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 #97

Day 97 equals Now! #97, which was released on 21st July 2017.

July 2017
This is how the world looked in July 2017, the morning of the day Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor and hence the last day I was able to wear that T-shirt without it being out of date. I was planning to get some iron-on stickers for it, but then it got far too big for me anyway!

Last year’s summer hits were pretty good from what I remember.  Let’s have a listen.

Now! That's What I Call Music #97
Track 1: Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber – Despacito

Gorgeous Latin summer tune, deservedly one of the biggest hits of the year.

Track 2: DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper and Lil’ Wayne – I’m The One

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Justin Bieber on track 1.

This is an extremely irritating track with too many rappers on it, none of whom contribute anything good.

Track 3: Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean – Feels

Great funk rhythm, great tune.  Really like this one.

Track 4: Jonas Blue and William Singe – Mama

This tune really irritates me.

Track 5: Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson – Symphony

Gorgeous instrumentals – quite like this track.

Track 6: Little Mix and Stormzy – Power

This is one that was used in Zumba class last year – I love the vocals.

Track 7: Liam Payne and Quavo – Strip That Down

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

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

Track 8: The Chainsmokers and Coldplay – Something Just Like This

I find this tune insanely irritating, and the theme’s horribly twee.

Track 9: David Guetta and Justin Bieber – 2U

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Justin Bieber on both track 1 and track 2.  Nobody needs that much Bieber on a Now! compilation!

This one’s a dull, forgettable tune.

Track 10: Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

I really like the classic feel to this – there’s something about it that reminds me of the slower dramatic examples of glam rock.

Track 11: Shawn Mendes – There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back

Cheesy and annoying.

Track 12: Rita Ora – Your Song

I really like this one – great tune, great electro lines.

Track 13: Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson – Unpredictable

Excruciatingly boring tune.

Track 14: Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

Great rhythm, great lyrics.  Good stuff.

Track 15: Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign – Swalla

I love this one!  It’s really danceable, and the vocals are awesome.

Track 16: Katy Perry and Migos – Bon Appétit

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Katy Perry on track 3.

This tune is highly dull and generic.  I’m starting to wonder how all these half-arsed attempts at tunes are becoming hits.

Track 17: Nick Jonas, Anne-Marie and Mike Posner – Remember I Told You

Another track that’s so boring I can’t concentrate on it.

Track 18: Lady Gaga – The Cure

A slower track from Lady Gaga, but I like the dramatic feel.  Would have been even better if the lyrics had been about the Cure as in the band though!

Track 19: Camila Cabello – Crying In The Club

Love the atmosphere of this one, and the interpolation of the melody from Christina Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle is done really well.

Track 20: Niall Horan – Slow Hands

The theme irritates me, and I can’t get on with the rhythm.

Track 21: Miley Cyrus – Malibu

Pretty tune – I find some of the lyrics a bit grating, but it’s got a nice summery feel.

Track 22: Ariana Grande – One Last Time

Originally released in 2014, back in the charts to raise money after the Manchester Arena attack.  It’s a gorgeous tune, but I find the theme uncomfortable.

Track 23: French Montana and Swae Lee – Unforgettable

Good beat, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 24: Sigala and Ella Eyre – Came Here For Love

Another tune that I find really irritating.

Track 25: Maggie Lindemann – Pretty Girl [Cheat Codes X Cade Remix]

Annoying tune, but the theme is the real issue here – cloying and vomit-inducingly smug.

Track 26: The Weeknd – Rockin’

Forgettable and dull.

Track 27: Little Mix and Machine Gun Kelly – No More Sad Songs

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Little Mix on track 6.

Another annoying tune.

Track 28: Jax Jones, Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don – Instruction

I really like this one – great beat, great theme.

Track 29: Cheat Codes and Demi Lovato – No Promises

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Demi Lovato on track 28.

Again, I don’t like the tune.

Track 30: Disciples – On My Mind

Great track – good tune, very danceable.

Track 31: J Hus – Did You See

Interesting track – I like the lyrics.

Track 32: Kendrick Lamar – Humble

Another interesting song – there’s some great lines here.  I quite like this one.

Track 33: Future – Mask Off

I really like the melancholy tune on the backing track – it’s gorgeous.

Track 34: Kygo and Ellie Goulding – First Time

Twee, saccharine and bland.

Track 35: Martin Garrix and Troye Sivan – There For You

Another tune I just can’t get into.

Track 36: Rudimental and James Arthur – Sun Comes Up

Generic, annoying tune.

Track 37: Hailee Steinfeld – Most Girls

It’s a bit cheesy, but I quite like this one.

Track 38: Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

Good retro sound, even better retro video.

Track 39: Neiked and Mimi – Call Me

Nice feelgood tune, but the vocals are really irritating.

Track 40: Raye – The Line

Nothing exciting about this one.

Track 41: Fifth Harmony and Gucci Mane – Down

Repetitive and dull.

Track 42: Haim – Want You Back

Again, I just can’t get excited about this tune.  I do like the retro tinge on the instrumentals though.

Track 43: JP Cooper – Passport Home

Too slow for me, and the theme’s very cheesy.

Track 44: Take That – Giants

Another boring tune.

Track 45: Artists For Grenfell – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Charity cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic to raise money for the victims of the Grenfell fire.  There’s some interesting stuff in this version, especially the added rap by Stormzy at the start.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #96

Day 96’s Now! compilation was released on 7th April 2017.

April 2017
This is the way the world looked in April 2017. The mouth of the Tyne was chilly but beautiful.  I’m glad we’re returning to the ferry photos in this final week, as they call to mind some early entries in the marathon such as Now! #3 and Now! #15.

Another new year, some more new hits.

Now! That's What I Call Music #96
Track 1: Ed Sheeran – Castle On The Hill

I wasn’t sure about this track when I first heard it, but it’s really grown on me – it’s a real singalong classic.  Things that are great about it:

  1. The very relatable poetic evocation of what it feels like to be nostalgic for your teenage years.
  2. The reference to Tiny Dancer.
  3. The section describing what all the old friends are doing now – I think it’s lyrically very beautiful.
  4. The fact that Suffolk Police needed to emphasise road safety in response to the ‘driving at ninety down these country lanes‘ lyric.  If you’ve ever driven on British country lanes, you’ll know why ninety miles an hour is not a good idea.

Track 2: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Human

Great track – I love the atmosphere on this one!  It was also used really effectively in the trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was a game I actually really loved.

Track 3: Little Mix – Touch

Good solid piece of pop – I really like this tune.

Track 4: The Weeknd and Daft Punk – Starboy

Another great atmosphere.

Track 5: The Chainsmokers – Paris

The tune’s pretty depressing, but the lyrics are quite good.

Track 6: Starley – Call On Me [Ryan Riback Remix]

There’s something I find really irritating about the tune on the vocals, but I quite like the instrumentals.

Track 7: Anne-Marie – Ciao Adios

Great pop track!  Really danceable – we did a cooldown to this one in Zumba class for a while – and the tune’s good too.

Track 8: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

The tune’s a bit generic, but I like the ’80s feel.

Track 9: Zara Larsson – I Would Like

I find this tune really irritating.

Track 10: Katy Perry and Skip Marley – Chained To The Rhythm

Interesting theme, and it’s got a good beat.

Track 11: Sean Paul and Dua Lipa – No Lie

Another irritating tune.

Track 12: Martin Jensen – Solo Dance

It’s an okay beat, but it’s pretty forgettable.

Track 13: Zedd and Alessia Cara – Stay

I really don’t like this tune – it’s very depressing.  Also, I was really irritated at the time when the Viva music channel would always mute out the word ‘rum’ in the lyric ‘drinking rum and cola‘, because apparently it’s not acceptable even to say the names of alcoholic drinks before the watershed nowadays.

Track 14: Sigrid – Don’t Kill My Vibe

Boring and slow.

Track 15: Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson – Just Hold On

Very generic dance track, nothing special here.

Track 16: Dua Lipa – Be The One

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Dua Lipa on track 11.

It’s got quite a good chillout feel, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 17: Jonas Blue and Raye – By Your Side

Highly irritating tune, and it’s too high-pitched.

Track 18: Coldplay – Hypnotised

Too slow, forgettable tune, so dull I can’t concentrate.

Track 19: John Legend – Love Me Now

The tune’s okay, but it’s another one where I can’t get onboard with the theme.

Track 20: Robbie Williams – Love My Life

Great to see Robbie Williams still going strong, even if this song is almost tipping into self-parody.

Track 21: George Michael – Fastlove

We’ve already had this one on Now! #35, but as it was included here as a tribute to the late great George Michael shortly after his passing, I’ll let it slide.

See the link for my review.

Track 22: Jax Jones and Raye – You Don’t Know Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Raye on track 17.

I really like this track though – the bridge is awesome, and it’s got a great beat.

Track 23: The Weeknd and Daft Punk – Feel It Coming

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had both the Weeknd and Daft Punk on track 4.

This one’s too cheesy for me, and not upbeat enough.  I like the retro feel though.

Track 24: Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa – Scared To Be Lonely

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Dua Lipa on both track 11 and track 16.  This is getting annoying!

Yet another irritating tune.

Track 25: Kygo and Selena Gomez – It Ain’t Me

Again, there’s something that really annoys me about the tune.

Track 26: Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane – Black Beatles

Great rhythm, but the tune’s very repetitive.

Track 27: Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello – Bad Things

I quite like this one – the tune on the chorus is nice.

Track 28: Sage The Gemini – Now And Later

I find this track pretty dull – it could do with a bit more melody.

Track 29: Tinie Tempah and Tinashe – Text From Your Ex

I quite like the atmosphere, but the tune’s nothing special.

Track 30: Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

Great rap track – the rhythm on this is awesome.

Track 31: Tom Zanetti and Sadie Ama – You Want Me

Takes ages to get going.  When it does, the tune’s very irritating and sounds almost off-key.

Track 32: Martin Solveig and Ina Wroldsen – Places

Another annoying tune.

Track 33: Robin Schulz, David Guetta and Cheat Codes – Shed A Light

I’m just not keen on this at all – it’s cheesy and generic.

Track 34: MO and Kent Jones – Not In Love

It’s another very forgettable tune, but I quite like the reggae-tinged beat.

Track 35: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Skin

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Rag ‘N’ Bone Man on track 2.

The tune’s very pretty, but it’s too slow for me.

Track 36: Train – Play That Song

Extremely irritating and twee!

Track 37: The Vamps and Matoma – All Night

That chorus is insanely annoying with its kiddie-sounding vocals, and the rest of the track’s not much better.

Track 38: Ariana Grande and Future – Everyday

Too slow for me, and the track’s very messy.

Track 39: Major Lazer, PartyNextDoor and Nicki Minaj – Run Up

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

Track 40: Post Malone and Quavo – Congratulations

Not keen on the tune on this one.

Track 41: Julia Michaels – Issues

I really don’t like this one – the vocal style and rhythm are kind of stop-start, the tune’s nothing special, and the theme annoys me.

Track 42: Lorde – Green Light

This is a great song – I love the beat and the way it builds.  Wonderful track.

Track 43: Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos – Slide

The kiddie-sounding bit of the vocals are just incoherent shouting, and the tune’s pretty dull, but I like the retro-sounding instrumentals.