Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #99

Day 99 brings us to Now! #99, which was released on 23rd March 2018.

March 2018
This is how the world looked in March 2018. I have hundreds of photos from that month depicting things that I was getting rid of in my clothes cull – the joys of digital hoarding – but this is the only one I have of me, although I suspect Mum and Dad probably have some from their visit to Newcastle that month that I’ve not seen yet. Winning my Slimming World group’s Greatest Loser award was one of my highlights of my journey to target. The house, meanwhile, was even messier and full of boxes than it is now.

I’m starting to get a little suspicious that some of the tracks on these latest Now! compilations weren’t actually hits at all.  I know that a) the charts change so rapidly that there too many songs to remember and b) most chart music these days is so generic that it all blurs into one, but my memory is pretty good, and given that all of these songs are supposed to have been in the charts just a few months ago, I’m surprised that there are so many song titles I don’t recognise.  I will have to do some research as we go through them.

We’ve finally reached the current year, 2018!  Let’s see what pop music has come to these days.

Now! That's What I Call Music #99
Track 1: Rudimental, Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen – These Days

Now I know I’m nearly at the end of this long Now! marathon – this track is still currently (as of today, 19th July 2018) in the Top 40.  We’re so close to the end!

I find the tune pretty irritating and the theme a bit awkward, but there’s some good stuff going on with the lyrics.

Track 2: Dua Lipa – IDGAF

Another tune that really annoys me.

Track 3: Portugal The Man – Feel It Still

Great tune, great danceable beat, and a lyric like ‘let me kick it like it’s 1986 now‘ is always going to go down well with me.  Love this one.

Track 4: Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton – Say Something

I really like this tune – it builds very nicely.

Track 5: Taylor Swift – Ready For It?

Good atmosphere, but the tune is very forgettable.

Track 6: Marshmello and Anne-Marie – Friends

This one is insidiously catchy and was stuck in my head for weeks earlier this year.  I’m not a fan of the tune or the theme, so it wasn’t pleasant.

Track 7: Bruno Mars and Cardi B – Finesse

I do like that early ’90s feel (which, judging by the style of the video, is deliberate).  Like the callback to Walk This Way too.

Track 8: Sigala and Paloma Faith – Lullaby

Another annoying tune, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 9: Craig David and Bastille – I Know You

I really like the rhythm, but I find the song a bit cheesy.

Track 10: Jason Derulo and French Montana – Tiptoe

Good solid danceable pop song – really like this one.

Track 11: Jax Jones and Ina Wroldsen – Breathe

Good beat, good tune – quite like this track.

Track 12: George Ezra – Paradise

I really like George Ezra’s stuff – it’s so different to the generic EDM-hip-hop-pop lyrically-vapid tuneless mush that makes up the bulk of the charts these days.  This is an upbeat feelgood song with great lyrics and an awesome chant-along bit near the end.

Track 13: Kylie Minogue – Dancing

There is something indescribably comforting about the fact that, thirty years after I Should Be So Lucky became the favourite song of every girl in my nursery school class, Kylie Minogue is still featuring on Now! compilations.  I feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I really like the guitar on this one – it’s a nice, pretty tune with a retro feel.

Track 14: Camila Cabello – Never Be The Same

Pretty tune, but it’s a little slow for me.

Track 15: Mabel and Notes – Fine Line

I quite like the tinkly instrumentals on this one, and it’s a good tune.

Track 16: Sigrid – Strangers

It’s got a good rhythm, but the tune annoys me.

Track 17: Paloma Faith – Guilty

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Paloma Faith on track 8.

As I explained in the intro, there have been a few tracks on Now! compilations recently I’ve not recognised, including this one.  Looking it up, I now know why.  This wasn’t actually a hit – not in the UK or anywhere else.  As such, I’m not sure why it’s been included!

It’s got a great atmosphere and a nice classic feel, though.

Track 18: Pink – Beautiful Trauma

I find this one a bit depressing, though the tune is very pretty.

Track 19: James Arthur – Naked

Too slow for me, and I don’t like the tune.

Track 20: Tom Walker – Leave A Light On

Again it’s a little too slow for me, but it’s got a good epic atmosphere.

Track 21: Calum Scott – You Are The Reason

Another one that wasn’t a hit – it only got to number 43!

This one’s too slow for me, and the tune’s very depressing.

Track 22: Sam Smith – One Last Song

I quite like the retro-sounding instrumentals on this track.

Track 23: Stormzy and MNEK – Blinded By Your Grace [Part II]

Good tune – quite like this one.

Track 24: Post Malone and Ty Dolla Sign – Psycho

Interesting instrumentals, but I don’t like the tune – it’s very repetitive.

Track 25: Blocboy JB and Drake – Look Alive

Not enough melody for me.

Track 26: Khalid – Location

Another non-hit – this only got to number 67!

Great atmosphere and classic feel – quite like this one.

Track 27: NF – Let You Down

I can’t stand this track – the tune and the high-pitched vocals are so irritating.

Track 28: Ramz – Barking

Great track!  Endearing theme, interesting tune.  Big fan of this one.

Track 29: J Hus – Bouff Daddy

Good atmosphere, but the tune’s boring.

Track 30: Cliq and Alika – Wavey

Also not a hit – this one only got to number 44!

It’s got a good rhythm, but I could do with some more melody.

Track 31: Dave and Mostack – No Words

Nice tune, but the rap’s too messy for me.

Track 32: B Young – Jumanji

It’s got an okay beat, but the tune’s very uninspired.

Track 33: Raye and Mr Eazi – Decline

It’s based heavily around an interpolation of 2002 hit Always On Time by Ja Rule and Ashanti.  I just find it very unoriginal.

Track 34: Notes and Mabel – My Lover

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had both Notes and Mabel on track 15.

This tune really irritates me.

Track 35: Rak-Su, Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy – Dimelo

This is an interesting one.  It was the X Factor winner’s single for 2017, and for the last couple of years the X Factor winner’s single has not been featured on the spring Now! compilation like it used to be – both Louisa Johnson’s Forever Young and Matt Terry’s When Christmas Comes Around were left out, the latter presumably partly because nobody wants to hear an explicitly Christmas-themed song in the spring.  Part of this, I believe, is because of the X Factor‘s decline in popularity recently, but it’s meant we’ve not been following an interesting change.  Louisa Johnson’s winner’s single was a cover as usual – Forever Young was originally a Bob Dylan song – but Matt Terry’s When Christmas Comes Around was an original song (written by Ed Sheeran), which was a first for the X Factor since Shayne Ward’s That’s My Goal, and signalled an interesting move away from its irritating karaoke format.  This move towards original songs continued in the 2017 competition, with many of the contestants (notably Rak-Su and Grace Davies) performing tracks they had written themselves.

As such, this winner’s single from Rak-Su is self-written – an upbeat Latin-tinged hip-hop track with great lyrics and a clever interpolation of Wyclef Jean’s lines from Hips Don’t Lie – and as a result it’s the only X Factor winner’s single I’ve ever liked.  It’s a great track.  It’s just a shame we had to put up with years of awful pointless cover versions to get to this stage.

(I should note that, despite the above essay, I’ve never actually watched the X Factor.  My interest in this stuff is purely from a chart geek perspective.)

Track 36: G-Eazy and Halsey – Him And I

Pretty tune, quite like this one.

Track 37: Sza and Calvin Harris – The Weekend

Another non-hit!  This only got to number 55.

I’m not hugely keen on the tune on this one, but it’s got a good retro-sounding beat.

Track 38: Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso, Florida-Georgia Line and Watt – Let Me Go

Another generic, irritating tune.

Track 39: 5 Seconds Of Summer – Want You Back

Nice tune, but the verse is too slow and cheesy for me.  The chorus is good though – and I love that rock guitar.

Track 40: Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me

Yet another one that wasn’t a hit – this one only got to number 85!

It’s got a good atmosphere though – really like those instrumentals.  The tune’s nice, but it’s a bit slow for me.

Track 41: Maroon 5 – Wait

And another non-hit – number 79 for this song.

Not keen on this tune – it’s pretty generic.

Track 42: James Bay – Wild Love

This one’s too slow for me.  Nice tune though.

Track 43: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – As You Are

The complete opposite of a hit.  This didn’t chart at all!

I like the instrumentals at the start, but again it’s not upbeat enough for my liking.

Track 44: U2 – You’re The Best Thing About Me

This one, meanwhile, only got to number 92.

It’s nice to hear some rock music, but the tune’s a bit dull.  It’s got a good retro-sounding instrumental in the middle though.

Track 45: Oasis – Live Forever

This wasn’t actually back in the charts this year (so it’s yet another non-hit, although of course it was a hit on its original release in 1994), but there was an increased awareness of it due to Liam Gallagher performing it at the Brits in tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing victims.

One more thing: I just want to add a quick note about all the non-hits that have littered this playlist.  While I’ve only just noticed it with this one, I suspect non-hits have been a thing for quite a few Now! compilations leading up to this, as there have been quite a few instances where I’m surprised I recognise so few of the tracks (as I mentioned in the intro, while it is tough to remember hundreds of generic songs, I have followed the charts religiously this decade and have a good memory).

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I can sort of understand it in a way, as 95% of chart music in the late ’10s is woefully, utterly dire.  It’s awful – the worst quality it has ever been in my lifetime.  Most of it is completely generic, uninspired and half-arsed, and so I have a bit of sympathy for the Now! compilers deciding to include songs that they think are good but didn’t trouble the charts for whatever reason, rather than yet another terrible identical-sounding EDM track that somehow managed to get to number 24 for a few weeks.

At the same time, what I’ve always liked about the Now! compilations is that they do reflect the most popular music of the time – good and bad.  I feel that including songs that weren’t hits, that weren’t soundtracking people’s lives by being played on the radio and on TV shows and at sports events – well, it kind of takes away from the status of these albums as cultural artefacts of the time.  I’m a little sad about that.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings with the release of the 100th entry in this long music marathon.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #93

Day 93 equals Now! #93, which came out on 18th March 2016.

March 2016
This is how the world looked in March 2016. Yes, it’s me at another goth gig (this time Resistanz), wearing the same T-shirt as in yesterday’s photo. I still miss Resistanz and its £1 cans of Somersby cider, though there’s no way I could drink as many of them as I used to these days (it used to be a forty-can weekend).

On with the hits!

Now! That's What I Call Music #93
Track 1: Lukas Graham – 7 Years

It’s a nice tune, but I find the theme a bit irritating.

Track 2: Justin Bieber – Love Yourself

Another nice tune with an awkward theme.  It’s also too slow for me.

Track 3: Zayn – Pillowtalk

Zayn Malik’s first solo release since becoming the Robbie Williams/Geri Halliwell of One Direction and leaving the group about a year before they split ‘went on hiatus’.  It’s too slow for me, and the tune is pretty forgettable.

Track 4: Coldplay and Beyoncé – Hymn For The Weekend

Gorgeous tune – really like this one.

Track 5: Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza [SeeB Remix]

Mike Posner returning to the charts with this surprise number one hit.  It’s a lovely chillout tune with a wistful theme.

Track 6: Zara Larsson – Lush Life

Solid danceable pop tune – big fan of this.

Track 7: Jonas Blue and Dakota – Fast Car

Dodgy house cover of the Tracy Chapman classic.  Should have left well alone.

Track 8: Shawn Mendes – Stitches

Pretty tune – quite like this one.

Track 9: Major Lazer, Nyla and Fuse ODG – Light It Up [Remix]

Boring tune, and it’s too slow for my liking.

Track 10: Snakehips, Tinashe and Chance The Rapper – All My Friends

Good singalong chorus, but it’s too slow for me.

Track 11: Little Mix and Jason Derulo – Secret Love Song

Horrendously saccharine and slow!  Not my kind of thing at all.

Track 12: Jess Glynne – Take Me Home

Irritating tune, and again it’s too slow.

Track 13: Ellie Goulding – Army

The tune’s quite interesting, but it’s a little too cheesy for me.

Track 14: One Direction – History

Too acoustic-y for me, but the tune’s okay.

Track 15: Selena Gomez – Hands To Myself

This tune doesn’t really do it for me, although there’s some interesting stuff going on with the backing track, and it’s got a good atmosphere.  The theme’s awful, though.

Track 16: Jason Derulo – Get Ugly

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Jason Derulo on track 11.

This one’s got a good rhythm and a slight retro tinge – I quite like it.

Track 17: Sigma and Rita Ora – Coming Home

I find this tune pretty uninspired.

Track 18: Elle King – Exes and Ohs

Great classic-sounding blues-tinged rock.  Really like this.

Track 19: Olly Murs – Stevie Knows

Love that retro-sounding funk.  Good stuff.

Track 20: Jack Garratt – Worry

Slow and boring, with some odd instrumentals that are very distracting.

Track 21: James Bay – If You Ever Want To Be In Love

Pretty tune, and it’s got quite a good rhythm.  I like the rock-edged guitar too.

Track 22: Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir – A Bridge Over You

This was the 2015 Christmas number one – a charity choral offering.  It was the first time, due to streaming becoming more popular than downloading, that the X Factor winner’s single didn’t really get a look in for the Christmas number one – in fact, Louisa Johnson’s Forever Young is not even included on this Now! compilation, which marks the first time since Steve Brookstein’s Against All Odds from 2005 that the X Factor song has been left out by the Now! compilers.

Anyway, this song is a dodgy mash-up of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and Coldplay’s Fix You, but I’m sure it raised a lot of money for charity.

Track 23: Justin Bieber – Sorry

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Justin Bieber on track 2.

I love this song, though.  It’s the only Justin Bieber song I actually like, and it’s a cracker.

Track 24: The Weeknd – The Hills

Great atmosphere, but I’m not keen on the theme.

Track 25: Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Coldplay on track 4.

I find the warbly instrumentals on this one a bit irritating, but I do like the retro-tinged beat.

Track 26: 99 Souls, Destiny’s Child and Brandy – The Girl Is Mine

Mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s Girl and Brandy and Monica’s The Boy Is Mine (which was itself based on Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s The Girl Is Mine).  Brandy re-recorded her vocals, Monica didn’t, which I guess explains the credit.  I do quite like the electro lines on this track, and it’s not as messy as you would expect from a mash-up.

Track 27: Tinie Tempah and Zara Larsson – Girls Like

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Zara Larsson on track 6.

I quite like this one – it’s very danceable.

Track 28: Fleur East – Sax

I’m a big fan of this one, but you expected that, didn’t you?  Saxophone a-go-go.  I highly approve.

Track 29: Craig David and Big Narstie – When The Bassline Drops

The start of Craig David’s inexplicable but strangely welcome comeback!  This one’s got a good beat, and, as should probably be expected, a bit of an early ’00s tinge.

Track 30: David Guetta, Sia and Fetty Wap – Bang My Head

I find the beat on this one a bit jarring, and the tune’s pretty bland.

Track 31: Sigala and Bryn Christopher – Sweet Lovin’

Another forgettable tune, and I’m actually starting to get a bit fed up of the ’90s-inspired dance tracks now.

Track 32: Kygo and Maty Noyes – Stay

Again, this tune doesn’t do anything for me.

Track 33: Mount and Nicholas Haelg – Something Good

Not a cover of the Utah Saints track, which is probably for the best, given how many versions of that one have shown up on Now! compilations.  This one’s a dance track with some interesting instrumentals, but yet another generic, unmemorable tune.

Track 34: The Chainsmokers and Rozes – Roses

There’s a good atmosphere buried in there somewhere, but the track’s too messy to feel it, really.

Track 35: Alessia Cara – Here

Really don’t like this tune at all – I find it very grating.

Track 36: Alan Walker – Faded

Another slow, boring track.  The beat does pick up, but it doesn’t get any more interesting.

Track 37: G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha – Me, Myself And I

I quite like the rhythm on the vocals, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 38: Robin Schulz and Francesco Yates – Sugar

I like the guitar at the start, and it’s got a good beat.

Track 39: Dawin and Silentó – Dessert [Remix]

The lines on this are pretty jarring, and the tune’s nothing special.

Track 40: AlunaGeorge and Popcaan – I’m In Control

Irritating vocals, dull song.

Track 41: Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out

I like the reggae-tinged beat, and the chorus is great – it gives the song an awesome eerie atmosphere.  Brilliant lyrics too.

Track 42: The 1975 – The Sound

Love that classic pop feel – big fan of this track.

Track 43: Charlie Puth – One Call Away

Pretty tune, but it’s too slow and saccharine for me.

Track 44: David Bowie – Heroes

1977 classic back in the charts after David Bowie’s passing.  I’m still sad about Bowie being gone even two and a half years later, and I wish I didn’t now associate this one with it being everywhere in early 2016.  The song is as beautiful as everything else he did.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #92

Day 92 means Now! #92, which brings us to 20th November 2015.

November 2015
This is how the world looked in November 2015 – or how I looked, rather – because this was the year we started going down to London for the Beat:Cancer event in November. I honestly think I looked about fifteen years older when I was bigger, although my improved hair/makeup game has helped too.

Let’s see what the party tunes were that year!  No, they most certainly wouldn’t have been played at Beat:Cancer.

Now! That's What I Call Music #92
Track 1: Sam Smith – Writing’s On The Wall

It’s a Bond theme, so it’s got a good epic atmosphere, even if it is a slow Sam Smith song.

Track 2: Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean?

Not keen on the tune – it’s a bit depressing.

Track 3: The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face

Another tune that I don’t find particularly exciting.  The chorus has quite a good rhythm, though.

Track 4: Calvin Harris and Disciples – How Deep Is Your Love

The vocals on this one really irritate me.

Track 5: Naughty Boy, Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin – Runnin’ (Lose It All)

Too slow for my liking, and again the tune doesn’t do anything for me.

Track 6: Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor – Marvin Gaye

Great upbeat big-band-sounding pop – really like this tune.

Track 7: R City and Adam Levine – Locked Away

One of those songs that’s so dull I can’t concentrate on it.

Track 8: Rachel Platten – Fight Song

Too high-pitched for me – it gives me a headache.

Track 9: Jess Glynne – Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Irritating tune, but the beat’s okay.

Track 10: Olly Murs – Kiss Me

I like the ’80s-tinged synthy lines on this one.

Track 11: Ellie Goulding – On My Mind

Some really nice instrumentals on this track.

Track 12: Little Mix – Love Me Like You

I find this tune a bit irritating.

Track 13: One Direction – Drag Me Down

Good rhythm, and it builds quite well, but the tune is fairly uninspired.

Track 14: Demi Lovato – Cool For The Summer

I really like the synth on this one.

Track 15: Years & Years – Eyes Shut

Nice piano at the start, but it’s a little too slow for me.

Track 16: Grace and G-Eazy – You Don’t Own Me

Cover of the Lesley Gore song.  It was used in the 2015 House of Fraser Christmas advert, so now it’s a feature of the annual Christmas playlists on the music channels.  It’s an okay tune, but in general I find there’s too much going on in this track.

Track 17: Birdy – Wings

Good tune, though it’s a little too slow for me.

Track 18: Aurora – Half The World Away

Cover of the Oasis song, the original being best known as the theme tune to The Royle Family.  This was the 2015 John Lewis Christmas advert offering.  It’s a pretty cover, but I find it a little depressing when it shows up on the music channels at Christmas time.

Track 19: Jamie Lawson – Wasn’t Expecting That

Too slow, cheesy and acoustic-y for my liking.

Track 20: Ed Sheeran – Photograph

Boring, depressing and again far too slow.

Track 21: Selena Gomez and ASAP Rocky – Good For You

Good atmosphere on this one, but as ever I could do with a more interesting tune.

Track 22: 5 Seconds Of Summer – She’s Kinda Hot

Good upbeat bit of pop-rock – the tune’s not that exciting but it’s refreshing to hear something in a different style.

Track 23: The Vamps – Wake Up

Great instrumentals, great atmosphere – shame the song is a bit too cheesy for me.

Track 24: KDA, Tinie Tempah and Katy B – Turn The Music Louder (Rumble)

Great danceable track – really like this tune.

Track 25: Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly

Good beat, but the track’s pretty messy.  I do like the ’70s-tinged lines though.

Track 26: Sigala – Easy Love

Another song that’s too high-pitched – it’s quite painful to listen to.

Track 27: Martin Solveig and GTA – Intoxicated

I really like the rhythm on this one – very danceable.

Track 28: MNEK and Zara Larsson – Never Forget You

The vocals annoy me on this one.

Track 29: Diplo and Sleepy Tom – Be Right There

Not sure what I think about the interpolation of Jade’s 1992 hit Don’t Walk Away.  I hadn’t even thought about the original track in years.  It’s certainly the most interesting thing about this track, which is very generic otherwise.

Track 30: Felix Jaehn and Jasmine Thompson – Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)

Interestingly tinkly cover of the Chaka Khan classic.  Obviously nothing can touch the original, but this version’s not horrible.

Track 31: Pia Mia, Chris Brown and Tyga – Do It Again

The beat’s okay, but it’s a pretty generic track.

Track 32: Rudimental and Ed Sheeran – Lay It All On Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Ed Sheeran on track 20.

I quite like this tune, and it’s got a good rhythm.

Track 33: Sigma and Ella Henderson – Glitterball

Repetitive tune, not enough beat.  Quite like the ’90s tinge though.

Track 34: Disclosure and Sam Smith – Omen

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Sam Smith on track 1.

This one’s another dull tune – there’s just nothing interesting about it at all.

Track 35: Fetty Wap – Trap Queen

Interesting track with great rhythm, even if the tune is a bit repetitive.

Track 36: Format:B – Chunky

Irritating, messy dance track with painfully blaring vocals.

Track 37: WSTRN – In2

Starts off with some boring, random chords.  The vocals have got quite a good rhythm, though.

Track 38: Ariana Grande – Focus

Great beat, good solid pop tune.  Quite like this one.

Track 39: Silentó – Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)

I like the videogame-esque beeping on the backing track, but the vocals are daft in an annoying way.

Track 40: Joe Stone and Montell Jordan – The Party (This Is How We Do It)

Remix of Montell Jordan’s 1995 classic (see Now! #31 for review of the original version).  It’s got a good beat, but I was never a huge fan of the original anyway, and the remix has a lot of jarring lines going on.

Track 41: Nick Brewer and Bibi Bourelly – Talk To Me

Messy and uninspired, and the rap is just irritating.

Track 42: KSI and JME – Keep Up

Inspired theme!  Good atmosphere, too.

Track 43: Wretch 32, Anne-Marie and PRGRSHN – Alright With Me

Good rhythm – happily nodding along here.

Track 44: Philip George and Anton Powers – Alone No More

Cover of the 1998 song by Another Level.  Very repetitive, and it’s another bland tune.

Track 45: Kygo and Ella Henderson – Here For You

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Ella Henderson on track 33.

The tinkly instrumentals are nice, but the track is slow, and I don’t like slow.

Track 46: Ben Haenow and Kelly Clarkson – Second Hand Heart

Great atmosphere, but the song’s too saccharine for my liking.