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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

145

Let's Revisit All of Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 1

The first volume of the US edition of Now That’s What I Call Music! came out in October 1998 and hit #10 on the Billboard album charts. The next 30 releases in the series all went platinum, half of them charted at #1, and NOW! Vol. 45 cracked the top 10 physical sales of 2013, confirming that there are over 400,000 Americans still willing to pay for mix CDs. The franchise is strong! But also: why? And how does the original hold up 15 years later? Let's take this journey together. Feel free to listen along with the links. 

Track 1: Janet Jackson, “Together Again

Sweet Janet, there is SO much harp in this intro, very aural Bob Ross. “I’ll never forget you,” she whispers, and then she drops this incredible Motown-disco beat! There will always be a place for these max-sugar pop songs, like “I Love You Always Forever," with such basic chord progressions that a five-year-old could memorize the song immediately and everyone's guaranteed to remember the melody for all time.

How does it hold up? 8/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "Together Again” and the AIDS Epidemic: Why Sentimentality Doesn’t Help

Track 2: Backstreet Boys, “As Long As You Love Me”

OH HELL YEAH, NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC. Actually, this sounds like the Seventh Heaven theme song. A beat destined to be reenacted by thousands of youth group band leaders armed with nothing but a shaker and their love of Christ; a celestial shimmer over top and ultra-sincere delivery; lyrics that collapse immediately upon any sort of extrapolation: “[Dear Kim Jong-Un,] I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love me.” Video is included because the Backstreet Boys spend the whole time morphing into each other while doing choreographed chair dances.

How does it hold up? 6/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "What If They Were the Backstreet Girls? Analyzing the Casting Couch in the “As Long As You Love Me” Video"

Track 3: Fastball, “The Way

Okay, here is what this song is about: two parents who "drank up the wine" (same), packed their stuff, drove off into the night, started walking when their car breaks down, and then all of a sudden (catchy chorus!) "anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved with gold, it's always summer, it never gets cold, they'll never get hungry, they'll never get old and gray." Their shadows are "wandering off somewhere" and they don't care that they're never coming back to their abandoned children. Fastball: what is this hippie death fantasy you are peddling? We know the plan: to drink till the pain's over. But what's worse, the pain or the Winter's Bone hellscape that awaits these orphans as soon as they wake up in the last verse?

How does it hold up? 5/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "For Baby Boomers, Malaise Beckons When Bohemia Ends"

Track 4: Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta

I hate this song, but it's chock full o' hooks. Let's do a quick Lyrical Edge Ranking. Solid start with #5 ("Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding"), getting warmer with #4 ("I don't even own a TV"), pretty sick brah at #3 ("I wanna pierce my tongue, it doesn't hurt, it feels fine"), 90's panties dropping at ("I wanna publish zines, and rage against machines"), and an evergreen clincher with #1 ("The agony and the irony, they're killing me").

How does it hold up? 5/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "10 Cartoon Characters That Look Like the Lead Singer of Harvey Danger"

Track 5: Spice Girls, “Say You’ll Be There”

I am including this video because I think it's the cutest in the Spice Oeuvre, and also because of their video names: Katrina Highkick, Trixie Firecracker, Kung Fu Candy, Midnight Miss Suki, and Blazin Bad Zula. Not subtle, but that was never what the Spice Girls were about (MAKE THE BLACK GIRL THE SCARY ONE) and who can concentrate anyway when these ladies are so, so cute? I would wear any of those outfits. Oh, now they’re duct-taping a guy to the ground?

Posh spotted singing on the pre-chorus: Very Rare.

How does it hold up? 9/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "Feminism, All Dried Up: Why Shania Twain and the Spice Girls Film Girl Power Anthems in the Desert"

Track 6: K-Ci and JoJo, “All My Life

Impossible to hear this song without triggering a whole bunch of middle school muscle memory. I'm sweating, this girls' dance circle is rapidly evaporating and no one's coming for me, oh no, is it my body glitter, is it too much body glitter, HELP. If you have never noticed that the opening piano of this song is identical to the fourth bar forward of  “Dancing in the Moonlight," it's worth getting into for a second.

How does it hold up? 7/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "The New Oedipus in R&B: What Does It Mean to Be 'Close To Me You're Like My Mother'"

Track 7: All Saints, “Never Ever

"You can write it in a leh-uh," but I REFUSE to sully this perfect song with my words.

How does it hold up? 9999/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? “Never Ever is My Favorite Song of All Time,” by Jia Tolentino (0 words)

Track 8: Tonic, “If You Could Only See

What if these 90's alt-rock singers talked the way they sang? "If yuh could onleh see the way she luvs meh," drawled Tonic's lead singer, sipping a Rolling Rock under the dim lamps of the bar. "If yuh could onleh see how blueh her aiz can be when she sez, when she sez sheh luvs meh." His friend sighs. "Fucking chill out about this chick already." Tonic replies: "If yuh could onleh see the way she luvs meh, maybe you would understand."

I wonder what it was like to be one of these bands, seemingly caught between the desire to be Pearl Jam and the reality of being sub-Matchbox 20. Also, if you watch the music video, the girl who so captivates the lead singer of Tonic is definitely the Manic 90’s Dream Alt Chick—the broody, Winona-vibe waif that was in every Goo Goo Dolls video, "Story of a Girl," "She's So High," etc. Is that girl okay now?? *checks the Style section* WHERE IS SHE AND HOW IS HER WORK-LIFE BALANCE

How does it hold up? 2/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? n/a

Track 9: Hanson, “MMMBop” 

Let's look at that hair. Let's look at Taylor Hanson banging on the keyboards in a way that bears zero relationship to the backing track of the song and Zac in a Playskool commercial on the drums. They're all hailing a cab now: Zac appears not to be riding in the booster seat that is required for him by law? Please, if you watch this video, do not miss their sassy hip-snaps at 2:00 and the fact that they are briefly green-screened onto the moon.

Here's a fact! The chorus of this song is NOT a place-holder that was never changed (which is what I always thought) but the opposite; according to a producer friend of mine who worked with Zac for a hot second, the original chorus lyrics were removed. ("Babble is hot," said the label exec, and the whole room nodded obediently.) Another fact: the brothers Hanson still perform this song, but they have to move it down a fourth. One last fact: if Hanson and Haim ever performed together, they'd all get sucked up to heaven in a glowing apotheosis of middle-parted sibling trios united across time.

How does it hold up? 6/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "The Hanson Brothers’s Haircuts: Trouble in Gender City"

Track 10: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “Zoot Suit Riot

I have been dreading listening to this song ever since I saw the track list, and it’s just as bad as I thought it would be. What was this awful resurgence of spicy swing music in the 90’s? At the time I was a gymnast and this stuff was really popular for floor routines, and so everything on the continuum between Brian Setzer Orchestra and Lou Bega gives me a sensation of creeping anxiety about my growing body as well as the feeling that I'm about to, in the grand spirit of the Daddies, break my hymen on the balance beam.

How does it hold up? 0/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "How the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies Got Their Name"

Track 11: Imajin, “Shorty (You Keep Playin’ with My Mind)

Dark horse right here! This song didn’t even hit number 1, which is understandable, because it is a bad song. A sample of the lyrics: “We both Gemini so we got two sides/ Our zodiac sign is the perfect sign/ Cause she replied, ‘All Geminis lie’/ I guess this is what it feels like when doves cry.”

How does it hold up? 1/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? n/a

Track 12, Brian McKnight, “Anytime

Not sure about this inclusion either. “Back At One” is definitely the catchier McKnight single, even with that awful lyrical gimmick, and "Anytime" is one of those lazy R&B songs that mostly rolls around on a single note. I have muted it and am now revisiting the video for R. Kelly’s contemporaneous slow jam “Half on a Baby,” which features R. Kelly alone in an enormous house with giant-size all-white furnishings that make him look like a tiny, tiny child.

How does it hold up? 4/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "6 Instruments You Didn’t Know Brian McKnight Played"*

*bass, drums, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn, and trumpet

Track 13: Aqua, “Barbie Girl

This is prescient. Sort of LMFAO meets Gangnam Style meets Lana Del Rey, which is a terrible nightmare, but it would be a popular one too. With some Skrillex-y/Avicii production and a girl cooing the song instead of squawking it, this could probably be released today and do fine.

How does it hold up? 7/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "She’s Such a Doll: Infantilization and Male Fantasy in Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’"

Track 14: Radiohead, “Karma Police” 

Well, I love this song forever and have had zero decline in my appreciation for it since it came out. I really appreciate a song that manages to pull off not having a chorus, and this one is so great, with the only payoff from the alternating verses being the upward slant of the “For a minute there” part. I’m all about the distorted-alarm outro. I love this song!

How does it hold up? 9/10

What is the think piece book that was blessedly not written about it? Welcome to the Machine: OK Computer and the Death of the Classic Album

Track 15: Everclear, “I Will Buy You a New Life”  

"Here’s the money that I owe you/ So you can pay the bills/ I will give you more when I get paid again,” and, good Jesus, wait for it: "welfare Christmas." SHIT'S GETTING REAL

How does it hold up? 2/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "For the New Working Class, Happiness Just Out of Reach"

Track 16: Lenny Kravitz, “Fly Away

This video was on heavy rotation in the VH1 morning circuit and it’s ingrained on my memory, especially that awesome chick drummer, but I did NOT remember how raunchy it was. This is a straight-up orgy: people are topless, there are censor blurs on their titties, and everyone on some badly cut 90's ecstasy shoving their crotches into each other’s faces. Some girl just rushed to a sink to hurl. Good on you, Lenny—good distraction from the monotony of this song.

How does it hold up? 2/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "10 Best Orgy Gifs from the “Fly Away” Video"

Track 17: Marcy Playground, “Sex & Candy”   

I'm erasing all my memories of listening to shitty college-bar patio covers of this song, and I am pretty into what Marcy Playground's got on offer! The verses are sort of Blind Melon meets the baby on the cover of Nevermind, and the lyrics, is this what the kids are calling alt lit? “Hangin 'round, downtown by myself, and I had too much caffeine, and I was thinkin about myself, and then there she was.”

How does it hold up? 7/10

What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it? "The VICE Guide to Sex Smell"



145 Comments / Post A Comment

JessicaLovejoy

PURE. AUDIO. GOLD.

(Always skipped track 11.)

beanie

@JessicaLovejoy track 11 is completely unheard of to me! How did it sneak its way on?

Martha33

He really loved his fans more than anything else. Hundreds of fans would wait outside his hotel all night, just camping out there, and he would sign pillows and blankets and throw them off the balcony, and order pizza for them. There was once these 5 girls hanging outside his suite the whole time he was staying there, and he wrote 5 individual letters to each one and gave them to his guard to deliver them. He was really sweet.@me

Jolly Darling

Okay the price argument, sure. Convenience, sure. Avoiding stampedes, sure. But I'm sorry, there is no quality difference between internet purchases and in-store purchases since both are selling the same brands of television anyway. @cook

RoRobert

In this song he's saying that he doesn't matter about your race or life style, just be a good person. Where's One Direction's single like this? And this is coming from a directioner!

kristenpdx

Hot damn, did all these iconic songs from my youth really come out in the same year?

I remember "Fly Away" all too well. My radio alarm clock would come on every school-morning, tuned to the "alternative rock" station, and that frickin' frackin' song was always playing. I hated it and I still hate it.

karenb

oh man, 1997-98 was solid for pop music.
hanson shows are great, because it's full of adult ladies in the middle of a nostalgia-haze. mmmbop gets played at every single show, and they still don't seem to be totally sick of it, which is insane, that song has a driver's license now.

swirrlygrrl

@karenb Hanson is also cross-promoting a beer now. It's called "Mmmmm-Hops." This is not a joke.

excitedheart

@karenb sorry to be debbie downer but mmmbop does not get played at every single show, which i only want to point out for those poor fans who just now go for their first time to see them expecting it and it doesn't happen. i would be SO MAD if that was me!

SongToSing

@karenb One show I went to, they played "MMMBop" during the acoustic portion and it pissed me off. Hello, that song ramps up Hanson fans more than anything. Don't try to make it mellow. That being said, it's been played at every show I've gone to (six or seven now).

stonefruit

Why hello, radio playlist from the angst-ridden summer before my senior year in college! Good lord.

This is not a walk down memory lane I would recommend to anyone, fyi.

KatieBarTheDoor

Love, love, love this write-up. Hanson! Backstreet Boys! Barbie Girl! I feel like I'm 13 again. Despite some questionable lyrics, I'll always have a soft spot for "All My Life" because it was playing the first time I ever slow-danced with a boy.

Also, never registered at the time that the Cherry Poppin' Daddies weren't just... eating cherries. Yikes.

Miss Kitty Fantastico

@KatieBarTheDoor yeah, as a 12-year-old I always just assumed they really liked eating seedless cherries. I definitely confused "Cherry Poppin'" with "cherry pitting". Ahhh, youth.

matilda wormwood

@stonefruit: add the Toadies' "Possum Kingdom" and you have me driving to my crap summer job, angsting about my bitch girlfriend who called my parents to out me without my permission.

I'm pretty sure Karma Police has a chorus. "This is what you get...this is what you get...this is what you get...when you mess with us."

allofthewine

@matilda wormwood Possum Kingdom is the best vampire seduction song ever.

JessicaLovejoy

@allofthewine SO HELP ME

matilda wormwood

@allofthewine behind the boathouse, I'll show you my dark secret. I think this is the song that prompted me to break up with angsty girlfriend and start a mad, casual summer affair with an unapologetically manly southern fella. Ah, college!

j-i-a

@matilda wormwood it could go either way I think! I think of that song as having two alternating verses and then a sort of post-chorus like death cab "the new year" but I see what you mean because that part seems to gather the song the way a chorus would

maybe partying will help

@matilda wormwood

A guy I had a crush on senior year discovered that song and was obsessed with that lyric and thought it was the most hilarious/subversive/whatever thing ever, but I mostly just cared about watching his mouth say those words.

#tmituesday?

lora.bee

Seeeventh heaven, when I see their happy faces smilin' back at mee
Seeeventh heaven, I know there's no greater feelin' than the love of fa-mi-lee

KatieBarTheDoor

@lora.bee Why did I used to watch that show?

beanie

@KatieBarTheDoor the mom was such a pill! Possibly because she had numerous children to take care of and Rev. Camden was always out preachin'.

meetapossum

"One last fact: if Hanson and Haim ever performed together, they'd all get sucked up to heaven in a glowing apotheosis of middle-parted sibling trios united across time."

NEW DREAM CONCERT.

meetapossum

Also, I love you Jia, but you are so wrong about "The Way." It's like 8/10.

And K-Ci and JoJo suck forever.

Lily Rowan

@meetapossum HOW DARE YOU. I mean, I acknowledge that something is missing without Devante Swing, but! K-Ci and JoJo are still awesome.

bitzyboozer

@Lily Rowan DEVANTE!

metz

@meetapossum Want to get a room full of millennials excited during karaoke without sounding terrible? THE WAY.

This has been a secret weapon for years.

oh! valencia

JIA... your description of middle-school dances on Track 6 is chillingly accurate. AHHH so much useless anxiety!
Also, that Shorty song was on a baffling (for many reasons) mix CD that a boyfriend made for me, maybe because I was short?

This was fun, I hope you do Now! Volume 2. (that's the one that came out once I had paper route money to spend.)

Heather Sundell@twitter

But wait....we need a Spotify playlist in the actual order.

Amphora

I was starting 8th grade when this came out and "Barbie Girl" was definitely THE bat mitzvah jam of the season.

lookuplookup

This is especially timely because lately Spotify's dumb discovery service has thrown a new "genre" at me & I'm now being bombarded by recommendations that say things like: SAVAGE GARDEN WAS POPULAR WHEN YOU WERE IN SCHOOL.

"All My Life" has really held up as a slow dance song, though. I slow danced to it at a wedding last summer & it was great.

CinnamonSwirls

@lookuplookup YES! about the recommendation thing. I sent my friend a screen shot when they recommended Jewel's Foolish Games. :(

amitygardens@twitter

@lookuplookup Oh My God. Savage Garden. All the memories.

Judith Slutler

It's so uncomfortable to remember how my idea of men's inner lives was completely based on terrible alt rock songs like "If You Could Only See." I kinda did figure that dudes could only talk about women by growling.

stonefruit

Oh! I just remembered that Barbie Girl came out in Europe shortly before I went JYA to Russia, so it was already in heavy rotation when I got there. Lucky me, I got to hear it for a semester longer than my college friends.

Miss Kitty Fantastico

Can we examine all of the NOW compilations of 1998-2001/2? Because I distinctly remember making my mom take me to Best Buy specifically so I could buy NOW 5 and being amazed that all the music I loved was in one CD I could listen to over and over again on my boom box.

lora.bee

@Madeline Shoes Now!5 - the Canadian version - was MY JAM. The Hampsterdance! Alice Deejay! soulDecision! Vitamin C 'Graduation'!

KatieBarTheDoor

@Madeline Shoes Yes please. I think I still have one of the NOWs-- it might be 5-- floating around somewhere.

frigwiggin

@Madeline Shoes

One of the NOW compilations was the first CD I ever owned! It was a Christmas gift or something--pretty sure it was #3, because I was ALL ABOUT All Star and Bailamos. Good grief.

TheLetterL

@Madeline Shoes Oh please, can we do this? Because I just looked up the track list for NOW 2, and it is also solid. Britney, y'all. Britney

itiresias

@Madeline Shoes Distinct memories of playing it on repeat in my boom box, in my parents' basement, where my friend and I painted designs on $2 magnetic locker mirrors to sell to people for $4.

maritimah

@lora.bee SOULDECISION!!!!! Singing along to "Faded" while making eyes at a hottie of the day was a tried and true method of seduction I used for a good year or so in university.

olivebee

@lora.bee Soul Decision!!!!! I was a gigantic fan of that song when it came out, knew every lyric (still do), and thought the singer was "so cute!"

I was driving home late at night recently, and flipping through the radio stations, and I caught the beginning beats of "Faded" on one channel, and I nearly drove myself off the road with excitement at hearing the song over a decade after I had last listened to it.

lora.bee

@maritimah @olivebee uh uh uh when we first met yo that deal was stated

sameoldscene

@olivebee OH MAN THAT SONG!!! I was in middle school when it came out and I beggedddddddd my parents to buy the album for me, and then listened to it a hundred times on loop on my portable CD player. At the time I shared a room with my sister, though, and she was like, "Ugghhhh seriously, what is so good that you're listening to it ALL THE TIME?"
Me: You have to hear this song, it's the best!
*passes headphones with "Faded" playing*
Sister: *listens for one minute* *gasps and throws down the headphones*
Me: Noooo this is my favorite song!
Sister: Don't you know that... *scandalized* ...this song is about SEX!!!!

Ohhhhh middle school... anyway I actually have this whole album saved on my computer because WHY NOT so I shall go listen to it right now.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@sameoldscene Okay but "Faded" was such a great song that they released it twice. Or was that "Ooh It's Kinda Crazy"?
And now the main guy from Soul Decision does vocals on that vaguely cheesy new Armin van Buren track, in case you didn't know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR_DFMUzX4E

kerrypolka

Impossible to hear this song without triggering a whole bunch of middle school muscle memory. I'm sweating,

CORRECT.

frigwiggin

It makes me a little dizzy that Radiohead was on there.

annejumps@twitter

Hello, senior year of high school.

Also, dear Lord, what does the phrase "Half on a Baby" even mean. I don't know and I am laughing hysterically because it struck me as really hilarious.

JessicaLovejoy

@annejumps@twitter Does it mean they're trying to MAKE a baby, and as such, go halvsies on it?

Judith Slutler

@JessicaLovejoy That's what I figured too!

Scandyhoovian

I think "The Way" holds up much better than most anything on that list and am surprised it only has a 5/10 from you! At the very least I wouldn't put it on the same level as "Flagpole Sitta," haha.

Also, not more than a couple of weeks ago, I heard "Fly Away" on the classic rock station here in ATL. It made me feel really old.

I'm still hoping that the Hanson Brothers' many many children form the next generation Hanson band. Megahanson.

meetapossum

@Scandyhoovian "Flagpole Sitta" was redeemed for me when Peep Show started using it for their theme song.

But I agree a million times with your thoughts on "The Way" and Hanson.

amitygardens@twitter

@meetapossum I love Peep Show.

shantasybaby

@Scandyhoovian I hear "The Way" just the other day at a restaurant and realized I still know all the words, I think it held up pretty good! And I thought they were from Dallas (like me) but I just checked and they are from Austin.

matilda wormwood

All of the track listsings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_That%27s_What_I_Call_Music!_discography#United_States

NTWICM II heats up. New Radicals AND Jay-Z? Cake? Somehow Everclear snuck on there again, though. Ugh, what an embarrassment to my hometown.

SeaMoney

@matilda wormwood Everclear? Portland? So maybe this is just me, but I love them. So much for the afterglow was the album I listened to most. (I will buy you that big house way up in the West Hills) I wholeheartedly disagree with that 2/10.

frigwiggin

My best friend in fifth grade absolutely adored Hanson, and I can't hear them without thinking of him. I think he's a drug addict now. =/

knockout

The alphabet runs right from A to zed.

My dream is to find 3 other ladies to sing this song in perfect harmony.

SarahP

You can't take my '90s alt rock from me I don't care about your ratings it all all holds up in my heart

lora.bee

@SarahP The Wallflowers & Counting Crows 4eva

(specifically Wallflowers circa 'Bringing Down the Horse')

swirrlygrrl

@lora.bee Speaking of Counting Crows, Frank Turner recently covered "Anna Begins" and I swooned. He then gave an interview about how his sister made him learn all the songs so she could sing along while he played, and it took him years to really learn to appreciate Adam Duritz's songwriting and the impact it had on his. Anyways. FRANK TURNER! So sexy.

TheLetterL

Jia. Jiaaaaa. This is perfect, but I feel like when we talk Edgiest hook in "Flagpole Sitta," we must acknowledge the edited out "God damn you!" which everyone will shout out in overenthusiastic unison at your Catholic school dance, because no one wanted to be the lame-o who mumbled or blushed in front of the clergy members.

cuminafterall

A couple months ago my husband & I watched the "As Long As You Love Me" video during the Late Night Love program on VH1 Norway (honeymoon, jet lag).

We then spent the next few days trying to remember the name of the song that we'd actually wanted to hear... "you know, the other BSB song! the good one! not 'Backstreet's Back,' but the other love song, no sorry the other up-tempo love song... God, it's on the tip of my tongue" (it was "I Want it That Way," obv)

ComradeQuestion

The winter of 1998/1999 I had to get up for 5 am swim practices 3 days a week and it seemed as if when my clock radio went off at 4:45 am, it was either playing "Fly" by Sugar Ray or "Fly Away" by Lenny Kravitz. This may have been some weird quirk of the person responsible for playing pop music at 4 am, but either way whenever I hear "Fly Away" I immediately feel like I am 16 years old again, being jolted awake out of some sexy dream about David Duchovny, stumbling around in my pitch black bedroom freezing cold, slipping on my bathing suit and sweats, so I can rush off to swim laps for an hour and a half. In other words, it sort of gives me the heebs.

swirrlygrrl

@ComradeQuestion And Jia has already covered the continuing cultural relevance of Sugar Ray of course. No need for a repeat there!!

j-i-a

Probably unnecessary disclaimer but: Ratings highly subjective of course y'alllllll

avocadosandwich

@j-i-a great tags, by the way. I hope there is another opportunity for the tag "impressed by inclusion of karma police" in the future.

LauraAlien

I bought the UK version of Now! from 1995 to about 1998, so this is right up my street. Memories!
I've just dug out my double cassette of Now 39 which must have been at the same time as the US Now 1 as it has Never Ever (a song I could never like once I realised it is JUST AMAZING GRACE WITH SLOW TALKING OVER IT - sorry Jia) and Barbie Girl. Otherwise there isn't that much in common. It includes two hideous Robbie Williams tracks, but also amazingly This Is Hardcore by Pulp, quite an avant garde selection for this sort of compilation. I still adore this song and the video.

For your reference, here is the track listing:
All Saints: "Never Ever"
Lighthouse Family: "High"
Janet Jackson: "Together Again"
Spice Girls: "Stop"
Natalie Imbruglia: "Torn"
Billie Myers: "Kiss the Rain"
Robbie Williams: "Angels"
Various Artists: "Perfect Day"
Boyzone: "Baby Can I Hold You"
Tin Tin Out featuring Shelley Nelson: "Here's Where the Story Ends"
Space & Cerys Matthews: "The Ballad of Tom Jones"
Texas: "Insane"
Hanson: "Weird"
LeAnn Rimes: "How Do I Live"
Shania Twain: "You're Still the One"
Sheryl Crow: "Tomorrow Never Dies"
Radiohead: "No Surprises"
The Verve: "Lucky Man"
Pulp: "This Is Hardcore"
Robbie Williams: "Let Me Entertain You"
Catatonia: "Mulder and Scully"
Cornershop: "Brimful of Asha" (Norman Cook Remix)
Run-D.M.C. vs. Jason Nevins: "It's Like That"
Wildchild: "Renegade Master '98"
Bamboo: "Bamboogie"
Ultra Nate: "Found a Cure" [pretty sure I did a jazz/modern dance to this]
Sash!: "La Primavera"
Aqua: "Barbie Girl"
Steps: "5,6,7,8"
Louise: "Let's Go Round Again"
Chumbawamba: "Amnesia"
Camisra: "Let Me Show You"
DJ Quicksilver: "Planet Love"
Rest Assured: "Treat Infamy"
Warren G featuring Sissel: "Prince Igor"
Lutricia McNeal: "Ain't That Just the Way"
Prince Buster: "Whine and Grine"
The All Seeing I: "Beat Goes On"
Goldie: "Believe"
Backstreet Boys: "All I Have to Give"
Vanilla: "No Way No Way"

avocadosandwich

@LauraAlien You guys had pulp on yours! Way cooler than ours.

LauraAlien

@avocadosandwich I know! I bought them for things like Pulp, not the Backstreet Boys. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

anachronistique

@LauraAlien TORN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! oh shit violent flashbacks to middle school angst

LauraAlien

@anachronistique It's such a great song! Though now it makes me think of this, which you must watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8AggJ3_Xf0

Roxy Throatpunch

@LauraAlien Robbie Williams! I don't care how terrible those two songs are (they are), I love them and him SO MUCH.

bitzyboozer

@LauraAlien The idea of "This is Hardcore" being on any incarnation of the NOW! series is pretty much blowing my mind.

carrie80

@LauraAlien Thanks for saving me some research! I started the article thinking that my first Now album _had_ to have been before '98 and definitely wasn't #1. Not sure if I had this one, but most of the songs are familiar and I think I could still sing along to at least half of them, so probably.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@LauraAlien KISS THE RAIN/ WHENEVER YOU NEED ME/ KISS THE RAIN/ WHENEVER I'M GONE TOO LONG (this song forever)

happy go lucky scamp

@LauraAlien chumbawumba had more than one song?

Florence

Between this is the piece on the Vertical Horizon show, I'm beginning to think Jia should start her own music/feminism website that I would read every single day. You are killing it lately, Jia.

Despite the shockingly low 6/10 for MMMbop, that shit is catchy.

avocadosandwich

But, but, track 4 became the theme from Peep Show! Can't be all bad. Maybe it is. But Peep Show is great.

bitzyboozer

@avocadosandwich I might dislike that song more due to the repeat exposure from Peep Show actually. But on its own I don't think it's the WORST song.

beanie

@avocadosandwich I had never heard of Peep Show outside of the striptease show Holly Madison did in Vegas...I was confused why so many Pinners were a fan and had to look up to figure out it's a tv show.

Florence

Also, it's a testament to just how unsubtle the Spice Girls were that I could tell which Spice Girl would go with which persona without watching the video.

a runner in the garden

Obligatory mention of Nathan Rabin's series THEN That's What They Called Music! at the AV Club. Though since he was born in 1976 there's clearly gonna be a generational difference in your reactions.

paper bag princess

I still own this CD. Number 2, also. I generally agree but I think "Flagpole Sitta" is amazing and still super fun to sing along to. Not like I listen to it semi-regularly or anything.

Rubyinthedust

seeya lunch hour

MCakes

I just got sucked into the BEST youtube spiral that might or might not have ended with Teenage Dirtbag.

olivebee

@MCakes LOVE Teenage Dirtbag. I started playing the drums in my sophomore year of high school, and it was one of the first songs I taught myself on the drums (because it's an easy one). But even listening to it over and over again in a short period of time never made me lose my love for it.

meetapossum

@MCakes I hope it was the video that censored the word "gun" but not the word "dick"!

halloliebchen

This is something that has bothered me for ages - did anyone else have MTV Party To Go tapes? This was definitely before NOW. They weren't just compilations but were actually mixed together by a DJ? I had like 3 when I was in elementary school (dear lord) and they have since been lost to the ages but I would KILL to have them back. Anyone? Anyone?

I played this one so much it broke and I whined until my mom took me to Tower Records to get a new one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTV_Party_to_Go_9

maritimah

@halloliebchen I had ALL of these! Almost every song is till in rotation.

halloliebchen

@maritimah I just found them all online. My week has been made. I also discovered I still know EVERY word to Coolio - 1-2-3-4.

Yankee Peach

The whole of this album is totally greater than the sum of its parts. Just reading the song titles caused my entire youth to flash before my eyes.

BattyRabbit

omg too many memories, too many memories all at once

1. I love Everclear forever shut up
2. The first time I heard Flagpole Sitta was on the radio in a van being driven to after-school care by a cool college student counselor person, she was cool because she didn't get on to us for going 'oooooh' at the god damn you part. When it was over the DJ came on and said "That's the first time I've played that song and I liked it so much I'm going to play it again." So we got to hear it again and SING ALONG to the god damn you part, and we still didn't get yelled at!
3. Lenny Kravitz gave me my first sexual feelings that I recognized as such, thank you Lenny good work

SeaMoney

@BattyRabbit I also love Everclear!

katiemcgillicuddy

Is it bad that I turn the volume up to FULL GODDAMN BLAST every time that "Flagpole Sitta" comes on the radio? I especially love when I get to scream PARANOIA PARANOIA EVERYBODY'S COMMIN' TO GET ME! Should I not admit to this? Do I have to go sit in the corner now?

olivebee

@katiemcgillicuddy You're not alone.

j-i-a

@katiemcgillicuddy WORK IT GIRL

large__marge

@katiemcgillicuddy I drum-solo the FUCK out of it, every time.

hallelujah

@katiemcgillicuddy NOPE. One of my best friends sang that song at karaoke last weekend & we all screamed along so hard I almost threw up (coulda been the whiskey I suppose, but still). NEVER CHANGE HARVEY DANGER.

katiemcgillicuddy

THANK YOU ALL FOR THE VALIDATION

@hallelujia I just sang karaoke for the first time ever a couple weeks ago and now know exactly what I will sing the next time we go to karaoke night at the local bar.

Little_Lakes

@everybody

Love Flag Pole Sitta and Harvey Danger in general and think the song should have a 10 of 10 for 'Holds Up'!

Also, the quotes pulled are obnoxious, yes, but I think the lyrics are supposed to be pointing out what a jerk the 'character' in the song is? A very late-90's style jerki-ness.

Am I pointing out the obvious? I don't know! (Sorry if I'm being a mid-2010's style jerk!)

so what?

@katiemcgillicuddy I know this is like, 3 months later, but I just have to say that everyone loves Flagpole Sitta. I was a barista for several years in a busy coffee shop on my college campus and we were allowed to make our own playlists for the cafe. I had Flagpole Sitta on mine and every time it came on, you could see everyone in the place slowly start nodding their heads along to it.

katiemcgillicuddy

@so what? I love you so, so hard for replying to this thread all these months later. If this doesn't speak to the power of Flagpole Sitta, nothing ever will.

maybe partying will help

There are some songs that have been irrevocably Weird-Al-polka'd for me, and "Sex and Candy" is one of them. In my head it's spun up and devolves into "Closing Time." Thanks, Weird Al.

maybe partying will help

@maybe partying will help

ALSO I just remembered I have a very concrete "The Way" memory: I'm sitting in a motorhome with a bunch of Mormon girls and our moms, and we're heading to Ichetucknee to go tubing, and "The Way" is playing on the radio and my mom was really into that song. At the time I thought it was weird, like, Mom this song is weak, but now I wonder if she was just having serious Boomer feels.

frigwiggin

@maybe partying will help

OMG, my mom loved The Way too. Is it just something about Fastball? Or Boomer moms.

Also, same re: Weird Al. But I'm of the feeling that his polka compilations are almost across-the-board superior to the original versions, so I'm okay with it.

camanda

@maybe partying will help For me, this has happened with every song Weird Al has ever put into a polka medley. And that's how I like it.

beanie

@maybe partying will help Weird Al has permanently changed the lyrics to Gangsta's Paradise to Amish Paradise.
"Think you're really righteous? Think you're pure in heart? Well I know I'm a million times as humble as thou art."

maybe partying will help

@beanie

Four-thirty in the morning I'm milking cows. Jedediah feeds the chickens and Jacob plows...FOOL.

Same with "American Pie." When the original comes on the radio I try my hardest to be absolutely obnoxious and belt the Ep 1 lyrics.

KatieBarTheDoor

@maybe partying will help The Ichetucknee! North Central Florida shoutout! (Not really relevant, just got excited.)

happy go lucky scamp

@maybe partying will help and then zoot suit riot will always be grape fruit diet...

Irma Vep

This is amazing. I was 14 in 1998 so this speaks really really deeply to me.

CANADIANS ASSEMBLE and let's talk about Big Shiny Tunes! Big Shiny Tunes 1 and 2 were so important to me!!!

lora.bee

@Irma Vep DRINKING IN LA going to listen to Big Shiny Tunes 2 now

I saw Wide Mouth Mason during the Olympics in Vancouver and watching the bald, bearded, Hulk-like bouncer wail along at the top of his lungs with his eyes closed is one of my favourite memories ever.

Irma Vep

@lora.bee THAT WAS THE FIRST SONG I WENT TO LISTEN TO TOO!! I remember hearing "what the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26?" and thinking "OMG 26 so old!" and now I am 29 and currently having a crisis about it.

I love your Wide Mouth Mason memory! I remember seeing a mason jar and finally realizing where the name came from, it was like a revelation. I'm not going to admit how recently this was because it's embarrassing, ok?

swirrlygrrl

@lora.bee The female singer from Bran Van 3000 is now a lawyer and is running for the NDP nomination in Bourassa!!

(I dorkily love both Big Shiny Tunes and politics - now at last they come together!)

loren smith

@Irma Vep Is this a safe space to say that Drinking in LA is still one of my top jams?

Okay, can we also talk about MUCH DANCE 1997? LL Cool J's "Doin' It" was so racy I couldn't even listen to it.

lindackerite

Oh man. A few thoughts:
I also think The Way is still super catchy, but definitely not as catchy as high school me thought.

I am not a huge Flagpole Sitta fan, but I will admit that I enjoy it more now than I did then. It is perfect for karaoke/large scale 90s dance parties/power hours.

Unabashedly all about the Tonic and Everclear singles, but then again my 90s were all about bands made up of white dudes (from Soundgarden/Nirvana to Our Lady Peace/Collective Soul/Oasis/Weezer). I'm sorry you guys, but I had a reputation to upkeep and I couldn't be liking anything that wasn't on the alternative rock station (yet I owned that Aqua album). Over that now!

Jock Jams next?

olivebee

@lindackerite HA Jock Jams! My neighbors growing up had a giant box of dress-up stuff, and every time I was at their house to play, we would get all decked out in various dress-up box items (cheerleader skirts, boas, foam fingers, tiaras, etc.) and create dance routines to those songs. Quad City DJ's - "C'Mon 'N Ride It" was one of my favorites.

ETA - I should add that I was 8 years old when the first Jock Jams came out, in case anyone's thinking I was an odd high-schooler or something.

bonymaroni

Oh uh uh, you did not just rank The Way lower than MMMBop. But to be fair, I've never really listened to the lyrics until now.

penultimate toothpaste squeeze

No one is defending K-Ci & JoJo?! My best friend and I have a long-standing pact to slow-dance to that song at our weddings, should they ever occur.

elissa_what?

@penultimate toothpaste squeeze Yes! You can count me among your ranks.

literary_hippie

I love how the "What is the think piece that was blessedly not written about it?" titles sound like many sub-par pop culture papers I've sat through at conferences.

elissa_what?

Nathan Rabin at AV Club wrote up all of these in a series called Then That's What They Called Music: http://www.avclub.com/articles/introduction,38249/

It's pretty great. I love this too. I still have Nows 4-12 and they always make an appearance on road trips...

Emmettalie

Awww. It makes me sad to see the Daddies get a 0/10. They are from my hometown and I grew up going to their shows. First at our local all-ages venue, then the bars when I was old enough. Yes, Zoot Suit Riot is annoyingly ska-ish, but so many of their other songs are totally awesome rock or funk. It's just that in the 90's, any band with a horn section got dragged into the swing fad.
Also, a good chunk of their songs are really quite dirty! Titles include "Here Comes the Snake" and "Shake Your Lovemaker". Their music makes me feel 15 again. Sneaking out with my friends, smoking our shoplifted cigarettes, staying out late at concerts. Sigh.

fondue with cheddar

@Emmettalie I liked the swing revival. I saw Big Bad Voodoo Daddy live a few years ago and it was so much fun.

lora.bee

@fondue with cheddar Big Bad Voodoo Daddy makes me think of 3rd Rock from the Sun, obviously one of the best and wackiest 90s shows

camanda

Do you guys realize how long ago 1998 is now? I had this on cassette. It lives on digitally on my hard drive, though. never 4get

I never bought any of them after Vol. 3, and I didn't even like that one much. "The Rockafeller Skank" kept it in my collection longer than it should have been there. Looking at the track listings now, I don't even know 90% of the songs after, like, Vol. 5. And if I do, I'd rather not ("How You Remind Me") or I actually really know the Weird Al parody ("Hot In Herre" = "Trash Day"). I'm old.

But it doesn't matter because I still love "Flagpole Sitta" and "Zoot Suit Riot" and y'all can't stop me.

mlle.gateau

JIA. JIA. I can't believe no one has taken you up on how "Never Ever" is amazing and perfect. THAT SONG IS MY JAM.

There is one radio station in the town where I live that plays the most truly ridiculous mix of music (They'll go from "American Pie" to "Butterfly" by Crazy Town, not even exaggerating), and they played that song, and I sat in the parking lot with the windows down listening to it until it ended because it's so epically 1998.

The point is, let's hang out sometime and sing that into our hairbrushes.

theharpoon

Once my friends and I forced(?) a waiter at private room karaoke to sing along to All My Life with us and it was amazing. we all put our arms on each others shoulders and swayed in a line, of course.

mlle.gateau

Also, "The Way" is not a hippie death fantasy, it's based on a true story that is super sad and I will not link to the wikipedia page because if you enjoy that song, it's just better if you don't read it.

If you don't like that song, maybe go read it, and maybe you will hate it more, or have a little more respect for its romantic take on a tragedy. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.

cupcakecore

@mlle.gateau I thought it was based on a true story! But yeah, true and sad and it's okay that I didn't really like the song. (They have other, better songs tbh.)

1684401564@twitter

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fondue with cheddar

I don't know most of these songs, and most of the ones I do know are only because they played them on my local adult contemporary public radio station. Holy shit there is so much OLD in that statement.

Verity

I fail to understand why Hanson only have 6 out of 10. Don't you recognise genius when you hear it?

I was 8 in 1998. I still have a deep and abiding love for music from around 1997-2002 (my formative years!), even though lots of it is cheesy and awful.

Verity

@Verity The Backstreet Boys' chair-dancing made me think of this. It is wonderful. http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-most-powerful-i-want-it-that-way-hand-dances

GailPink

This was probably the last year that I knew so many names of the popular songs. Very Good!

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

"WHERE IS SHE AND HOW IS HER WORK-LIFE BALANCE" Jia, my boss is very suspicious as to why I'm finding my emails very funny right about now.

metz

@Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy) My favorite line in the piece!

I recently found an old Arizona iced tea bottle in my room that I modpodged with my fashion inspirations circa 1997.

So much eyeliner. So much silky brown hair. So. Much. Angst.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

As the Canadians upthread have mentioned, the Canadian edition of Now! 1 was pretty awesome in its own right. (It was my first introduction to Weezer, who I still love!)

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