After several years of spawning CD collections every few months, the Now That's What I Call Music! series finally issues its first music video set, with a tag line at the bottom of the DVD box that reads, "The best videos of 2003!" Whether or not that is true, as with the CDs in the series, the 15 videos here do not feature the most popular recordings of the year. Rather, in typical Now style, they represent a variety of popular genres, beginning with hip-hop and rap, and ending with mainstream rock. Given the heavy over-representation of rap/hip-hop radio stations in the makeup of Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart in the early 2000s, the biggest hits, naturally, come from that genre, and, as they do on all Now CDs; those selections are sequenced upfront. The biggest hit on the disc is B2K's "Bump, Bump, Bump," but Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful" and Ginuwine's "In Those Jeans" were also Top Ten hits. (The only other Top Ten pop hit included is rock band 3 Doors Down's "When I'm Gone.") Jessica Simpson's "Sweetest Sin," the leadoff song from her In This Skin album, and a non-chart item, signals a shift to teen pop as of the fifth selection. Mainstream and modern rock tracks enter the picture with Evanescence's "Going Under," and hard rock rules for several minutes before things cool out with the more sedate tracks from Coldplay and Train at the end. If these 15 videos are to be taken as representative of the look and sound of contemporary pop, then it's a fashion show with differing rhythms and styles. The hip-hop artists seem to change clothes with every other beat, making videos like "In Those Jeans" look like nothing so much as commercials. But when the rock acts come in, it seems to be one heavily tattooed and unusually pierced quartet of unsmiling men (singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer) after another, emoting angrily in industrial settings. (In this context, Snoop Dogg, seen rapping on the colorful streets of Rio de Janeiro, and 3 Doors Down, playing to the troops on an aircraft carrier, are a welcome relief.) No doubt music fans, as they do with the CDs, will skip around to play their favorites, ignoring the incompatible performers placed before or after them.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann