Now That’s What I Call Music! 50 – Track by Track
The first compilation in the Compilations Track by Track series is the 2001 Virgin EMI release in arguably the most popular compilation in the UK Now That’s What I Call Music!
Release Overview, Packaging & Design
As with all of the volumes in the main NTWICM series, volume 50 summarises the pop charts for a portion of the year. Amazon UK lists the release date as being the 19th November 2001 indicating that the compilation serves as a year-end review of 2001 covering a lot of the hits that were popular since the last entry (49) released 30th July 2001. For the main series, volumes avoid overlap and rarely (if ever) feature the same track twice for two successive volumes.
Again adopting the format of the rest of the series, you get two CD’s with just over 20 tracks on each; packaged in a standard sized jewel case with swing tray. A cassette version was also produced on two tapes. The release contains a booklet with information about each track, and select tracks may also feature a picture of the performer/band.
The design of the release doesn’t indicate any specific theme (later volumes that were released late into the year often had a vague Christmas theme, with the earlier volume transmitting more of a summer vibe). Instead we get a lime green and grape purple colour scheme that stretches every inch of the release. On the reverse of the inlay there is an advert for the Now That’s What I Call Music! 2001 The DVD release, the only part of the release that isn’t lime green or grape purple.
The design doesn’t really conjure up any emotions or strong feelings for or against it; ultimately it is quite boring.
As a young burgeoning music collector I set my sights on collecting as many NTWICM releases as I could find (cheaply of course). This objective soon faded as I began to realise that there are sometimes better (for value or diversity) compilations already on the market. Either way I must have picked this particular volume up around 2009/10? According to my records I purchased it for a mere 50 pence then, and it is worth about 50 pence now.
I doubt I will be removing this item from my collection anytime soon as it was one of the first NTWICM volumes I purchased myself (wasn’t a gift for example). It also encapsulates a period of music that I remember fondly, being a mere 7 years old at the time this volume was released I have memories of school discos and listening to local radio SGR Colchester in my mum’s Ford Escort.
Track By Track
Scoring System & Preface
? = Great track on this compilation, either it is a classic pop/rock anthem or maybe just a really good undiscovered secret I highly suggest these tracks off the compilation. Usually indicates that you should seek out more from this artist, band or the album it is from.
? = An OK track on this compilation, this track acts like filler – too many of these types of tracks and the value of the compilation ends up being nil.
? = A bad track, a terrible track – would probably be left out of a rip or skipped when played. Not many songs achieve this status, most of them are very much ‘OK’ but it’s good to have a critical nought score.
Preface: As this is the internet and some people leave their common sense at the door, keep in mind these are my opinions – like many of the aspects on this website. Just because I don’t like a particular track, artist, band, style, genre, movement – whatever; doesn’t mean you cannot.
Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head ?
Straight out of the gates and our ears are greeted by the Australian queen of pop Kylie Minogue. Keep in mind that I was 7 years old at this point, I didn’t exactly have the most critical approach to music; however at the time of writing this I have made relaxed efforts to go back and listen to a lot of big pop albums that spawned bigger pop hits. You could almost say that Kylie’s music is a guilty pleasure for myself, not really what most 20-something men would often openly say they enjoy listening to – but this track is just wonderful.
Produced by Cathy Dennis the track has immaculate production and taps into the popular mainstream house genre of the time. Coupled with catchy and simple lyrics it is no wonder the single opened at the number one position. The track comes from the 2001 album Fever (Parlophone) which has become one of my favourite pop records of the turn of the millennium. The album, and this track in particular, demonstrates Kylie’s move away from the bland processed sound of her days with PWL towards more of a electronic fused sound and is proof that Kylie is here to stay and can adapt well to the ever changing popular music scene.
I love this track, maybe I love the equally famous music video even more, for its driving bassline. I can appreciate however that many would become slowly infuriated by the repetitive La La La lyrics, definitely considering the amount of airplay this would have garnered at its peak.
A strong start for this compilation. I highly suggest the album Fever if you find yourself enjoying this.
Westlife – Uptown Girl ?
Oh and we have lost a bit of momentum. Can’t win them all.
I don’t know which boy band I hate more – Boyzone or Westlife. Probably the latter due to the perseverance to make some of the most blandest mum-pop that I have ever had the displeasure of listening to.
What we have here is a cover of an already popular track from pop icon Billy Joel. With my teenage hipster seeping out I spit on this cover in favour of the original, but let’s try and be sensible about this.
The track isn’t terrible, it’s plenty listenable but is a mostly forgettable performance. Westlife bring little different to the execution of the classic song than Billy does – all you get here is a slightly cleaner modern production with all of the cheese and corniness of the original. Performing a bit of ad-hoc research the single was released as a charity single for the nationwide Comic Relief event (which has a history of producing disposable pop tracks), and it did reach the lofty number one position in the UK singles chart along with becoming the bands biggest hit in the UK to date.
Personally not one for me, but appreciated by many. Often considered a bit of a cheesy track you’ll be sure to be hearing it now and then at various weddings, discos and nostalgia club nights.
DJ Otzi – Hey Baby! ?
People these days complain about the surge and prominence of soundcloud rappers along with the ever dominant hip-hop and EDM styled pop tracks ruining the pop landscape. I too have a strange fondness for pop of the past, but also have to consider that I would probably dislike the pop tracks that I do enjoy now, if they were still on heavy rotation.
One part of pop music that seems to have almost died out was the constant waves of novelty and cheesey euro-pop (not euro-beat, that’s a different thing). Looking ahead on this volume of NTWICM we are in for a treat, as we have about 4 tracks ahead that fit into this category.
Unless I am partaking in a drunken sing-along or someone is trying to break me while I drive, I never actively seek out to listen to tracks like DJ Otzi’s football chant anthem Hey Baby! I definitely remember this being sung by many on the school playground, at least the chorus is. I can also safely assume that everyone currently in their 20s knows this track quite well.
So why don’t I like it. I can’t find anything that this track has going for it that gives it value that goes further than do you remember this? Not a football fan myself might also have a part to play in it, but I can appreciate a good anthem. The lyrics are, as you’d expect, basic at best. The melody is very simple and is there to act only as a vehicle to carry the chants. I guess I have marked this track with a negative because I would skip past it on every single listen, and rarely do I ever make it through the whole 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Bob the Builder – Mambo No. 5 ?
OK so if I thought Hey Baby was bad, this might be one of the darkest moments on this album. Considering this compilation is not purposefully aimed at children, I can imagine a lot of adults being a little annoyed to have what is a children’s novelty pop track included on the release.
I don’t have anything for Bob the Builder, actually I have many fond memories of watching the series as a kid – recalling it being a staple in my younger cousin’s home. What I do have against this track is that like many novelty pop tracks the lead vocalist can’t sing – Neil Morrissey should stick to voice and character acting, and leave the singing at home. OK it’s not going to make your ears bleed but it is in no way pleasant either.
The track is also not a direct cover of the 1999 original by Lou Bega (which surprisingly for a novelty track, I do enjoy) but instead more of a parody – changing the lyrics from a song about courting women (possibly concurrently) to a song about the aforementioned shows theme – DIY.
Amazingly (actually it doesn’t surprise me, considering what children can be like) the single opened at the number one position in both the UK Singles and UK Indie charts (how I don’t know) which gave the fictitious builder two UK number ones.
So why a negative. The song is clearly an innocent take (imagine KidzBop) of a raunchy classic and is intended as a bit of fun but I just can’t find really any enjoyment of the track. I would almost say there is less here to enjoy than on the previous track by DJ Otzi, at least I can sing along to that one.
Steps – Chain Reaction ?
People complain these days that the entertainment industry (music, film even video games) have lost all creativity and imagination opting to cash in on people’s nostalgia by simply rebooting/remaking instead of inventing.
Well let me tell you YouTube comment keyboard warrior, 17 years ago in 2001 the issue was still clearly present. Chain Reaction marks the third cover track we have been subjected to. Covers aren’t inherently bad things, there are many examples where an artist or performer brings a different take to the original composition – however more often than not the covers are simply vehicles to make some money from the aspect of familiarity along with giving the performer an excuse to sing their favourite song at you.
Steps by this point were running out of steam, disbanding shortly after this compilation was released. Released from their Gold: Greatest Hits album (which I did own as many kids did) the song appears to be a last ditch effort to make some money before going bust. Their disbandment wouldn’t last forever, rejoining efforts coming in at 2011 and 2017 – where they appear to play a lot of small town venues including my local live venue, Charter Hall.
So the track is very much keeping with Steps euro-pop style (a style that would soon be killed off by the R&B and hip-hop infused pop tracks approaching) but just feels a bit naff. The track feels like it lacks any real vocal energy with each member giving a bit of a phoned in performance; unlike some of the bands more popular hits like 5,6,7,8 or Tradegy. Along with this the production here is rather annoying with various audio effects being layered over the top, nearly drowning out the half-baked performances.
Nothing against Steps, they were a euro-pop force to be reckoned with but by this point it was clear that the band were all itching to do a Spice Girls and go it alone. Amazingly this track hit position 2 in the singles chart, but was kept away from position 1 by the aforementioned Australian queen Kylie.
Also as a side note – I’m no fashionista myself but what on earth are they wearing on the cover art?
Five – Let’s Dance ?
Continuing with the theme of covers.
OK so I was wrong, this isn’t a cover of Bowie’s classic, (Amazingly) and marks the end of the novelty tracks on CD1.
I also began to write the heading for this section crediting UK boy-band Blue as the performer. Wrong twice it seems, as this was performed by the (now) mostly forgotten UK boy-band Five. To say there were a lot of boy-bands at this time is an understatement, so please forgive my ignorance.
So what do we get with this 3 minute and 30 seconds pop track. We get a very of the time pop hit with heavy UK garage influences (which was reasonably popular still at this point) and plenty of Cher influenced auto-tone (and you thought it was rife in pop music of today).
I have no real opinion about this track – it doesn’t really do anything that special (to the point I mistook it for being performed by someone else) and it doesn’t do anything that bad. A minor blip on the radar would be a fitting description.
The song reached position 1 in the UK Singles chart and marked the bands last hurrah. However like many pop acts of this era (see Steps above) Five cannot stay dead, and like to cash in on people’s nostalgia by performing reunion tours.
At least it’s not Bob the Builder.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Take Me Home ?
I’m still recovering from subjecting myself to such mediocrity I am trying to not get too excited as we approach some genuine pop artists.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor is in my opinion a very good example of a female pop artist of the time – keeping in style with the giants of Kylie, Madonna and Britney, Sophie demonstrated she was tuned into the styles of the time and was happy to embrace other elements such as those found in mainstream house and the resurgence of disco music of the time.
Now I am not big on Sophie’s discography, it is something on my never-ending list to address. But I would have to say this track is pretty weak. It also can be lumped in with some of the other tracks here in being another cover. The cover is of Cher’s Take Me Home from 1979; which again I am not in anyway familiar with at all.
The track feels like filler, considering it was preceded by Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) and Murder on the Dancefloor, which are rightfully wonderful pop tracks – there really isn’t much happening with Take Me Home that I find interesting. This maybe a fault of the source material, but like I said I am rather unfamiliar with Cher’s musical career.
This track would probably garner a negative score if it was packed in with some real bangers but as it is follows after a lot of eh tracks it comes as a nice refreshment – a bit like a complimentary mint at a restaurant.
Wyclef Jean – Perfect Gentleman ?
Again, not sure if I am still suffering from the radiation sickness of the first half of this compilation but I quite enjoy this track. Actually it is one of my favourite tracks from the release.
Ex-Fugees member, Wyclef along with producer Jerry Duplessis bring to the table a upbeat R&B groove which still brings the familiar sounds of the Fugees.
Again, on its own this track can struggle to stand up against some of the other R&B and hip-hop hits of the year, but positioned where it is on the compilation it is quite a refreshment.
I understand that Wyclef is not to everyone’s taste, and admittedly I wouldn’t consider him a master musician, so giving this track a positive score might come as a surprise. How much of this score is credited to the production is definitely something to consider, as I find myself remembering the beat more than the lyrical content.
City High – What Would You Do? ?
Keeping with the theme of pop rap and R&B beats, we reach City High’s biggest hit What Would You Do?
Being a story track, the track deals with a heavy topic as described best on the Wikipedia page for the song:
The song, along with the accompanying music video, is a motivational anthem for single parents dealing with poverty and especially acknowledging all the single mothers who feel forced into prostitution due to the need to support their children. It encourages them to keep strong, and keep going on for the sake of their loved ones, and passes no judgement on their profession.
To get such a track into the charts is quite a rare feat, with most hip-hop tracks making chart (even at this time in pop) leaned more towards the bragging rights of money, women and wine instead of tackling social economic issues.
This track is produced by the previous performer, Wyclef Jean, and does bring a perfectly suitable beat to accompany the lyrical content. I would say however unlike the previous track, I rate this track by lyrical content more than its production.
The track also undertakes the hip-hop trait of using a well known sample to capture people’s attention, with the song breaking down into the hip-hop anthem The Next Episode by Dr. Dre – surprisingly considering the Dre track was released the same year.
Well worth a listen if you haven’t heard it before.
Blue – If You Come Back ?
OK so this time it is… Blue, not Five.
So what do we have here, another 3 minute and 30 (just under) pop ballad. Which is perfectly serviceable as being a pleasant love song.
I wouldn’t say I am a big Blue fan, but I would definitely say in the market of UK boy-bands they are probably up there with my favourites. They seemed to always know what they wanted, and put out some very good pop hits.
This track is definitely a more traditional pop affair, with a few light R&B touches – giving a very US boy-band feel. This did the track well as it did reach the number 1 position on the singles chart.
Now to try and avoid being to hypocritical, yes Blue are probably no better at being mum-pop than Westlife or Boyzone who I slammed earlier on in this review. But, as cringe as this sounds, I found that Blue did often bring a more modern feel with their tracks than the Irish bands; although that might not be exactly in full force with this example.
I don’t know, hypocrisy is difficult – sometimes I just like some things, and dislike others even if they are very similar.
Nelly Furtado – Turn Off The Light ?
I don’t have to really consider giving this anything else but a positive. Much like Kylie, Nelly Furtado is one of the queens of pop music of the noughties.
I absolutely adore Nelly’s vocal style which breaks away from the tried and tested vocal styles of other female pop artists at the time. Paired with some warm R&B infused beats you get a wonderful melting pot that is Turn Off the Light.
Although it would be a few years before hip-hop mega-producer Timbaland would take Nelly under his wing and make some seriously fire bangers, Nelly demonstrated that she could stand on her own without the power of someone like Timbaland behind her.
A great R&B pop track.
OPM – Heaven Is A Halfpipe ?
It must be hard to sequence these NTWICM compilations, definitely at times where pop music was so diverse as the early 2000s.
From smooth R&B flows we move into, er rap metal?
OK so even I can’t say that Heaven is a Halfpipe is rap metal with a straight face, but what really is it? Rap rock? Wikipedia lists it as hip-hop which seems to be a little too vague – who knows, who cares!
Coinciding with the uprising and popularity of pop-punk and nu-metal, OPM’s Heaven Is a Halfpipe somehow fits in perfectly. Alone it would likely not make much sense, or be simply disregarded so it is lucky that it was released at this time; but you could almost argue that it probably could never be conceived at any other time.
The track reached a respectful position 4 on the UK singles chart, which is better than its performance in its home territory of the USA.
My memories of this track come from watching and playing many skateboarding games as a young teen – although I am unable to skateboard at all. So the warm nostalgia brought from that might be swaying me to give this track a better score than it rightfully deserves.
Once again hypocrisy could shoot me here, as ultimately this is a bit of a novelty track that only exists within a specific time and movement that can likely never be re-produced in a genuine way without seeming false.
A fun song, and I’m a hypocrite.
The Dandy Warhols – Bohemian Like You ?
It just gets better, as we move into the more rock themed section of the compilation.
Likely popularised by its feature in a series of adverts for mobile network operator Vodafone, Bohemian Like You is often regarded as one of those great driving songs – probably because its driving beat along with the included Woo’s which are often a great ingredient for making good rock tracks.
The Dandy Warhols symbolised the continuation of great indie and alternative rock to come throughout the decade with a beautiful melting pot of hits from both sides of the pond.
I give this song a positive rating because it just makes me want to dance and drive fast!
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal ?
Ramping up further with the pace and feel of the album, heading further into the rock landscape of the year we encounter our first nu-metal / pop-punk track. And yes , it is a cover.
I like Michael Jackson, I think he was a very talent pop musician and deserves the accolades that he is given by the pop industry. I really enjoy the original version of this track too, and I really enjoy this cover too. Why?
This is a demonstration of how a cover can work well – you take something that people find very dear and enjoy and put your own spin on it. How AAF approach this is by giving the 80s mega hit a nu-metal spin, bringing it to a new audience who probably think they are too cool for Michael’s music.
Aside from AAF’s other hit track, Movies (which I guess I sort of prefer), there isn’t much else the band is notable for. They just hit the market at the right time with their cover. Much like OPM’s Heaven is a Halfpipe, I doubt this cover could exist anywhere else in pop music but at this very moment.
Sum 41 – Fat Lip ?
Continuing with the energy generated by the previous track we reach one of my all time favourite pop-punk tracks, Fat Lip by Canadian’s Sum 41.
In today’s pop climate which is dominated by hip-hop and EDM it is hard to believe there was a time when rock music existed on the charts.
Fat Lip is a beautifully corny high energy party track that you can guarantee will get me turnt up in any bar or club.
Surprisingly the track once again did considerably better in chart performance here in the UK when compared against its progress in the US Billboard charts, however it did reach first position in its home territories MuchMusic Countdown.
Wheatus – A Little Respect ?
Bringing down the pace and energy a couple of notches, we have once again another cover.
This time of Erasure’s A Little Respect by American power pop outfit Wheatus.
This track follows on from the classic Teenage Dirtbag track which did amazingly well in the charts.
Owning the bands debut self-titled album I can confirm that choosing to put this track out following Teenage Dirtbag was probably a sensible idea as the album, although good, doesn’t really offer much else in the way of good radio hits.
Much like Smooth Criminal above, Wheatus bring a nice rock edge to this 80’s classic without taking it too far.
Even though it is clear by now that the UK listening public weren’t afraid of getting a little bit metal with their tastes, I doubt a Slipknot or Machine Head re-tread of an 80’s classic to do as well as one performed by a slightly easier to swallow pop-punk/power pop band like Alien Ant Farm or Wheatus.
A great cover with good energy, and nicely rounds off the heavier set of this ultimately pop compilation.
Travis – Sing ?
I really am not a big Travis fan, although I understand that plenty of people are. You’d think the nostalgia of listening to Travis on Radio 2 while sitting in the back of my granddads BMW 3 series would create a strong bond – but nope, I just struggle to find any value in the wishy-washy soft rock they bring to the table.
Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything offensively bad here with Sing. It’s a very nice song, but that’s it for me – it’s just nice and after being throttled around the head by The Dandy Warhols, Alien Ant Farm and Sum 41 it feels jerky like a poorly maintained transmission.
As I had stated previously sequencing these albums must not be an easy task. Considering up ahead we have the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Emma Bunton and Gabrielle (who I sometimes consider a queen of mum-pop) so we need some kind of ramp down as I think transitioning from pop-punk to reasonably generic pop would cause most listeners to eject the CD and demand a refund following mass confusion.
Regarding the track itself, it did well on the singles chart reaching number 3 and people seem to like it, but not really me.
Next up, Jenny from the block.
Jennifer Lopez – Ain’t It Funny ?
Not sure exactly why when sequencing this album they put this track, with its strong latin and R&B vibes, here and not next to the Nelly Furtado track but hey, whatever.
I usually regard Lopez as more of an actress these days than a musical performer. Although I do have recollections of watching her on TOTP back in the day.
Ain’t It Funny is quite a nice pop track, and definitely has all the tropes of a successful pop track of the era – so it doesn’t really come as a surprise it did well in the UK reaching position 3 in the UK Singles chart.
I give it a neutral score as honestly it doesn’t evoke or do anything for me special, but it doesn’t do anything too bad.
Emma Bunton – Take My Breath Away ?
Not a cover, surprisingly. Instead a very generic pop track which I guess could be expected from an ex-Spice?
I really don’t know how to really pull this one apart. To me it is a perfect candidate for “mum pop” – inoffensive pop music.
It doesn’t carry any of the modern tropes of chart music like the previous effort from Lopez or Furtado; sounding very late 90s in its composition and production.
This nearly fell to a negative rating, for being so bland but really this is just on par with something like Sing by Travis.
Neutral score for a neutral song.
Gabrielle – Don’t Need The Sun To Shine (To Make Me Smile)?
Ugh, continuing with the dreary rainy day theme that seemed to be started by Travis (exception being Lopez’ track) we have one of the queens of mum pop – Gabrielle.
Again nothing exactly wrong with this music, its very nice if you wanted background music for a coffee shop or retail store but as listening music…………. zzzzzzzz
The problem I have with Gabrielle is that all of her music seems to fit this dreary and lazy feeling. I guess there are some people who like this, and don’t think that I always want to listen to high energy tunes – because that isn’t true. But this is just so terribly boring.
Again like Bunton’s effort I’m not sure this deserves a negative or a neutral. It works perfectly good as a filler track, but considering it is slipped between two other dreary tracks I feel like it begins to really bring down the value on this side of the compilation.
So for that merit, it gets a negative. It would otherwise get a neutral.
Lighthouse Family – (I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be) Free/One ?
I think I find this level of inoffensive mum pop actually more difficult to embrace than terrible novelty tracks. I take back what I said about Bob the Builder, at least that gave me something to pick at.
Things that are more interesting than this song:
- Waiting in a dentist surgery
- Waiting for a delayed train to turn up with no music and a dead phone
- Sitting in traffic
- Reading a dictionary
To top it all off, this is a double-whammy cover. The first being of Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” and the second being U2’s “One”. I have to give it to Lighthouse Family that they are giving their own take here and aren’t trying to do too much of a lazy cash grab but this fact doesn’t revoke how terribly uninteresting this track is.
Kate Winslet – What If ?
OK you can normally guarantee that at any point in pop history you’ll get a musical number in the charts, or a song for the film. Be it Phil Collins or Bryan Adams or Glee or High School Musical.
Suprisingly I don’t hate musicals, I think they have their place and can be quite interesting. Now I haven’t seen the Christmas Carol: The Movie film that this song is from, but I do appreciate Kate as an actress. She can also certainly sing and does a nice job on this track.
The song definitely has very strong Celine Dion vibes; who is again a strong mum pop’er – but Kate gives a lot more emotion in this performance than The Lighthouse Group ever could hope to. So it gets a neutral.
Also its common for EMI/Virgin to put at least one Christmas-y song on their late-year NTWICM releases, probably in the hope you’ll buy one of their many Christmas compilations.
iiO – Rapture ?
Moving onto CD number 2 we open up with a dance hit – iiO’s (however you’d pronounce that eye-oh apprently) Rapture.
Surprisingly this track is by an American duo – not your typical European outfit who are normally behind producing such hits.
The track is definitely catchy, and many who enjoy trance music will likely recognise it from the hook at least. The track is of decent length, without going on for too long – an important aspect in the grand scheme of the compilation as listeners who are maybe not keen on dance music might not be inclined to listen to a 7 minute track.
I give this track a positive reaction, it’s enjoyable to listen to and it is always nice to have a good variation of styles on a compilation like this.
The Supermen Lovers – Starlight ?
Continuing on with the electronic/dance theme started by iiO we encounter the funky French house track.
The track did very well in the UK reaching a lofty position number 2, although by 2001 it wasn’t unusual for what we know refer to as EDM tracks to reach such positions.
This track still holds up well today and doesn’t really feel all that dated, although I couldn’t say I’ve heard it on the radio or being played in a club in recent years.
So far so good for CD 2.
Jamiroquai – Little L ?
Jamiroquai is one of those bands whom I simply can’t decide if I like their sound or not.
Considering how much I love Disco music, you would say that it would be a straight strike. But there is something to me about Disco/Funk-resurgence music of this era that feels more dated than actual Disco/Funk music.
Neutral as this isn’t my favourite track from the band as I find it a little boring, but not in an offensive way.
Destiny’s Child – Bootylicious ?
OK moving away from the EDM opening tracks we re-enter R&B territory with American super group Destiny’s Child.
This track is a pure bonafide classic – still getting regular airplay and is guaranteed to bring the house down at any club. Beyoncé is still out making waves even today a good 17 years later, which not many of the other pop acts on here can boast.
D12 – Purple Hills ?
With the compilation now heading in a more urban – oh I think I just threw up a little in my mouth typing that – theme we encounter hardcore hip-hop group D12.
D12 is a name that is probably lost on many young’uns these days but anyone from my generation will know D12. However I can guarantee that the young’uns are familiar with the groups ring leader, the one and only Marshall Mathers or better known as Eminem.
Considering you get a band like D12 (albeit heavily censored) on a compilation with the likes of Westlife is something that amazes me – but this was the pop landscape of 2001. Pop punk, mum pop and hardcore rap.
Although not the bands better known track, My Band, Purple Hills (originally Purple Pills for the uncensored version) is perfectly serviceable as an enjoyable tune and might be enough to bring unsuspecting teens into buying more work from the outfit – much to the dismay and horror of parents global.
I like variety and having something like this on here that is considerably out of place definitely breaks it up a little – however we’re not fooling anyone who is too serious with their music tastes as D12 could be considered the kiddie pool of hardcore rap.
Eve and Gwen Stefani – Let Me Blow Ya Mind ?
Gwen is another member of pop royalty – beautiful, talented and diva – the trifecta. With this track she appears as a guest next to Ruff Ryders performer Eve.
One thing that always strikes me about this track is how much I love the beat which is a pure representation of the hip-hop/R&B or urban sounds coming out at the time.
Lyrically don’t expect much here, under the surface I would say this song moves closer towards an R&B joint than a fully fledged rap track. Much like the previous track by D12 this track is plenty censored which can be a little jarring, definitely if you’re used to the explicit version.
I always find myself with a bit of an ear worm following listening to this track – even if it’s just that first bar.
Britney Spears – I’m A Slave 4 U ?
Considering I stan pop queens like Madonna and Gwen Stefani on this compilation so far, it would come as no surprise that I appreciate the offering by Miss Spears.
Britney was probably one of the biggest when growing up a kid, a cornerstone of 90s kid popular culture.
However I’m A Slave 4 U is probably one of my least favourite tracks by Britney. Actually I have to confess my knowledge of Brit’s discography could be much stronger but I can definitely say this tunes into more of her sex fueled image that she was chasing (some would say even to today).
A sex symbol pretty much out of the gate, but Britney (or at least her management team) really did want to shake the little girl image quickly. I’m a Slave 4 U a component in achieving this goal takes on a smooth and sexy R&B style thanks to the magical touch of production house The Neptunes who continue to extend their roster of absolute bangers even in the current pop market.
Although the beat here is probably the best part of this track, something about it’s execution just leaves me wanting more – personally I don’t feel that Britney’s best work would come until the next album In The Zone (2003) which brought us hits such as the powerful Toxic and the slightly more sensual Everytime.
Mary J. Blige – Family Affair ?
CD 2 really is a showcase for just how powerful R&B or…. *sigh* urban music was in the UK chart scene following the millennium – a train that was in full steam after departing sometime midway through the 1990’s and still hasn’t reached its destination even now in 2018.
Mary J. Blige could be considered a hardened OG of R&B music by the time this track was released, with a career stretching back a decade when this track hit the charts proving she was still able to keep up with the new emerging talent.
I think that my love for this track comes with a strong smell of nostalgia. My knowledge of R&B is probably skin deep at best so I couldn’t really sit here and comment on how Family Affair stacks up against the rest of her career, or the general environment of R&B at the time. My nostalgia stems from watching the music video to this (and many other R&B chart hit from this era) on a free-to-air music television channel while at a grandparents for a summer holiday.
A positive from me because I don’t know many people who dislike this song.
Samantha Mumba – Baby Come On Over ?
With the R&B (I can’t bring myself to use the u-word anymore in this review) section still in full swing we come to probably the first track of the section that has probably been forgotten to time.
I certainly don’t have any memories for this track that go beyond my discovery of it on this compilation. However that doesn’t always equate that the song isn’t any good.
Although maybe sitting closer to the Pop side of R&B, Baby Come On Over is quite an enjoyable pop track that fits in well.
The problem with tracks like Baby Come On Over is that you could easily mistake them for being a record performed and produced by someone else; which is likely what has caused the track to fall out of memory for many.
A nice discovery, but ultimately not anything that you haven’t seen before.
Liberty X – Thinking It Over ?
Liberty X haven’t done anything personally to me to deserve this but there is something that fills me with contempt whenever I see their name.
Riding on the waves of the popularity of UK Garage (which doesn’t get a great representation on this album), Liberty X always felt a little bit pants.
If Baby Come on Over was cookie cutter than Thinking It Over is the musical equivalent of those 99p cupcake in a box recipes.
OK maybe that was a little mean and I’m sure plenty of people worked hard to make the track but it doesn’t do anything for me – except make me want to reach for the next track button.
Oh great Victoria Beckham is up next.
Victoria Beckham – Not Such An Innocent Girl ?
Again to many younger listeners they may be surprised to know that Victoria Beckham was a singer, and was a member of the legendary pop girl group Spice Girls.
Being the second part of a hat-trick of spice appearances on this album, Victoria was also trying to prove to the world that she could go it alone and do just as well as her counter parts.
Honestly I think out of all of the solo attempts from the force that were the Spice Girls, Victoria’s might be the most forgettable – although not that far behind peer Emma Bunton.
This track follows the same course as Britney’s efforts at the time of saying Look I’m not a girl anymore, I’m a woman, I’m sexy see however falls flat on its face with its very teeny bopper production lacking any of the sex found in Spears’ track.
For some reason at the time of release some people thought it would be able to beat Kylie’s stunning track (which if you can remember that far back was the first track on this compilation) but ended up with egg on its face when it came in at position 6 when the Austrlian queen’s tune smashed in at position 1.
Luckily for I guess everyone Victoria only put out the one album before giving it all up and deciding that it was easier to be one of the biggest names in celebrity gossip for the decade with her marriage to footballer David Beckham.
Louise – Stuck In The Middle With You ?
Another cover. Seriously people think it’s bad now.
I quite enjoy the original of this one (originally by Stealers Wheel), so that means that I am considerably more protective over it and harsher on performers trying to cover it.
I can’t say that this is a good cover. Louise attempts to brings the track into the modern age with plenty of fancy effects that would probably fit better in some third-rate trance anthem. The track doesn’t completely ditch its original construction, maintaining portions of the guitar work.
I’m just gonna concede and give this one a negative. I think I’ve probably listened to this cover version maybe twice in the nearly 10 years of owning this compilation, of which neither listen left any impact on me whatsoever.
Apparently the song left such little impact that there isn’t even a proper Wikipedia section for it just an off the cuff reference at the bottom of the original works article page.
Louise (Redknapp) didn’t completely disappear from the UK consciousness however as she is often seen appearing on various variety and day-time TV programmes that are only watched by those who often enjoy and buy mum-pop albums.
Geri Halliwell – Scream If You Wanna Go Faster ?
Here we have the last appearance by an ex-Spice Girl, the one who could be blamed for breaking it all – Geri Halliwell or Ginger Spice.
My opinion on Geri was changed following an off the cuff viewing of a documentuary about her life. Not sure why I ended up watching it, but it was enlightening to hear her story from start to finish.
However my feelings for Geri don’t make this a good track. This marks the third dud from a solo Spice which doesn’t indicate they are all duds. Tracks that I enjoy by Geri for example include the latin infused Mi Chico Latino, a re-do of the disco classic It’s Raining Men (which admittedly doesn’t stray to far from the original in composition) and my personal favourite the fiesty Look At Me (which I think has Geri looking possibly her best). The only other solo Spice work that I enjoy would be Mel B’s (scary spice) work with Missy Elliott in 1998 with the track I Want You Back. The rest of the tracks are ultimately forgettable, and now heavily dated, pop guff.
Enough reminiscing, the track her definitely has more personality and energy than the other offerings on this compilation but in much the same way as the track previous to it I can find no real emotional connection to it. And I don’t think even a 100 plays could change that fact.
Allstars – Things That Go Bump In the Night ?
This is what I love about these old compilations, coming across a track pointing at it and going Who The F is this? or more importantly What the F is this?
I’m no walking encyclopedia of pop music but I like to think I know a good amount about pop music of this era.
So these comments being written right here are 100% pure as I have no recollection of listening to this before, along with no predefined opinion on the performer.
What first came off as some kind of odd Halloween twist of a Backstreet Boys track (already executed successfully 4 years prior), has turned out to be some kind of processed Halloween themed pop track. It is terrible.
This was probably dated even by the point that this hit the market, the single apparently reached a respectable position 12 and spent 4 weeks in the chart. Further on the fly research also leads me to discover that it was produced by a band who came to fame from a children’s TV show. None of these facts redeem the single in any way.
If you want spooky Halloween stuff – stick with the classics or be prepared to dive into some of the grimier styles of rock music such as goth or industrial.
N-Trance – Set You Free ?
With the not so scary Halloween track out of the way (what on earth was that all about?) we move into the electronic section of the album.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s you couldn’t avoid encountering some kind of house, trance or techno on these chart compilations. Now I totally understand that many true heads of house (or trance, or techno or whatever sub-style you feel personally entitled to defend) disregard a lot of these tracks as being the accessible stuff that ultimately ruined the scene they originated from but I just love this stuff.
I actually bought most of these compilations to expand my knowledge of what could be ultimately grouped together as club music. See my mother (father never present) wasn’t someone who really enjoyed club music and I was often subjected to various 80s pop staples instead of anything as intense as house music.
I’m a firm believer that the music you hear when you are in the womb can certainly affect your tastes later on. Being in the womb the best part of 94 you can guarantee I would have been exposed to some true OG bangers, and then grew up through what some might argue as the golden age for club music. But it wouldn’t be until my first true relationship when I would fully discover my absolute adornment for these high energy, easy to digest masterpieces – for her mother was a true through and through club head. Being given access to a closet of compilation CD’s my knowledge went from 0 to 100 in the short space of 3 months and it hasn’t stopped since.
Every-time I see my first girlfriend or her mother I always think of that, and I always thank them for it. Music is such an important thing, and discovery of music must be truly free. I have met so many people and made some seriously good connections to the soundtrack of some of these songs. I would also say that if it wasn’t for them exposing me to so much club music in such a formative stage of my life (14/15 yo) that my progression with discovering music would have probably been heavily stunted never leaving the confines of what I knew I already liked. Expanding to styles such as house, trance and techno took me onto discovering drum and bass, dubstep and hardcore. This triggered my hunger for discovering new types of music which would later expand my tastes into alternative pop from the 80s and 90s, hip-hop, disco, J-pop and even K-pop.
Set You Free is one of those tracks that began to trigger that hunger. Everyone I know who enjoys club music knows this song, it might just be one of the most popular. And even if they don’t recognise it by name alone they definitely recognise the tune.
The tune itself is a high-energy vocal trance joint bringing together all of the classic elements that make a great club floorfiller. Strong euphoric synths, one simple theme, a driving beat and a memorable sing-a-long chorus. Perfect.
The Ones – Flawless ?
Much like Set You Free, Flawless by The Ones can be credited to feeding my hunger in the early days.
Although this track doesn’t evoke the same memories or feelings that tracks like Set You Free does, it is still plenty enjoyable.
I would definitely consider this track to be closer to the pop side of club music, and could be considered slightly more accessible than the previous track.
Still a good track either way.
Daft Punk – Digital Love ?
It is amazing that an electronic duo like Daft Punk are still successful even in today’s pop marketplace.
Daft Punk are notable in finding a niché sound and making it their own. I’ve seen plenty of critics online saying how they feel that Daft Punk are a milk toast example of French House but that doesn’t seem to matter much when you consider just how successful they have been over the years.
Digital Love is not my favourite from the duo, as I personally feel it lacks the power of some of their other tracks (such as Aerodynamic), but its appearance on this album is appreciated and works well in the closing sequence of the compilation.
Groove Armada – Superstylin’ ?
So with my exposure to club music it wouldn’t come as a surprise to say that I have spent time becoming familiar with some of the UK’s biggest electronic performers including The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and Fat Boy Slim. However Groove Armada, who are just as big as those just listed, appear to have slipped through my net – something I am sure I will rectify in due course.
Superstylin’ may not be remembered as one of the English duo’s most popular track (that would have to go to the fantastic I See You Baby) but it certainly makes you want to move around on the dancefloor. A house track with heavy strokes of reggae infusions the 3 minute 43 seconds are enjoyable from start to finish without overstaying their welcome (although the album version is nearly double the length).
Another positive mark in the bag.
Jean-Jacques Smoothie – 2 People ?
I adore this track.
2 People is one of the smoothest, sensual house anthems of this period and is one that I happily refer to as a favourite. Unfortunately for a lot of us the DJ behind the name (Steve Robson) never reached the heights that were achieved with this track.
The tracks vocals come from a sample (Inside My Love) from the legendary Minnie Riperton and work flawlessly with the silky smooth production (bit like a smoothie).
With more than 21 seconds worth of tracks to go, will the compilation end on a high note or completely bomb out?
So Solid Crew – 21 Seconds ?
Considering I have shat on novelty tracks, generic R&B, mum pop, half-assed solo efforts and various other pop atrocities you probably are expecting me to unload my critical bowels and drop a solid all over So Solid Crew.
Psych! (That’s still cool right?)
I actually like this song. No doubt it is corny as hell. And its corniness is what I love so much. I hold 21 Seconds in the same group of corny anthems such as MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch It, Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby and similar in composition, DJ Q and MC Bonez You Wot.
The great thing about this corny little number is that it is very short, actually the shortest on the album – so you don’t have to endure it that long. Personally I find the beat to be the most rewarding part of this track, and it is probably the only example of proper UK garage on the compilation; a style which although certainly popular at the time of release was starting to stumble and fall in popularity after being adopted by too many third rate pop acts.
Afroman – Because I Got High ?
This compilation really is odd. We have examples of mum pop, dated contemporary pop, the invasion of urban music (I said I wouldn’t use it again, I lied), club anthems, hardcore rap, pop punk and some novelty tracks. But for me, it just works – I love it.
Whoever sequenced this album, although they made a few mis-steps, did a great job. Ending it with the silliest chart song of the year, and not opting for something boring like a re-hashed Christmas hit, cements NTWIC 50 as one of my favourite pop compilations.
This was the first time I had ever heard anything like this, and could probably be contributed to my appreciation for comedy in music.
The only drawback with this is that it is the censored version, which does break some of the funniest moments of this track – I certainly recommend looking for the original unedited version.
2001, what the f man.
Track By Track Overall Score
To calculate scores each CD starts at 100 points. This means that on the average that a CD has 10 tracks and each one is a positive, the score will be 200 which means its a strong recommendation. If the CD has 10 negative tracks, the score will be 0 which means it’s not worth anything.
Boundaries are as follows:
<= 90 = Not Worth It
91 to 120 = Kind of worth it
121 => = Really worth it
Scores are calculated:
? = +10 points
? = -5 points
? = -10 points
CD 1 Emoji Board – ??????????????????????
CD 1 Score 115 points
CD 2 Emoji Board – ?????????????????????
CD 2 Score 125 points
Total Compilation Score 235 points
If you’ve made it this far then congratulations. WordPress tells me at this point the article is 8,855 words long which is the longest thing I have written since college.
The idea for these compilation reviews came to me the other day when I bought another chart round up compilation (which was for the year of 1997). I often struggle to write reviews, but I think it is important for me to express how I feel about things that I care about such as music. Being someone who enjoys watching many different music, movie and video game critics across the internet, I felt compelled to give it ago myself. I’m nowhere near as talented or experienced as they are in their respective fields, but I still feel that I can form an opinion on most things.
Writing this has taken the span of 2 days. Although I could probably spend a day and smash through it, I had to take a break after CD1 as it becomes quite overwhelming. Source material aside, I have to really think about how those 3 minute, 30 seconds made me feel. Most of the time it will make me feel a strong positive or a negative emotion, but other times I can really struggle to find any connection or put together words to explain why I dislike or like something. Doing this process 40 odd times over is taxing, but well worth it. I usually come away from writing these not feeling like I know the source material better (most of these albums I have genuinely owned for years, and their contents are very familiar to me) but that I know myself better. Do I really like that track as much as I thought I do? Are there tracks on here that I might have missed because my younger self had different motives.
I actually chose Now That’s What I Call Music 50 at random out of my pile of fragmented NTWICM compilations. Starting with the latest and working backwards, or at the start and going forwards seemed to be a bit too formulaic and I would probably tire of the project after about the second volume – so darting around to different periods of pop music (and other styles eventually) seems to be the smarter idea.
Like I said in this post in 2001 I was in primary school, a tender 7 years old. Music was just a thing that was there, it wasn’t something important like it is today. However this time capsule of an album brings back plenty of memories from that time. But it also brings back memories of when I bought this album in my teens, and the excitement that I often struggle to replicate of finding new music.
I think this volume of NTWICM is a good purchase, hell it is often 50 pence or less. This came at a time when the series was at its peak in sales so finding second hand copies isn’t a hard task. 2001 as a time in pop music, looking back now from the tail end of 2018, isn’t that far from what we experience today. R&B (or urban) and hip-hop influences are stronger than ever in chart music. Paired up with what we now refer to as EDM (which is just an evolutionary collective term to replace dance/club music) the charts are not too dissimilar. As you can see with this compilaiton which acts as a yearly round-up, you have novelty tracks like we do today with Gangnam Style and Skibidi. Covers are still popular as ever along with songs from musicals or films – this years being The Greatest Showman.
So what has changed since this volume. Well hardcore rap doesn’t really exist in the same way it did in 2001, the glam hip-hop era came and went and is now replaced by soundcloud rap, mumble rap and remnants of trap music. Trance music doesn’t really exist in the charts either, neither does pop punk for that matter – the former has been ultimately replaced by fusion sub-styles like tropical house or whatever name it has been given this week.
There aren’t many volumes in the main series that I would say don’t buy. I think the best way to work out if an album is worth buying is are there at least 50% of songs present that you enjoy. Some pop years won’t be to your taste. I struggle with some of the chart compilations from the early 90s which are filled with so much Kenny G’s and other mind-numbingly boring chaff. You really could do much worse, and the quality that Virgin/EMI put into these compilations is certainly appreciated and is probably key to their success so far.
I can’t guarantee what the next instalment will be on, could be a cover mount compilation from a magazine such as Uncut or Mojo, another NTWICM entry or maybe we will look at the competition from the likes of Warner or Universal.