Today, we leave the past behind and jump into a new millennium with “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 4.”
“NOW 4” hit shelves on July 18, 2000, the first in the series to be released in the new millennium. Its tracks mostly consist of work from ’97-’99, making it a showcase for the musical transition into the ‘00s. While I’m sure we’ll be seeing tracks released in the 90s for some time to come, this album is probably the last bastion for all-90s sound. Surprisingly, I’d also heard most of this album before going in. Maybe eight-year-old me got more listening time with the radio?
Opening the album is Backstreet Boys, with “Larger Than Life,” marking their fourth appearance in a row on a “NOW” album, the most of any other artist so far. I remember this hit playing a lot, and digging it. I can’t really place if it’s just nostalgia goggles or what, but the bold nature and easy lyrics of the song are still really appealing to me. I could see this in my music library for a little while, at least.
Another song I was exposed to when I was younger was “I Knew I Loved You” by Savage Garden. This poppy-feeling slow-jam is a pleasant song that reminds me of a boy band. In fact, I legitimately thought this song was done by Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC before I looked up the track listing for “NOW 4.” It might just be the shock of being wrong, but I still find the lyrics much too sappy and the music too slow to be a song of any merit. It goes in the bin – like most other boy band songs.
“Steal My Kisses” by Ben Harper was another song I had misconceptions about. I thought this song came much later than the 90s, but I was mistaken. On this album in particular, though, its non-processed sound is refreshing and upbeat. The lack of noticeable computer distortion or interference makes it really stand out among the “NOW 4” crowd and I would gladly keep listening to it. However, despite having a lot of good songs, the album isn’t perfect.
One particular stinker is Smash Mouth’s “Then the Morning Comes.” While I looked kindly upon “All Star” on the previous NOW, this particular track DOES make me want to throw some bread. The grating lead guitar combined with the gravelly vocals lead to a song that sounds like rocks sliding down a washboard. While the overall sound is still definitely beach-party inspired, it doesn’t capture the feel quite as well as “All Star” did.
Mandy Moore’s track “Candy” would’ve also been better left on the editing floor. It’s got a slower tempo for a pop song, and the lyrics are so shallow and forced I feel embarrassed for having listened to it. With tracks like this, it’s no wonder that Britney Spears was leading the charge for female pop stars. At least her songs were catchy.
Finally, I can’t get away without mentioning “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65. This song was so widespread and known, I was even curious about if it held up in modern times. It does not. The absurd lyrics and techno-beats might’ve been appealing back in the late 90s, but the song is incredibly dated. The flat delivery of the nonsensical lyrics against the pounding synthetic music is almost unbearable. I mean, it’s catchy, but what did people ever see in this song?
As for oddly placed stand outs, Sonique’s “It Feels So Good” really occupies this spot all alone. This doesn’t mean the song is bad, but its low bass sound and calm lyrics create a feeling that doesn’t seem to fit with the other “hit” songs on the album. I had never heard it as a kid, but I don’t think I would’ve liked it then. Now, I still probably wouldn’t put it in my library, but listening to it was not a painful experience.
Overall, the album features more of a blend of songs, not really focusing on one particular genre or feel, but it still listens in order well. Some might find the jump between Smash Mouth’s grating “Then The Morning Comes” and the softer sound of something like “Meet Virginia” by Train a bit striking, but I believe that many of the tone-shifts like that throughout the album help keep things lively and interesting. I’d hazard to say that this might be the best “NOW” so far, if only because of how balanced and well put together it feels.
As a side note, Hanson has a second song on this album, and it isn’t “MMMBop,” you guys. It’s called “This Time Around.” Who knew?
For those who’re still listening and want a shot at this rockin’ album, here’s the full track listing for “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 4”:
1. “Larger than Life” by Backstreet Boys
2. “(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears
3. “I Need to Know” by Marc Anthony
4. “Candy” by Mandy Moore
5. “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65
6. “It Feels So Good” by Sonique
7. “I Belong to You” by Lenny Kravitz
8. “I Knew I Loved You” by Savage Garden
9. “I Wanna Know” by Joe
10. “Try Again” by Aaliyah
11. “Waiting for Tonight” by Jennifer Lopez
12. “Get It On Tonite” by Montell Jordan
13. “Steal My Kisses” by Ben Harper
14. “Then the Morning Comes” by Smash Mouth
15. “Meet Virginia” by Train
16. “I Try” by Macy Gray
17. “This Time Around” by Hanson
18. “All the Small Things” by blink-182
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