John Mellencamp

Nothing Like I Planned: Greatest Hits, Vol. 3

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John Mellencamp's professional recording career got off to an auspicious start with his debut album for MCA, 1976's Chestnut Street Incident, an album of covers that quickly went nowhere and did nothing. The worst part, though, was that Mellencamp was billed as Johnny Cougar, a decision that surprised, angered, and embittered Mellencamp, who had to endure a stage name he absolutely hated until the success of his 1982 album American Fool and its big singles "Hurts So Good" and "Jack and Diane" allowed him to be billed as John Cougar Mellencamp for 1983's Uh-Huh, and by 1991's Whenever We Wanted he pared things back to just John Mellencamp. None of this would matter much, and he could easily have faded away into the mists of pop history as the lamentable Johnny Cougar, if he hadn't pushed an impressive litany of singles into the Top Ten, several of which are gathered here, in this third installment of his greatest hits. Specializing in a kind of roots rock Americana heartland sound, Mellencamp brought energy, a social consciousness, and a slightly rebellious attitude onto the charts with songs like "Paper in Fire," "Small Town," "Crumblin' Down," "Jack and Diane," and "Pink Houses," each of which is included here, along with the earlier hit "Ain't Even Done with the Night," among others. It isn't a complete portrait, by any means, but most listeners will recognize these songs, and the chances are pretty good they'll find themselves singing along with most of them. What's in a name?

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