REVIEW: Now That's What I Call Music! 18 and the Decline of Western Civilization

Posted by Al Barger on June 28, 2005 04:11 AM (See all posts by Al Barger)
Filed under: Music 

I'm pretty interested in music, thus I'm generally much more likely to be listening to half century old Miles Davis or Carter Family records, rather than keeping up with whatever crap the record companies are paying radio to pimp out to the teenagers. Thus, I don't listen to much commercial pop radio.

Nonetheless, some chillen prevailed on me to obtain them a copy of the Now That's What I Call Music! 18 collection, the modern version of a K-Tel record- a whorish grab bag of recent radio hits.

This has sent me into Grumpy Old Man mode. Imagine me channeling Dana Carvey as I listen to this bunch of foolishness. Re Now 18 and pop radio: Flibbeldy flew! I don't like the way things are now compared to the way they used to be!

I had low patience for corporate pop when I was a teenager a quarter century ago. But this crap today makes our crap look relatively good. Rand help me, but I'd take Olivia Newton John and Styx any time over Lindsay Lohan and Lenny Kravitz. They had much better crafted songs, even if they were somewhat on the cheesy side. I can't quite remember how "Rumors" or "Lady" go even while I'm listening to them- but I'll doubtless take "Summer Nights" and "Come Sail Away"  to my grave.

The chillen turn out to be most interested in a song called "O" by Omarion. Now, I've heard worse. I could at least halfway remember how it went while I was actually listening to it. However, it's a completely generic R&B ballad with generic lyrics, imminently forgettable.

One thing about it though, the main vocal hook, such as it is, is an extended moaning "O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o." After being subjected to this song half a dozen times in an hour, I finally got it. Soon I was imitating Omarion clutching his belly in pain, "O-o-o-o-o!" Somebody get that Negro some Pepto Bismal.

One more pimpsploitation of U2's "Vertigo" ain't moving me. It was mediocre U2-by-numbers to start with, and the weak melody doesn't hold up to the ridiculous overexposure this track has gotten.

Destiny's Child probably rates the best song here with their search for a "Soldier." The song's not half bad, and they really sell it with their fancy vocal harmonies. OK, that's one fairly strong song out of twenty.

Being somewhat generous, you might credit Howie Day's "Collide" as a reasonably listenable pop song, in a slickly produced singer-songwriter kind of way. That's two.

From there, you may wish to lower your standards to try to get anything out of this. Short of a real song, you'll have to settle for any bit of a hook, or any sign of personality. To that end, Snoop Dogg's admonition to "Drop It Like It's Hot" has some novelty appeal. There's no actual song here, but he gets good novelty mileage out of looping some tongue-clucking noises as a surprisingly effective rhythmic base. That's slightly interesting at least.

"Over and Over" by Nelly has a somewhat compelling beat, and a decent basic vocal hook for the chorus, but not much development, and a weak verse. Also, Tim McGraw didn't make much of an impression here. If Nelly really wants some country input, perhaps he should borrow Wammo from the Asylum Street Spankers. It's half listenable, maybe.

From there, it goes downhill fast. I can't remember crap from any of the rest of this litter after half a dozen listens. They sound like test-group focused corporate "pop" and "rock" and "R&B" and "country" song products. I'll just say that Keith Urban makes me long for the good old days when Kenny Rogers ruled.

Also, pop singers of the 70s didn't carry on about how tough fame is. It's rather hard to express how uninterested I am in hearing Lindsay Lohan whining about "Rumors." Hey, maybe if you quit acting like a stupid spoiled whore you wouldn't have all them people talking about you. Also, please invest some of these big entertainment industry bucks you're making into buying a personality.

Finally, special dishonor should be flung like monkey pooh on the Frickin' A cover of "Jessie's Girl." Is a Rick Springfield cover really needed? Not this one, anyway. They did it almost like the original, rather than doing anything original with it. The main difference is that Frickin' A play it a little faster, losing the rock and roll rhythm that was one of the main appeals of the Springfield hit. Basically, they just butchered a perfectly good song.

In short, this album pretty well represents for the sorry state of modern commercial pop radio music. It has minimal in the way of melody compared to earlier pop generations. It also represents a marked decline in instrumental skills, much less interesting or unique instrumentation. It mostly pretty much sucks.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'ma get back to my Elvis Costello and Prince records.




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