Monday, May 11, 2009

Cheap Album Round-Up: Turn of the Century Edition

By Evan Rytlewski
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A trio of finds from the discount bin at Half-Price Books and Music on Brown Deer:

Various Artists: Now That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 9
($1)

This compilation finds the 2002 Top 40 charts in fertile form. Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige each contribute plucky singles (“I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Family Affair,” respectively); Shakira introduces herself to America with a mega-hit, “Whenever, Wherever;” Ludacris continued his early hot streak with the great “Rollout (My Business);” Nelly Furtado followed-up on “I’m Like a Bird” with the more ambitious “Turn Off the Light;” and even the usually awful Ja Rule squeezes out a slick jam, “Livin’ It Up.” Not everything clicks: Mr. Cheeks rips off a beloved OutKast refrain for his shameless “Lights, Camera, Action!” while you can almost hear Justin Timberlake and Beyonce plotting out their solo careers while singing forgotten tracks from ’N Sync and Destiny’s Child, but all in all this is one of the best of the Now compilations…

Various Artists: Now That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 10($1)

…this follow-up 2002 compilation, however, is about as rough as they come, an overlong slog of rail singles from Paulina Rubio, Jade Anderson, Marc Anthony, Celine Dion, B2K and Lenny Kravitz. How bad is it? There’s a Baha Men track here, and it’s not “Who Let the Dogs Out.” Ja Rule is back to his pandering self on “Always on Time,” while Jennifer Lopez proves herself the blandest of all the early-century superstars on a remix of “I’m Gonna Be Alright.” The few memorable songs are a mixed bag: Kylie Minogue contributes the perfect “Can’t Get You out of My Head,” while Vanessa Carlton makes good use of her string section on “A Thousand Miles” and Moby proves himself likable enough on “We Are All Made of Stars,” but Nickelback closes the comp with the ultimate Nickelback ballad, “How You Remind Me.”

Various Artists: 1999 Grammy Nominees
($1)

While the Now compilations give a zippy, if generally youth-skewing overview of the charts from a given time, this now-defunct annual series compiling Grammy Nominated tracks views pop culture through the award show’s reliably stodgy lens. This curious installment is sequenced so the selections actually become less relevant as the playlist goes on, with significant hits from Madonna (“Ray of Light”), Shania Twain (“You’re Still the One”) and Lauryn Hill (“Doo Wop (That Thing)”) giving way to pleasant relics from Natalie Imbruglia (“Torn”) and Eagle-Eye Cherry (take a guess), then utter schmaltz from Eric Clapton, Brian McKnight, Shawn Mullins and Sting.

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