Future installments will prove whether this is indeed where the American edition of Now lost the plot, but upon first listen, it sure feels that way. That's because the compilers are intent on showcasing -- joy upon joys -- new, exclusive remixes of hits! Not just that, but some of the songs that you know and love from the radio are presented in alternate versions! There are original album versions where the hit was a remix (Jennifer Lopez's "Ain't It Funny," presented here without Ja Rule) or remixes of songs that were hits in their original album versions (Pink's glorious "Get the Party Started," one of the great singles of 2001, presented here as a medley with a Redman rap, which ain't what anybody really wants to hear)! This, of course, undercuts the very reason the Now series even exists, which is that it collects the great radio songs of a particular season, thereby saving the consumer the bother of buying a bunch of albums or -- horror upon horrors -- burning individual songs to their hard drives. Way to fight back, major labels! Sabotage one of the great things you had going by no longer giving them what they want, or expect to get! Yes, you may be forcing consumers to get one-hit wonders in other ways than this compilation, but it may not be how you'd imagine. Sure, they may buy the actual Pink album (and they should, since it's tremendous, better than anything else on this collection and, yes, that includes U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind), but chances are they won't bother and download it or burn it for a friend. And, in pulling this stunt, the very value of Now has decreased considerably, since several of the great songs here are not in their best versions.
Yes, most of the great singles here are presented in the version you've heard on the radio -- namely, "I'm a Slave 4 U," "Family Affair," "Whenever, Wherever," "Rollout (My Business)," "Turn Off the Light," and "Dig In," plus "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" -- but those alternate versions of "Get the Party Started," "Ain't It Funny," "Raise Up," and "Caramel" are disappointing. Plus, all of these songs are surrounded by truly mediocre moments that don't even really feel like they capture a moment in time -- unless you're thinking on a grand academic scale, and then this collection just illustrates how music has turned to product and that the big four are intent on painting a vulgar picture as they dig their own graves (but that theory is so tiresome, it took considerable effort to even finish typing it). After all, the first rule of pop music is that it should sound good, and this betrays that since, if you're generous, only a third of these selections fit the bill. If they weren't playing games, it could have been at least half. As it stands, most listeners will likely take what they need from this collection and then pass it on. Let's hope Now gets its groove back on Now, Vol. 10 (please, please, please don't give us alternate versions of Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get It Out of My Head," Mystikal's "Bouncin' Back [Up Against the Wall]," and Jewel's "Standing Still" -- just the versions we heard on the radio).