Various Artists

Now That's What I Call Music! 16

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The 16th volume of the American Now series wraps up 20 chart hits from the tail end of 2003 and the first half of 2004. It's unnecessarily evenhanded with the genres, conducting a form of affirmative action with the rock songs, none of which deserve to be remembered after you've heard them. They're all innocuous in their own way, Yellowcard's "Ocean Avenue," Three Days Grace's "Just Like You," and Lenny Kravitz's autopiloted "Where Are We Runnin'?" included. And then there's Hoobastank's mewling "The Reason," in which that group's lead singer puts on affectations that are less convincing than that of favorite rock-against-pop pin cushion Clay Aiken. (Hoobastank's singer may want to consider, after all his published distaste for corporately processed talent, that Aiken has indirectly bankrolled at least a couple of his brothers in arms.) Tacked at the end, Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven" and Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" seem particularly out of place, having little to do with the interests of the young audience that the Now series has always been marketed toward. The first dozen picks or so fall more in line with Now's purpose, featuring spring/summer 2004 smashes like Nina Sky's "Move Ya Body," Petey Pablo's "Freek-A-Leek," Chingy's "One Call Away," and Beyoncé's "Naughty Girl." While these particular songs are just as capable of being unnerving, they at least have far more character than their rock counterparts. They also have something to do with fun.

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