Various Artists

Now That's What I Call Music! 15

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Whereas previous installments of the Now That's What I Call Music series attempted to recap the previous six months of the American pop charts, the 15th volume is a snapshot of the current pop scene as of March 23, 2004, containing several singles that were still climbing the charts, or at least still gaining significant radio play. More than ever, the series' attempt at diversity doesn't sit well together, partially because the different styles are grouped together -- the record starts with a pair of pop tunes before delving into hardcore rap, which leads to a stretch of dance and urban before swinging toward adult pop, which is abruptly interrupted with a batch of hard rock before it all wraps up with a Five for Fighting song that hardly burned up the charts. None of this segues well together, which only points out that this is by far one of the weaker collections in the NOW series. There's a handful of good singles scattered throughout the record -- No Doubt's "It's My Life" is a fine new wave cover, Sheryl Crow's "The First Cut Is the Deepest" is fine, Norah Jones' "Sunrise" is pleasant, Sarah Connor's "Bounce" is infectious, and Britney Spears' "Toxic" is deliriously catchy, one of her best singles -- but most of this is generic at best and at worst, as on Nick Cannon's awful "Gigolo," supremely irritating. As always, the NOW series is good at capturing one moment in time, but based on this collection, it'd be better to forget the first few months of this year. As Ruben Studdard would say, "Sorry 2004"!

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