Now That’s What I Call Music 44 (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now 44

Now 44 r

As the end of the decade approached, Now That’s What I Call Music 44 became the best-selling volume of the entire series, shifting a massive 2,300,000 copies – many of them purchased to soundtrack New Year’s Eve millennium parties. This sales record remains intact. When you listen to it, you’ll understand why. Even 19 years on, it still comes across as brilliantly sequenced and packjammed with bangers.

There are 17 instances where another compilation got in first:
Big Hits ’99: Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5, Eiffel 65 – Blue (Da Ba Dee), Sixpence None The Richer – Kiss Me, Moloko – Sing It Back, Jamiroquai – Canned Heat.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1999: The Millennium Series: Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All, Texas – Summer Son, Lolly – Hey Mickey, Shaft – (Mucho Mambo) Sway, DJ Jean – The Launch.
Now Dance 2000: Geri Halliwell – Mi Chico Latino (Charlie Rapino Version), Bob Marley vs Funkster De Luxe – Sun Is Shining, Ann Lee – 2 Times, Alice Deejay – Back In My Life (Thrillseekers Remix Edit), Tin Tin Out featuring Emma Bunton – What I Am (Groove Chronicle Remix), .
Huge Hits ’99: Tom Jones & The Cardigans – Burning Down The House.
The Greatest Hits Of 1999: R Kelly – If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time.

There’s no doubt that the opening salvo is extremely impressive – despite the age of some of the tracks. Britney Spears’ hook-laden Baby One More was the sound of March while Shania Twain’s frantic That Don’t Impress Me Much kicked off at the start of the summer. By the time Now 44 came out, both were riding high with You Drive Me Crazy and Man, I Feel Like A Woman. “Candy-pop-with-a-funky-edge smash” was how Entertainment Weekly’s Beth Johnson described the Britney tune. “This should be the national anthem for girls using Tinder.” is what Mark Batarina says about Shania’s catchy winner. Steps’ stupendously brilliant cover of the Bee Gees’ Tragedy was even older, harking back to November 1998. Then there was the dance step of putting both hands parallel to the sides of the head in time with the song title, which became a trademark of the group.

After the tropical loveland sound of Geri Halliwell’s Mi Chico Latino, Robbie Williams drops a piano-driven cover of World Party’s She’s The One. Nice. The original won an Ivor Novello award in 1997 while Robbie’s prizes included 2000 Brit Awards for British Single of the Year and British Video of the Year. There’s more spice on Mel C’s gorgeously dreamy Northern Star – incredible vocal too. The music video was shot in Brighton with scenes of a desert, fast trains and miners. This reflective period continues with Sixpence’s Kiss Me before Texas’ Summer Son ups the tempo for Roisin Murphy to Sing It Back and the sunny Bob Marley reboot continuing to stoke the fire. Next comes the sublime Not Over You Yet from the legendary Diana Ross and Tina Turner’s final appearance on the series, the energetic When The Heartache Is Over, produced by the Believe team (Rawling & Taylor).

The sun is out – finally – so I am listening to Drinking In LA. Bran Van 3000 is derived etymologically from Swedish liquor Brännvin, a style of spirit that can only be described as as low-grade vodka. They were founded by DJ James Di Salvio and E.P. Bergen, the latter drove a taupe coloured Volkswagen Camper Van around Montreal in the mid 1990s. It’s a perfect driving song, steeped in nostalgia for me. More buzz: Supergrass and the timeless Moving, a sweeping slice of beauty. You’ll remember it from the closing credits of East Is East which was set in 1971. I saw it in the recently-demolished Screen cinema. CD1 ends with Phil Collins’ uptempo ballad You’ll Be In Heart, from Disney’s Tarzan. The song went on to win the Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Original Song.

Disc 2 starts off on a downbeat vibe with R Kelly’s soaring ballad, If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time. On the original demo his mother Sadie sang it with him. Moving on with a double solo Spice whammy: more Geri on the joyous Lift Me Up while Tin Tin Out employ Baby on What I Am. Our Tiff’s I’ve Got You shows some marginal improvement from the anemic Perfect Moment. Some infectious boyband stylings next – starting with the pounding Larger Than Life from a meaner, keener Backstreet Boys. Coming afterwards is the true diamond in the mine, former New Kid On The Block, Jordan Knight’s explosive Give It To You. Carnival pop meets a trippy form of R&B, almost drum ‘n’ bass in parts and reeking of Timbaland meets Sgt Pepper. Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Growing up: Gabrielle’s wonderfully positive Sunshine followed by Honeyz’s soulful Never Let You Down featuring the voice of Mariama Goodman for the first time. It’s time to move over darlings for S Club 7 and their story, S Club Party. Each line of the song’s second verse describes a different member of the group: “Tina’s doin’ her dance, Jon’s lookin’ for romance, Paul’s gettin’ down on the floor, while Hannah’s screamin’ out for more. Wanna see Bradley swing? Wanna see Rachel do her thing? Then we got Jo, she’s got the flow – get ready everybody ’cause here we go!” Like James Last’s Introduction on his 1974 live album. And the music video was filmed in the Californian desert – in the famous setting of Vasquez Rocks – on the set of the Back To The ’50s special.

Pumping up the sound system are Vengaboys with the Balearic oddity We’re Going To Ibiza. We go Latin with Enrique Iglesias (son of Julio) and the hoary Bailamos. Naturally Shaft’s Sway comes next. And then the clubbing starts: ATB’s Don’t Stop is melancholy autumnal trance while Groove Armada’s I See You Baby is described as “impending chart invasion” – thanks to Gram’ma and Fatboy Slim. Now a Victims selection – Project’s hypnotic King Of My Castle which is followed by Alice Deejay’s pounding Back In My Life. Right about now, the funk force brothers or Alena’s mournful spacer Turn It Around. Elsewhere Tina Cousins’ haunting Madonna-like slowburner Angel gets a second outing (along with a remix by Tall Paul). To the end: a summer smash from Liquid Child – Diving Faces. An anthem from the Human Traffic soundtrack. 1999, what a year.

Favourite tracks
Steps – Tragedy

Britney Spears – Baby One More Time

S Club 7 – S Club Party

Bran Van 3000 – Drinking In LA

Melanie C – Northern Star

Lest we forget
Jordan Knight – Give It To You

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Probably the best volume since Now That’s What I Call Music 29. Five years is a long time. If they ditched six of the previously compiled songs, this lot would have fitted on:

Pet Shop Boys – New York City Boy. End of decade Go West.
The Charlatans – Forever. The one with the enchanting bass.
Buffalo Tom, Liam Gallagher and Steve Cradock – Carnation. Jam on it.
Gomez – Rhythm and Blues Alibi. Bring it off.
Travis – Turn. Possibly their most melodic few minutes.
Blur – No Distance Left To Run. The split vs asleep.


And thanks to Smash Hits Mag for this advert.
Now 44 advert

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18 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 44 (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. cosmo says:

    As I mentioned elsewhere…

    Mentioned in the description of this video that this gave Bob Marley his highest ever UK singles chart position, quite rightly, nigh on two decades after his death, with a sample of a track from the days he was a cult hero rather than an international superstar.

    (I also thought King for a Day [#20 around the time this Now first came out] was underrated.)

    Nice one nominated the PSBs for omission here; would have sitted quite well with the other long-established artistes here.
    Horses for courses I know, but I still stand by my opinion that this is a rather unexceptional album, and although this does feature some of the biggest songs of that year, many of them were nothing to write home to for me, or might have sounded good, even great, back then, but have aged extremely badly, to the point that to me some of them are unlistenable these days! (Although the Ann Lee track to me is opposite: I actually couldn’t listen it wholly back then, but today I can’t get enough of it! 😛 )

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Cosmo, that second King Of My Castle video is intriguing! The compilation – IMHO – manages to capture the end of the decade well via a mix of massive tunes and rides the party vibe that was so prevalent around then. Although for many of us, NYE 1999 was a massive let down.

  2. andynoax says:

    This is one of the better NOW albums of this period for sure, even if it does include some that I was forced to play on the radio but would gladly never hear again. in particular Bran Van 3000 which I didn’t get the love for at all, and Jordan Knight which my programme controller thought was one of the best songs ever (it isn’t) and don’t even get me started on R Kelly’s dirge…

    Making up for those, Mel C’s best song (criminal that you don’t hear it these days), Tom Jones & The Cardigans, Backstreet Boys finest 4 minutes, ATB and loads more.

  3. Feel the Quality says:

    You reminded me of the film Human Traffic. One of the worst films ever made and one unfortunately that still gets referenced for that excruciating “nice one brother” sequence with Danny bloody Dyer. Can’t we just fire it into the sun?

    It’s amazing to me that this is the best-selling Now ever as I think it’s one of the worst. The first seven songs are excrement. We then get a bit of a break thanks to Moloko, Sixpence etc. etc.,Texas and Mel C showing us why she was the one who deserved to have a successful solo career. But then it’s right back to crap like Tina Turner and Diana Ross. The last few tracks help to improve things but it’s unfortunately a cherry on top of a turd soufflé.

    Disc 2 starts off poor. But even crap like R.Kelly’s dirge and Geri showing us yet again that talent is something that she’s lacking can’t prepare me for Lolly, The Vengaboys, Martine McCutcheon and Gabrielle. I can’t bring myself to hate on S Club 7 because to me they’re the perfect definition of “guilty pleasure” (although no one should feel guilt over liking Don’t Stop Movin’ because that Is one damn fine song!). Like the first disc, this one picks up for the home straight but again, the damage has been done.

    Why did we need two awful (well, that’s actually unnecessary as all of her tracks were awful) Geri Halliwell tracks? Between her and Robbie Williams ruling the charts, it’s a good argument for 99 being the worst year for pop music.

    • cosmo says:

      Thanks a lot for that, you sum up a lot of what I feel about this, too. Especially on the fact that it is incredible that this is the best selling Now ever. As mentioned, it surely must have been for the end of year (and century!), as it can’t be for the overall quality of the tracklisting? And that the opening sequence is, indeed, rather awful. And that 99 is one of the poorer years overall for music. (If it wasn’t for much of its dance hits… And something that applies to the previous year as well.)

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Mileages certainly vary on this ! Of the opening seven, I don’t dig Lou Bega but otherwise it’s a thumbs-up. She’s The One is definitely one of Robbie Williams’ stronger numbers. Agree re Lolly, Martine and Vengaboys. Is the worst year for pop music? 1998 gives it a run.

  4. This was my very first Now back at Christmas 1999 when I was 10, so I may be somewhat biased in my unerring love of it, but this is the best volume of the series. I actually wrote a love letter of sorts on it a few years ago on my own blog:

    But I mean. Those first six opening tracks on Disc 1 in particular are just one turn of the millennium banger after another.

  5. Pingback: Hits 2000 (Global Television / Sony / Warner ESP, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  6. Pingback: Smash Hits 2000 (Virgin, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  7. Martin Davis says:

    A couple of additions could have been “Cartoons-Aisy Waisy” and “Madness- Johnny The Horse” but am guessing that one of the factors behind them not being included was the fact they didn’t chart very high?

    Genie In a Bottle would have also fitted in well here.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I think it was geared up for heavy hitters and very little filler. Genie In A Bottle definitely yes but not the other two. Cartoons were very poor IMHO.

      • Martin Davis says:

        That seems like a reasonable explanation. I thought “Witch Doctor” and “Doo Dah” were quite popular or maybe because they seemed to get played a lot at school discos. I found out a few years ago that Cartoons did a follow up album to Toonage which doesn’t ever seem to have charted here in the UK.

        Now 44 was the first Now album I had from new. Got it for my birthday in March 2000. Have very fond memories of this volume.

  8. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Can I pop the Now 44 love fest for one reason – the dreadful hatchet job on the sublime Diving Faces. Now That’s What I Call A Dreadful Edit, along with Umboza’s Sunshine on Now 34! Get rid of Lolly’s Mickey instead and leave it unedited.

  9. Andrew Chinnock says:

    HI Paul, hope you’re keeping well. I’ve been reading some Music Week compilation commentaries, particularly with interest to Now 44 and others from the time.

    Now 44 was the first (and probably only) compilation to sell more than 250,000 copies a week for 4 weeks. At the time it was the joint fastest million selling album,achieving those sales after just 26 days.

    To put that into context, the best selling of Telstar’s Box Hits series from 1998 sold little more than 100k in total.

    The Hits series went from strength to strength from 1998. Huge Hits 1998 sold around 40k in its first two weeks only for Huge Hits 1999 to sell around 100k in its first week.

    The big rival to Now 44 was Hits 2000 and retailers ordered half a million advance copies of this, expecting another success. It sold 200,000 copies in 2 weeks and was one of the biggest selling Hits albums of the time.

    Not long afterwards, Nic Moran and Mark Rosenfield left Global and the Hits franchise was put in the hands of Warner. It soon became Fresh Hits 2000 and then Music!, before dying. Hits had established itself as a very worthy competitor to Now, particularly with 4 compilations (and a huge one) a year to compete with Now’s 3 per year.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Andrew, all grand here.
      Thanks for that info – the total sales of Now 44 are over 2M according to one source – but very impressive. Hits was peaking towards the end of the decade; that Hits 2000 works well with Now 44.

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