Party Tyme: Hot Hits, Vol. 2

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If this second volume of Party Tyme Sound Alikes does anything, it illustrates just how much some pop stars benefit from prohibitively expensive production teams. But it's also a testament to how important pop music actually is. Presenting eager cover versions of 16 pop, urban soul, and hip-hop hits, the album is surprisingly enjoyable. Sure, these aren't the chart-topping, often multi-platinum original versions of songs like "Get the Party Started," "Turn off the Light," and "Bootylicious." Nevertheless, it's fun to hear regular people (or at least faceless studio musicians) get as close as they can to the source material without paying the Neptunes a stack of cheddar to tweak an otherwise simple song into a boffo hit. The mindless fun of Nelly's "Hot in Herre" is intact, even if the backing track and rapping skills present are far below those of the original. A version of Kylie's "Can't Get You out of My Head" is equally as addicting -- not because of the mediocre lead vocal, but the replication of the song's sultry, brazenly sexual percussion. The vocalist who tackles "Whenever, Wherever" gives the song a fresh-faced Americanization. Unable to match Shakira's Colombian super-powers (what other human could?), she approaches the song as a high-school musical-trained amateur singer would in a karaoke bar -- without much flair, but with plenty of freshly scrubbed zest. Similarly, the male vocalist channeling Enrique Iglesias on a largely acoustic rendition of "Hero" can't emote like Julio's kid. But he illustrates what the song would have sounded like had it been performed by Bob "Butterfly Kisses" Carlisle.

While these are definite highlights, Party Tyme Sound Alikes' standout track might be "How You Remind Me." As performed by Nickelback, the original lit up the yearning and lovesick anguish in the hearts of beefy beer drinkers everywhere, steamrolling its way from the frontier of northern Canada to the bar rooms of Mississippi. A Southern rock classic written by Canucks, "How You Remind Me" was like the post-grunge, Schlitz-soaked brother of Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Style (Oops)!." It gave the foam-hatted and work-booted reason to realize, "Hey, I'm not going to let her treat me that way!," and let them pump their fists while thinking it. That said, the version here lacks Rick Parashar's monstrous production. But it plays like a garage band made up of those very Nickelback fans, performing the song in another, smaller bar room for a raucous crowd on a Saturday night. The version encapsulates what's entertaining about Party Tyme Sound Alikes in the first place -- its covers illustrate how much fun it is to sing along to our favorite songs.

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