Article: Now that's what I call dreck

By | February 13, 2009

I’ve said before that I believe there is an art to creating the perfect mix tape. When you do it right, you’re playing DJ in a fantasy league, blending a fated cornucopia of ballads and bangers, with just a hint of ironic ’80s pop.

When you do it wrong, you’re probably part of the brain trust behind the “NOW! That’s What I Call Music” franchise.

For more than a decade, “NOW!” has pieced together the oddest assembly of top 40 hits and branded them with its logo. They’re supposed to be a musical yearbook, I’m guessing. A disc that watermarks the year in music.

But more often than not, when “NOW!” becomes then, you’re left to wonder what you were thinking — like how did I ever grow to enjoy this tripe?

The series kicked off in 1998 with its volume one. That album paired up some of music’s least proud moments in the form of Hanson’s “MMMBop” and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

If you were 10 in 1998, it’s reasonable to assume you might have had an affinity for both titles. But I doubt you’d also be into tracks like Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” also included on the album.

That’s right — Radiohead and Hanson on the same disc.

The following year, oops, “NOW!” did it again, putting Britney Spears’ “… Baby One More Time” up against Sublime’s “What I Got.”

Now in its 29th incarnation, “NOW!” has perfected the formula of nonsensical hit-making. Quite simply, a “NOW!” compilation is what your bachelor uncle buys you for Christmas once you’ve grown out of dolls and he is baffled by your burgeoning puberty.

Nothing says, “Hey, I forgot it was your birthday until 10 minutes ago when I saw this on an end cap at CVS” quite like one of these CDs.

Number 29 features a grudge match between former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman, Darius Rucker, and gay-for-play superstar Katy Perry.

Any good musical compilation is supposed to make a statement. There are people who earn a living painstakingly soundtracking films and television so that the music will be poignantly attached to a memorable moment.

“NOW!” is a contestant on “Rock of Love.” The only statement it makes is “Hey, these are songs that people heard this year.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to boycott this evil empire. Make your own mix tapes. End the madness. Now.

CE Skidmore is an urban transplant who found her niche in the North Country. E-mail her at skidmore@poststar.com.

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