Various Artists

Now That's What I Call Music! 17

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The week prior to the release of Now 17, the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart was 75 percent rap and R&B. Now 17 is just over half rap and R&B, which goes to show that it might not be the fairest indication of what dominated the mainstream during part of 2004. To make matters worse, there were much better selections to be made within rap and R&B. Inferior follow-up singles from J-Kwon, Lil' Flip, and Nelly -- all of which happen to be their compromising, "Yes, I can go soft and make other concessions for crossover appeal" hits -- could've been replaced by any number of smarter picks. This volume continues to show how mainstream rock was a wasteland in 2004, exemplified by Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move" and Crossfade's "Cold" -- a pair of explosively lukewarm anthems. And then there's Bowling for Soup's charming/irritating "1985," a punk-pop novelty song that attempts to catch the spirit of that year but name checks a band that broke up in 1982. Poor Gretchen Wilson ("Here for the Party"), who represents country with Keith Urban ("Days Go By"), gets tacked on near the end for a second consecutive volume of the series. Jadakiss' "Why," Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started," Terror Squad's "Lean Back," Akon's "Locked Up," and Houston's "I Like That" were ubiquitous in one way or another -- sporting events, video programs, urban radio -- during 2004 and help rescue the disc from being woefully misrepresentative of the period.

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