hits like “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears and “My Favorite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow were two of the songs that slipped right back into my mind upon first listen. Others, like Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and 98 Degrees’ “Because of You,” never even entered my music world at that age, but speculating what I’d have thought as a kid is always fun.
The album opens with Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time,” a lovely tune that even filled the hallways of my elementary school. It was a catchy tune then, but, for some reason, I associate it with that crazy 90s toy, HitClips.
Anyway – now, the song just represents to me the change to processed, teen-centered music in the late 90s and early 00s. In my mind, this song’s bubblegum-y style was the trigger for a slew of female pop-princess copycats during that time period. It’s not one that I’d put in my music library willingly today.
As for other songs I don’t really care for, U2’s “Sweetest Thing” is possibly the worst song out of both “NOW”s thus far. It’s the musical equivalent of bathing your teeth in sugar water for seven hours and then having someone click your teeth together forcefully. The lyrics sound like they were penned by an angsty high-school student upset at being rejected, and the music is so spacey and slow that I’m tempted to fall asleep. There’s only so many times you can repeat the same lyric in one song before it becomes grating.
Surprisingly, the album features a song that I thought came much later than the 90s. As stupid as I feel to admit it, I thought Cake was a product of the new millennium. Nevertheless, their song “Never There” is featured on the album and is one of the more positive additions. It feels incredibly ahead of its time, especially when placed right before 98 Degrees’ “Because of You.” Seriously, go listen to those two songs right in a row and tell me how you feel about the difference in quality.
Other positive notes were Everclear’s “Father of Mine,” marking them having songs on two “NOW” albums in a row, and “Closing Time” by Semisonic. These songs were refreshingly spaced amongst a majority of the processed pop. Other songs just felt like bizarre additions to the album.
One such song was “Take Me There” by Blackstreet & Mýa, featuring Mase & Blinky Blink. I have never heard of any of those groups or people, even as an adult. This hip-hop tune features samples from the “Rugrats” TV-theme and makes references to the characters from that show. As an avid Rugrats fan when I was younger, I honestly cannot recall this song, nor do I think I would have enjoyed it. I do not enjoy it now.
Another weird song is actually from Baz Lurhmann, director of 2013’s “The Great Gatsby.” The final song on the album, “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” – a spoken word piece set to soft, entrancing music that seems to linger in your mind after it’s over, which I guess makes it a perfect finale to the album. It really doesn’t mesh with the overall sound and feel of the album, but it’s still, to me, an interesting and positive listen.
Overall, the album has a more consistent, solid feel than its predecessor. However, I can’t say that I enjoy a majority of the songs on the album. It’s clear that music is headed towards the new millennium at this point with strange new song formulas and pre-packaged beats, but the remnants of early- and mid-90s rock and punk inspired tunes still manage to hang on. I have to say, though, that “NOW 1” was a much more enjoyable listen.
For the brave who wish to listen to this album, here’s the full track listing for “NOW That’s What I Call Music! Volume 2:
1. “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears
2. “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals
3. “Millennium” by Robbie Williams
4. “Closing Time” by Semisonic
5. “Sweetest Thing” by U2
6. “My Favorite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow
7. “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim
8. “I Think I’m Paranoid” by Garbage
9. “Never There” by Cake
10. “Because of You” by 98 Degrees
11. “Goodbye” by Spice Girls
12. “Take Me There” by Blackstreet & Mya featuring Mase & Blinky Blink
13. “When A Woman’s Fed Up” by R. Kelly
14. “Father of Mine” by Everclear
15. “What I Got” by Sublime
16. “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” by Backstreet Boys
17. “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z
18. “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann
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