Various Artists

Now That's What I Call Music! 23

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Featuring a long running imbalance between dance-pop, R&B, rap, rock, and country (in other words, the last two genres are afterthoughts), the 23rd volume of the Now series covers hit singles from the summer and early fall of 2006. The series continues to reflect a chart make-up that didn't change much across 2004, 2005, and 2006. R&B and pop-rap continued to look back to the '70s and '80s for inspiration, while rock was more likely to either recycle the eras or remain planted in 1996. It's telling that yet another sappy, overwrought Nickelback single -- along with an equally appealing and not terribly dissimilar song by Hinder -- are technically more qualified to be here than OK Go's sharp and memorable "Here It Goes Again," which barely scraped the Top 40. Nickelback and Hinder's Top Ten hits are both torturously slow, very intense, and deadly serious -- as you might be able to discern from their titles ("Far Away," "Lips of an Angel"). At least Kenny Chesney, the series' umpteenth token country inclusion, follows them with something ("Summertime") that resembles a good time. During the first two-thirds of the disc, there is a handful of hits that aren't 100% polarizing: Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man," Beyonce's "Déjà Vu," and Kelis "Bossy" lead the pack. Then again, the fact that the disc contains those three songs is enough to repel a good percentage of those who regularly listen to Top 40 radio, which might have to do more with a dislike of the personalities than the quality of the songs. What a strange time for pop music.

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