Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #102

Now! #102 has been released today, 12th April 2019! EDIT: I only just realised that it’s been a whole year today since I started my marathon of the first 100 Now! compilations with Now! #1. Great timing!

April 2019
This is the way the world looks in April 2019, with me and my ‘absolute beginner ukuleles’ classmates doing our thing up on stage. Fun fact: one of the songs we performed appeared on Now! #54, while the other has never been on a Now! compilation.

Let’s have a look at the Now! compilers’ roundup of what’s been going on in the chart recently.

Now! That's What I Call Music #102

Track 1: Ariana Grande – 7 Rings

New Hits Friday review.

Still think this is a bit of a daft interpolation, but I don’t hate it as much as I used to.

Track 2: Ava Max – Sweet But Psycho

New Hits Friday review.

Pretty much loved this bit of synthy pop from the start, and I’m still a big fan. Should have been Christmas number one!

Track 3: Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus – Nothing Breaks Like A Heart

New Hits Friday review.

Another great pop track. At first I wasn’t keen on the country edge, but I’ve really grown to love this one.

Track 4: Calvin Harris and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Giant

New Hits Friday review.

I’m still not a huge fan of this one – it just doesn’t hook me.

Track 5: Pink – Walk Me Home

New Hits Friday review.

Still too acoustic-y for me, but I have grown to like the epic feel on the chorus.

Track 6: Sam Smith and Normani – Dancing With A Stranger

New Hits Friday review.

I originally felt this one was a bit generic, but it’s become a fairly regular earworm for me, and I find I quite like it now.

Track 7: Tom Walker – Just You And I

New Hits Friday review.

It’s a little cheesy, but it’s a pleasant upbeat tune.

Track 8: Jonas Brothers – Sucker

New Hits Friday review.

A decade ago, I would not have believed you if you’d told me I would ever grow to like a Jonas Brothers song. They’ve grown up now, though, and they make much better music. This is a fairly decent pop song, and I always nod along when it’s on the radio.

Track 9: George Ezra – Pretty Shining People

New Hits Friday review.

I still can’t get over the blatant REM title ripoff. Urgh.

This one’s a little bland (can’t win ’em all, George), but it’s an okay tune.

Track 10: James Arthur – Empty Space

New Hits Friday review.

This one’s not been in the charts since last year, so I’m a bit surprised they’ve held it back for this Now! instalment. As is usually the case with James Arthur’s stuff, it’s too saccharine for me, but I’ll grant you it’s got a good atmosphere on the chorus.

Track 11: Lewis Capaldi – Grace

New Hits Friday review.

I first heard this one on the BBC over Christmas, and at first I thought it was a bit too wistful/singer-songwriter/acoustic-y etc. for me. But I’ve really come to like it – it’s a gorgeous tune.

Track 12: Jason Derulo, David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Willy William – Goodbye

New Hits Friday review.

I could have told you that my feelings would not have changed about this ridiculous bastardisation of Andrea Bocelli’s Time To Say Goodbye. Awful interpolation that has me running screaming for the comfort of the original every single time.

Track 13: Little Mix and Ty Dolla Sign – Think About Us

New Hits Friday review.

Another frequent earworm. I quite like the staccato on the verse.

Track 14: Marshmello and Chvrches – Here With Me

New Hits Friday review.

I find this one a bit forgettable, though the tune is very pleasant when I do remember how it goes.

Track 15: Cardi B and Bruno Mars – Please Me

New Hits Friday review.

Still love the retro feel on this track. Straight out of 1988! Well, apart from the NSFW lyrical content.

Track 16: Khalid – Talk

New Hits Friday review.

I really like the soft bubbly synth effects on this one.

Track 17: Mabel – Don’t Call Me Up

New Hits Friday review.

I wasn’t keen at first, but it’s been a grower and I quite like this solid pop track now.

Track 18: Charli XCX and Troye Sivan – 1999

New Hits Friday review.

Liked it when it came out, love it now! Shamelessly retro, actually sounds like the year it’s celebrating. Great stuff.

Track 19: Sigrid – Don’t Feel Like Crying

New Hits Friday review.

Another good danceable pop track, probably my favourite of Sigrid’s output so far.

Track 20: CamelPhat, Cristoph and Jem Cooke – Breathe

New Hits Friday review.

It’s kind of nice to have a dance track on here now that dance tracks are becoming a bit rarer in the charts. Nice tune, too.

Track 21: Jax Jones and Years & Years – Play

New Hits Friday review.

Good tune – I always nod along to this one.

Track 22: Zedd and Katy Perry – 365

New Hits Friday review.

I do like the Spanish-tinged opening, and the atmosphere is great when it gets to the chorus.

Track 23: Zara Larsson – Ruin My Life

New Hits Friday review.

This one makes me really uncomfortable! I can’t get past the awful message in the lyrics, which is basically ‘go back to someone who’s really bad for you’.

Track 24: Dua Lipa – Swan Song

New Hits Friday review.

There’s some great stuff going on with the instrumentals, but I find the vocal line pretty bland.

Track 25: Ariana Grande – Thank You Next

New Hits Friday review.

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had Ariana Grande on track 1.

The tinkly instrumentals are quite nice, but I’m not sure how I feel about the ex-dissing lyrical content.

Track 26: Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

New Hits Friday review. (LOL I said it was too slow for me and now it’s my favourite song in the chart!)

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had Lewis Capaldi on track 11.

Not complaining though, because this is an absolutely beautiful tune that has deservedly just scored a seventh week at number one. Song of the year, whatever happens in the next eight months.

Track 27: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – Shallow

New Hits Friday review.

One of those tracks that I found a bit slow to begin with and have grown to appreciate. Lovely acoustic track from the A Star Is Born soundtrack (no interest in seeing the film, but the song is gorgeous).

Track 28: Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Cast – This Is Me

Another one where the Now! compilers have been a bit tardy – this track first entered the charts well over a year ago – but it’s a great feelgood musical number, and probably the best song on the soundtrack.

Track 29: Jess Glynne – Thursday

New Hits Friday review.

I’m still not particularly keen on this one – I just find the theme a bit awkward.

Track 30: Freya Ridings – Lost Without You

New Hits Friday review.

I do appreciate the simplicity of the song, but it’s just a bit too slow for me.

Track 31: James Arthur and Anne-Marie – Rewrite The Stars

New Hits Friday review.

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had James Arthur on track 10.

One of the tracks from the Greatest Showman Reimagined album, where pop stars do karaoke versions of the songs from the musical. It’s okay, but not a patch on the original.

Track 32: Jack Savoretti – Candlelight

This wasn’t a hit – it only got to number 70. As I’ve been discussing since Now! #99, the Now! compilers have recently started to include songs that haven’t actually made the Top 40, but have been featured on hit albums – there’s less crossover than there used to be between the album and singles chart (mainly because the former is for older people like me who prefer classic pop and rock, and the latter is for the kids who like these strange new songs I’m always ranting about on here after listening to the chart on Fridays!). I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I think I’m okay about it now. After all, it’s probably an older demographic who actually still buys Now! albums. The Radio 2 demographic, if you like. This album got to number one, so I think it’s allowed.

Anyway, this track’s got a great atmosphere – lovely eerie instrumentals, lots of piano. Love this kind of epic tune!

Track 33: The 1975 – It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)

Again not a hit on the singles chart – it only got to number 46 – but this was also a number one album.

Wonderfully retro-sounding as ever from the 1975. Great tune, great beat.

Track 34: Westlife – Hello My Love

New Hits Friday review.

This one’s still a bit too cheesy for me.

Track 35: Take That – Everlasting

This track wasn’t even released as a single, but again the album got to number one.

As I understand it, this is one of the few new tracks on Take That’s recent remastered retrospective. It’s a bit dull until the second chorus kicks in. Also, the self-referential spoken word bit at the end is a bit odd.

Track 36: Hozier – Almost (Sweet Music)

The single only got to number 82, but the album went top ten, getting to number six.

Great bit of soft rock – really like this one.

Track 37: Bryan Adams – Shine A Light

No single release for this song, but the album got to number two.

Great beat, but it’s a little too acoustic-y for me. Nice to see Bryan Adams still rockin’ up Now! compilations though.

Track 38: Michael Bublé – Love You Anymore

Again no single release, but it was a number one album.

As usual for Bublé, it’s far too saccharine for me, but it is nice and feelgood.

Track 39: Rod Stewart – Look In Her Eyes

Yet another one that wasn’t released as a single, but the album went to number one.

Love this danceable, atmospheric song! So yeah, this is the point where I’m officially on board with the Now! compilers including songs-from-hit-albums that didn’t make the singles chart, because the notion of Rod Stewart still managing to get his new songs onto Now! compilations is the BESTEST THING.

Track 40: Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Zac Efron, Zendaya and The Greatest Showman Cast – The Greatest Show

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had the Greatest Showman cast on track 28.

Great stompalong number though. Fab track.

Track 41: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

We’ve already had this track on Now! #2! How dare they be so lazy…wait. I can’t really start ranting in this case, because what’s going on here is that the Now! compilers have chosen to include six tracks from Now! #2 in order to advertise the fact that it’s had a re-release on CD today, the same release day as Now! #102. I’m hopeful that this pattern will continue, and will be scouting out the re-release for my collection this weekend!

Anyway, see the link for my review – it was track 16 on Now! #2.

Track 42: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

Still a classic from Nik Kershaw.

See my review on Now! #2 – track 2.

Track 43: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

I have this one on my running playlist these days!

See my review on Now! #2 – track 11.

Track 44: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want To Have Fun

One of my earliest ’80s favourites.

See my review on Now! #2 – track 9.

Track 45: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

Still love that daft boardgaming video!

See my review on Now! #2 – track 25.

Track 46: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

If you spend any time watching the Now! ’80s channel, which often replays the classic TV adverts for the classic ’80s Now! compilations, you will be familiar with this song as the centrepiece for the Now! #2 advert due to it’s ‘hold me now‘ (geddit?) refrain on the chorus. Still a great track, and it was a highlight when I saw Tom Bailey supporting Culture Club in November.

See my review on Now! #2 – track 3.

Great choices for those bonus tracks. Could have done with a bit of love for Duran Duran’s New Moon On Monday (track 29) but I’m hopeful for The Reflex if they do this again when they re-release Now! #3!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #2

Day 2, and today’s collection was released on 26th March 1984.  I briefly just now considered adding a daily ‘fun fact’ to this feature about what was going on in the news at the time, but frankly that would probably be so depressing that I doubt I’d still be functioning by July, so let’s make it a contemporary picture from the ol’ family album instead.

March 1984
This was the way the world looked in March 1984, with Grundig TVs and vinyl collections and houseplants everywhere! My dad is still into building harps and other folk instruments, proving that some things don’t change.

Right, on with the music!

Now That's What I Call Music #2
Track 1: Queen – Radio Ga Ga

I love Queen and their shamelessly anthemic rock, and this chanty, clappy track is no exception.  Sing along!

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

I prefer The Riddle, but this one’s still a great track, especially for the video with the dodgy ’80s special effect applied to Kershaw’s suit.

Track 3: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

It’s nice ’80s pop, but I don’t find this one particularly exciting.

Track 4: Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Fairly typical for Matt Bianco, that ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style done on ’80s synths.  Not playlist-worthy, but a good bouncy track.

Track 5: Carmel – More, More, More

Two mid-century throwback tracks in a row (this one has more of a ’60s lounge feel) are making me crave some straightforward ’80s synthpop.  Come on, Now! compilers…

Track 6: Madness – Michael Caine

…and it’s Madness.  That’ll do in a pinch!  A little more sedate than most Madness tracks, but I love the tune.

Track 7: The Flying Pickets – Only You

The original version by Yazoo is my favourite song of all time (I walked down the aisle to it).  I love this a cappella version too, though it has become a bit too associated with Christmas for this time of year due to its status as the UK Christmas number one for 1983.

Track 8: Nena – 99 Red Balloons

I always hear the original German-language version of this song, 99 Luftballons, in goth clubs, proving that goths will dance to anything if it’s in German.  I do like this one, though.

Track 9: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Slightly cheesy admission: I used to listen to this song every day after work in 2001 when I started my first job aged sixteen, purely due to the lyric ‘when the working day is done‘.  I’m nothing if not literal.  It was around then that I was first getting into ’80s nostalgia and had cultivated an appropriate ’80s playlist using Audiogalaxy (remember that?).  This was a highlight, though I consider it a bit overplayed nowadays.

Scary time statistic: 2001 was the exact midpoint between 1984 and 2018.  Ouch.

Track 10: Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me

I love this one mainly for the video featuring contemporary Labour leader Neil Kinnock.  From my 2018 whimsical millennial viewpoint, I really like the fact that he used to do stuff like that, though I can understand why it resulted in the mid-’80s British populace not taking him seriously enough.

Politics aside, there is also a pleasing quantity of 20th century telephones in the video, and I am a huge geek for 20th century telephones.

Oh yeah, and there’s a song here too!  It was originally a Madness song from 1979, and though I love Madness, I think I might actually prefer this version for the unexpectedly gentle intro.

Track 11: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

This one is often featured on BBC coverage of running events, so I’m quite fond of it for that reason.  It’s probably a good thing that my clumsiness with constantly knocking headphones out means that I can’t listen to music while running, because my running playlist genuinely would be stuff like this, rather than properly hi-tempo ‘run faster’ music.  Who wants to work out to boring modern trance when you can have Gassenhauer and the Chariots Of Fire theme tune?

Track 12: Julia & Company – Breaking Down

A bit disco for me, but a pleasant background track.

Track 13: Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright

It’s very dad-rock, not really my kind of thing.

Track 14: Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)

There was a point a few weeks ago when Geth was complaining about Vintage TV always playing Hot Chocolate’s dafter tracks (the channel’s current favourite seems to be Girl Crazy) rather than their serious songs.  I was like, ‘Geth, NO ONE listens to Hot Chocolate for their serious songs!’  I do stand by my point that they’re better at party tracks than ballads, but in recent weeks I have developed a liking for It Started With A Kiss, and this one’s all right too, what with its pleasantly lazy sax solo.

Track 15: Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise

A bit slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  I do like the epic guitar solo in the middle as well.

Track 16: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

This one was actually a childhood favourite due to its re-release in 1993 (and subsequent inclusion on another compilation, The Greatest Hits Of 1993, which was the first album I ever bought for myself, on cassette).  As an adult it’s one of those wedding DJ songs where I can’t resist dancing.

Track 17: Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again

I love Eurythmics, especially their more melancholy numbers like this one.  Synth line + Annie Lennox’s voice = instant win.

Track 18: Howard Jones – What Is Love?

Great song, more lovely synth, pretty video shot in Paris.  1984 in a nutshell.

Track 19: The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?

The Smiths are one of my ‘soundtrack of 2003-2004’ bands, when I was busily acquainting myself with the entire back catalogues of every major goth and indie band from the ’80s.  I always liked this one as it’s quite jaunty.

Track 20: Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven

Nice pleasant jingly track, fairly standard ’80s pop.

Track 21: Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing

Good head-nodder, but nothing special for me.

Track 22: Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!

Great, unusual song for the time.  Love that bassline, the high vocal on the chorus, the trumpets, the general bizarre atmosphere of the track.

Track 23: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

Nice comforting synth, nice dreamlike vocal, generally nice background music.  Not one I could dance to, but a lovely tune.

Track 24: David Bowie – Modern Love

I love Bowie, but this is on the duller side for me.  Let’s Dance is the real stormer on that album in my view.  I do like the ‘get me to the church on time‘ lyric, though.

Track 25: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

I’ve always found Culture Club a bit hit and miss, and this one’s a miss in my book.  There’s something kind of annoying about it, probably due to the overly-upbeat instrumentals and Boy George’s cheesy lyrics and…yeah, this one is too much even for me.  Sorry.

Track 26: The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night

It’s driving me nuts that the title isn’t written as Under Cover Of The Night.  I realise it’s deliberate, in order to add to the sexual meaning of the song, but it’s still painful to read.

As for the song itself, it’s classic Rolling Stones with added ’80s guitar and funk bass.  What’s not to like?

Track 27: Big Country – Wonderland

I have to be in the right mood for Big Country; a lot of the time (today included unfortunately) the guitar instrumentals drive me mad.

They’re emblematic of a sound that was very particular to Scottish pop-rock in the ’80s – it’s difficult to explain, but when I come across a Scottish pop-rock band from that era that I’m not familiar with, I can always tell they’re Scottish without looking it up (and it’s not an accent thing, they all sing with transatlantic accents).  Some day I’ll work out what the exact musical reason is, but for now I’m just going to call it a superpower.

Track 28: Slade – Run Runaway

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands (huge glam rock fan here)!  Brilliant shout-along anthem.

Unfortunately, Slade have never got round to putting their music on Spotify (sort it out, record label that I can’t be bothered to look up right now!).  This meant I had three options for reviewing this song: 1) wade into the dumping ground that is our study and open all the boxes in there trying to find my Slade CDs; 2) find the song on YouTube; or 3) just add a tribute version into the Spotify playlist instead.  I went with the extremely lazy 3), just so I wouldn’t have to pause my playlist.  Sometimes, I am just as terrible as everyone else in this wretched decade of convenience.

Track 29: Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday

Without looking ahead to the track listings on the next few Now! editions, I imagine the first few entries of this blog feature are all going to feature the words ‘I love Duran Duran’ somewhere.  This one is no exception.  I love Duran Duran, especially their first three albums with the classic lineup, and I love this song.  Epic chorus, great instrumentals, daft video (especially the ridiculous 17-minute version).  Brilliant ’80s fun.

Track 30: Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace

My eye is twitching at having to listen to an unabashedly Christmas song out of season (this one was featured on our family’s favourite Christmas compilation, That’s Christmas, which I grew up with in the ’90s, so it’s very associated with the festive season for me).  Lovely song…when it’s December.