Saturday, April 10, 2010

Album Review: "Now 75" - Various Artists

Firstly I just want to wish a happy three-quarter-century to one of our most favourite compilation albums!

Welcome to Now 75, which from its tracklisting could also be described as the flat-lining of the British singles chart. Although it could be said that the 'Now' series has never been an accurate reflection of the British music scene as a whole, however it has always been a pretty accurate measure of the British singles chart, and when the musical historians come to unearth the time capsule of British chart-pop then the 'Now' series would inevitably be there.

Looking at the tracklisting it becomes very apparent that on digging up the buried musical treasures of late 2009/early 2010 then we can expect those historians to be very depressed indeed. For much of Now 75 is cluttered up with the autotuned-to-death urban/grime/r'n'b which is polluting the charts to the exclusion of any decent music. Iyaz? Tinie Tempah? Chipmunk? Chiddy Bang? Young Money? Naughty Boy? Who are these people and what gives them the right to chart, just because their songs have been played to death on Galaxy and their videos are on heavy rotation on most of the music channels?

It's not all bad though: CD1 does have Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" on it, which is that rare thing in these times - a memorable pop single which actually did well in the charts - but there is very little on CD1 that I would want to hear again, with a couple of exceptions - "On A Mission" by Gabriella Cilmi and "About A Girl" by the much-maligned Sugababes mk.25 (or thereabouts). CD1 also has a nod to X Factor/Team Cowell and its dreary hangers-on: Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry and the hideous Jedward. How they were ever allowed to make a record is anyone's guess :( And as for "Everybody Hurts" by Helping Haiti: good cause, completely duff record.

There are a couple of rare gems on CD2 - I was very surprised that a simple little song like "Fireflies" by Owl City could get to no.1 in these miserable musical times, whilst I can only cheer that something genuinely different and original like Plan B's "Stay Too Long" - one of the best singles of 2010 and a cert for my 2010-50 chart at the end of the year - made it to the top 10 of the UK singles chart.

Another treat on the album is "Many of Horror" by Biffy Clyro - a very rare sighting of a "real band" among the grime-dross, over-hyped pop and overplayed tripe.

CD2 also features some of the over-hyped quirky females who have taken over the charts in recent times - Florence & The Machine, Marina & the Diamonds, Ellie & the Goulding - sorry I mean Ellie Goulding, whose "Starry Eyed" is probably the most bearable of all three.

Now 75 also features not one but two versions of "Don't Stop Believin'" - the Journey original and the nightmare that is the Glee Cast cover. Now don't get me wrong: I like "Glee" a lot, but the musical soundtrack is increasingly making me cringe and I reach for the fast-forward button whenever the songs come on.

CD2 is probably better than CD1, although it kicks off with what feels like the most-played song on the radio in recent years - "Empire State of Mind", this time in its Alicia Keys-version rather than with Jay-Z; we don't have to wait too long for Mr Z though, as he pops up shortly afterwards with Mr Hudson on "Young Forever".

All in all, "Now 75" is a very depressing compilation, although I will reiterate that it is a completely accurate reflection of the current music scene. The one positive thing to take from it is that there is good music around elsewhere: you just have to know where to look for it.

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