On Aug. 31, the hits compilation Now That's What I Call Music! 35 will be released and, if it's anything like the first 34 volumes, it will sashay up the album charts. Seeing as how most major labels allow their singles to be included on the Now series, it makes for a solid barometer of what's hot in pop. Its success is also indicative of our singles-driven market. The bestselling disc in all the land — the series has sold more than 200 million copies worldwide — is made up of random tunes by various artists. Every Now release in the United States has reached Billboard's Top 10. Who needs real albums anymore!
The very first Now U.S. entry dropped on Oct. 27, 1998; it included such worthy singles as Hanson's MMMBop, Radiohead's Karma Police and Lenny Kravitz's Fly Away. Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Coldplay, Eminem and Kanye West have admirably filled Now — and my iPod — since then.
But alas, Now is perilously thin these days. Now 34 was released in June; businesswise, that makes sense. These comps are cash cows and cheap to make; heck, all the work has already been done. But 34 only had a few goodies, including Rihanna's Rude Boy and Miranda Lambert's The House That Built Me. Ke$ha is popular, but if her talent is any indication, she'll be refilling Arby's Horsey Sauce buckets by 2011.
That said, Now 34 plays like Abbey Road compared with Now 35.
I don't want to doomsay here, but man, we settle for anything these days, don't we? Katy Perry's California Gurls is on there, but that's a novelty song with the shelf life of mayonnaise in the sun. Lady Gaga's Alejandro is popular because she is; she could write that dullness in her sleep. Then the drop-off gets really rough: Carrie Underwood's stuttering Undo It, Travie McCoy's cloying Billionaire, duds from the Black Eyed Peas and Nickelback, and further proof that Justin Bieber should have retired after Baby.
If there was only one Now released each year, the talent suckage wouldn't be as glaring. But that's just the thing: The pop world is a rushed, imaginative, crass, disposable place these days, and I don't know who's more to blame, the people making the songs or the people gobbling them up. Now that's what I call sad.
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The Weight Loss Playlist
Due to the roiling sea of uncertainty that is my life, I've managed to drop a few pounds lately. I'd guess about 15 or so. I wish I could credit exercise, diet and clean living; instead, I'd like to thank booze, stress and tobacco for helping me get into a 36 waist again. At first, the compliments were cool: "Hey, someone's been laying off the Funyuns!" But then I started to feel bad for ol' Chunky-but-Funky Sean, who we all know will be back soon enough. Where was the love for his shape? (I'm 209 now, but I've seen the beefy glory of 240. I blame the autumnal munchies.) Maybe when Chunky-but-Funky Sean returns, I should praise my fellow funkies on their joyous plumpness. I'll make it positive! Big is beautiful! "Hey Larry, did someone win first place in a pie-eating contest? I think so!" Or maybe: "Not many people can consume a pound of bacon in one sitting, Wanda. You have a gift!" For now, I'll just sit on my flat butt, wait . . . and maybe have a few of these marshmallows.
1. The Weight, the Band
2. Drop It Like It's Hot, Snoop Dogg
3. Just Lose It, Eminem
4. Skin Thin, Ben Harper
5. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother, the Hollies
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Download this: Lazlo Bane's 'Overkill'
Special thanks to reader Timothy Williams for sending me Lazlo Bane's guitar-crunchy cover of Men at Work's Overkill. The Santa Monica, Calif., band is most famous for the theme to Scrubs, which I'm guessing is how the group met MAW's Colin Hay, who also did music for the sitcom. Overkill is one of my fave songs anyway (especially Hay's acoustic version). But this take, especially with angry cathartic guitar, is flat-out life-affirming. Plus the vocal "surprise" at song's end gives me chills. To listen to Lazlo Bane's Overkill, go to Pop Life online at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.