Anybody who complains about the presence of the Now compilation on the U.S. charts in the late '90s/early 2000s should just grow up and realize what a blessing they are for the average consumer and pop fan. Long ago, the Brits realized that a lot of music fans don't want to buy a full album for one single; they'd also rather have one collection that captures a particular point in pop time than a stack of albums they don't listen to -- and even if artists on that album should be heard on a full album, they still sound good on this grab-bag portrait. That's not an old concept -- it was alive in the pre-Beatles pop universe -- and, truth be told, it's a welcome return to the American pop mainstream, as Now That's What I Call Music!, Vol. 8, generally. Not everything here is a huge, huge hit and certain albums -- certainly Gorillaz and Mandy Moore, probably U2 -- should be heard in their entirety, but this is a great collection of highlights from the summer of 2001. There are a few problems -- actually, there's one major one, and that's the inclusion of the original mix of Jennifer Lopez's "I'm Real," which absolutely nobody knows and is far, far inferior to the fantastic remix with Ja Rule and elements of the Tom Tom Club. But it makes up for it by having Janet Jackson's "Someone to Call My Lover," complete with the America sample, plus such great singles as Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious," Jessica Simpson's "A Little Bit," Mandy Moore's "Crush," Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat," Wiseguy's "Start the Commotion," and especially Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood," possibly the greatest single of 2001 (running neck and neck with Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em up Style (Oops!)," the Strokes' "Last Night," Pink's "Get the Party Started," Madonna's "Don't Tell Me," Eve and Gwen Stefani's "Let Me Blow Your Mind," and the Shins' "New Slang"). Some songs aren't quite as good, particularly as it winds down with a bunch of punk-pop numbers, but overall it is a good portrait of American pop in 2001, and as a time capsule it works. And it has a lot of gems for those listeners who love the very sound of pop, the very thing that makes it so of-the-moment -- which is what this series was designed to do, after all.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine