This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.
Released- 25th March 1991
Michael Jackson signs for $1 billion dollars with Sony. Bear in ming, all his best albums have been and gone now. If he hadn’t died, this would have been really bad value… And speaking of profiting from death, Eric Clapton’s son falls from an apartment window, leading to the writing of Tears in Heaven.
Seven now. I know I’m reading a lot of Roald Dahl books. Of these, to this day, my favourite is The Twits, which is full of Machiavellian awfulness and beards. A lot of the rest of my time is spent playing Street Fighter 2. To this day, I will beat you at this. With Blanka.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were to have SCUD missiles dropped on them by George Bush Sr., that track would be… Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack. As I said below, buy Blue Lines, if you haven’t already. Listen to it. Enjoy it. Don’t Spotify it. It’s just not that kind of album.
Track by Track Breakdown
The Clash : “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
What is known as a ‘shit sandwich’ here. The Clash are on a Now compilation, and scored their only number one. BUT it’s one of their worst songs. BUT it’s still better than pretty much everything else, and it’s The Clash, one of my personal punk holy trinity, next to the Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat.
Oh no I appear to have put the wrong Clash song here and instead included a far superior song! Whoops.
Scritti Politti feat. Shabba Ranks : “She’s a Woman”
SHABBA! It’s as much a punchline as an announcement, saying here come the slightly racially offensive Sebastian the Crab impersonation. Mi still gwan say mi like it though. Jah bless. With sincere apologies to the West Indies.
The Source feat. Candi Staton : “You Got the Love”
The definitive version of this song. The Moroder style blips just accentuate the feeling. The bassline adds a faintly ominous feel to proceedings. Brilliant. PS- jumping ahead about 60 odd Now! albums, Florence and Dizzee can do one.
The KLF feat. The Children Of The Revolution : “3 a.m. Eternal”
It’s hard to be unbiased when the arty, situationist, lunatics are doing well. Great song, but I’d love their bad ones too. Dance music artists are often incredibly dull, so it’s great when the sense of mischief permeates everything they do.
C+C Music Factory featuring Freedom Williams : “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”
It’s gym montage time! Even men with steel hearts cannot resist this song (indeed I’m sure they would just do the robot). I want to shout EVERYBODY DANCE NOW just writing this.
Nomad feat. MC Mikee Freedom : “(I Wanna Give You) Devotion”
Can’t dispute that it’s a classic, but by God the rapping is third rate. This wouldn’t get out of the studio today!
EMF : “I Believe”
Swaggery dancey indie. Good clean fun, but not thrilling. It’s unfair, but you can see why this isn’t the song everyone remembers.
808 State : “In Yer Face”
Thumping great rave classic. Two years late, but Now! has clearly developed a taste for sweaty warehouses and dubious chemicals. Now 21 will be a lot of phoning in sick and lying in bed in terror at this rate.
Massive Attack : “Unfinished Sympathy”
Who would have thought, at the turn of the decade, the best soul music of the last 20 years would come out of Bristol, of all places? Even 24 years on, Blue Lines is an album I go back to again and again. It’s worth putting it on as a CD or vinyl, and foregoing the modern luxury of easy track skipping, as it always throws new layers of depth.
MC Hammer : “Pray”
Ooh. MC Hammer tries to get all social warrior. There’s even a Prince sample. It’s not terrible. I think he’s trying to blame his success in the face of a lack of talent on God. Thanks a bloody lot God. I’m just going to point out that the devil has Robert Johnson.
Kim Appleby : “G.L.A.D”
From Wu Tang and C.R.E.A.M. to Daphne and Celeste and U.G.L.Y. I’m generally a fan of acronyms in pop music, but this is a little bit too generic. It stands for Good Love And Devotion by the by.
Kylie Minogue : “What Do I Have to Do?”
I remember this being better than it actually is. One of the few tracks to tarnish my memory in this project. Not bad, but not the pop genius I remembered it being.
Hale & Pace and The Stonkers : “The Stonk”
It’s a charity record. One of those charity records that gives charity records a bad name. For those of you unaware, Hale and Pace are an unfunny comedy act from the 80’s, probably playing a Butlins near you.
2 In A Room : “Wiggle It”
I’m old enough to remember this sounding really futuristic. I feel ancient now. I do love that rapping was still so new then we didn’t realise how talentless a lot of acts were.
Vanilla Ice : “Play That Funky Music”
On the one hand, it interpolates Wild Cherry, which can’t be bad. On the other hand… he reuses about half the rap from Ice Ice Baby, and makes so many references to his whiteness he sounds like Tommy Robinson (or whoever your local racist party leader is in your country).
Jesus Loves You : “Bow Down Mister”
Oh gawd Boy George has discovered spirituality. Help is all. Hari hari fuck off.
Enigma : “Sadeness (Part I)”
The Latin mass totally needed a beat and panpipes didn’t it? The Pope should pay you guys a commission.
Praise : “Only You”
Two consecutive tracks of dismal new age horror. I am so glad I missed this the first time around.
Oleta Adams : “Get Here”
Actually so very lyrically lazy it hurts. You left out tricycles, sedgways, and the number 73, terminating at…Seven Sisters. About ten minutes work to write and record, and the song ecoes through the ages X Factor auditions.
Rick Astley : “Cry for Help”
At least it’s not a suicide attempt. Although there were times while listening to this track I longed for the sweet release of death.
Robert Palmer : “Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You”
It’s like a very low budget version of What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. In its defense, some of the lyrics veer over into unintentional hilarity. There’s mercury in the fishes dontchaknow mercy me.
Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes : “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”
It may not be ‘my thing’. But there’s no way this could be any other song in musical history. There’s actually a fairly cute amateurishness to the whole affair.
The Righteous Brothers : “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”
Not just a great song, but a great song that reminds me of Top Gun. RIP Goose. We hardly knew ye. The point where they start competing over the word baby- Gee. Knee. Us.
Seal : “Crazy”
We’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy. Seal gave this good advice to David Icke. Great song. Seems Adamski wasn’t essential to the whole scheme.
Banderas : “This Is Your Life”
It’s frustratingly close to being a really good song. It just never quite reaches out to take it. Just needed maybe one more section for variety, or a slightly catchier hook. I feel bad for them.
Stevie B : “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)”
I thought this song was going to go somewhere for the whole time. It didn’t. I’ve been trolled by a terrible ballad.
Chris Rea : “Auberge”
It would be an insult to ditch water to make a comparison here.
Chris Isaak : “Blue Hotel”
Chris Isaak has such such a melodramatic, overblown voice. It sounds like he’s permanently on the verge of tears. His hotel just HAS to be the bluest, and nobody’s games could ever be wickeder. What an annoying twerp.
Free : “All Right Now”
Or… the theme from Wrigley’s Doublemint. I will never be able to rid myself of that association. Otherwise, classic rock, great solo, singalong chorus.
INXS : “Disappear”
I can’t get over how massively average INXS are. Apart from the riff from Need You Tonight. That’s absolutely brilliant.
Belinda Carlisle : “Summer Rain”
The first weak track in a very long time from Ms. Carlisle. Still some nice moody chord progressions, but no real hook.
The Railway Children : “Every Beat of the Heart”
They’ve wholesale stolen the backing track of In Between Days by The Cure and shoved some bland mewling over the top of it. The Maroon 5 of it’s day…
Thunder : “Love Walked In”
Sorry. You’re just not as good as the similar sounding Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi. Also… fairly sure at some point now Nirvana are meant to kill cock rock.
Queen : “Innuendo”
On the one hand, it’s not a classic, but there’s little enough Queen music left now, with Freddie Mercury not long for this world, so I’ll take it.
15 and a half from 34. Not great. 46% great, despite having some individual brilliance.