October 25, 2019
Since 1998, Now That's What I Call Music has been a force in the US. From the late '90s through the early 2010s, these compilations have set the standard for what a cohesive, hit-packed playlist should look like. Over the past few years, though, that has changed. With the advent of streaming rendering these compilations more or less obsolete, Now persists, still releasing four numbered entries per year, each alongside a "special edition" release on the same day (the special edition released alongside 'Now 72' being 'Now '80s! Hits & Remixes').
For collectors, the incentive for these releases has always been an offering of hard-to-find clean or shorter radio edits of songs that require such, and - more recently in the streaming era - the availability of otherwise digital-only singles on a physical disc. Whatever the reason for buying may be, NOW seems to be here to stay.
'Now 72' is a mixed bag, and its surprises are not always pleasant. On a positive note, the compilation starts off strong, but it makes the album seem a bit front loaded. The first 5 tracks are radio hits that were burning up the airwaves throughout the late summer and early fall of 2019. Superstars Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Jonas Brothers and Post Malone are all front and center, and the songs are all still in heavy rotation on pop and Top 40 radio at the time of 'Now 72''s release.
Things go a bit downhill with the next three tracks. "Ransom", "Suge" and "Panini", despite all being top 10 hits on the Hot 100, will most likely not be recognized by your average Top 40 radio listener. The three generic-sounding rap tracks are nothing but products of the streaming era, all clocking in at around 2 minutes (shorter running time means more streams, which equals a better chance at higher chart positions), and it's sad that more focus is put on quantity rather than quality here. In fact, the only track that might be worth a second listen among these three is "Panini".
The biggest offense here, however, is committed with the inclusion of Khalid's "Outta My Head", which features John Mayer. The track isn't that bad, but the fact that it wasn't even released as a single makes its presence on 'Now 72' absolutely baffling. The latest single from Khalid's album, "Right Back", would've made much more sense here, despite not having charted very highly.
Tracks from Sam Smith ("How Do You Sleep?") and Normani ("Motivation") are up next, and they are a breath of fresh air compared to the disastrous tracks 6 - 9. "How Do You Sleep?" is still doing well at radio, and although "Motivation" wasn't the smash hit people were hoping for, there's no denying that Normani is an enormous talent and the song is fun.
"Love Me Less" by MAX is track 12, and although the song failed to make an appearance on the Hot 100, it's catchy and has been getting some play on pop radio. It is also easily his biggest hit since 2018's "Lights Down Low".
Panic! At The Disco's "Hey Look Ma, I Made It" follows, and although it could've been included as early as 'Now 70', its inclusion here is welcome, especially considering frontman Brendon Urie's undeniable talent. Ellie Goulding and Juice Wrld team up for the next track, "Hate Me", and although it didn't chart very high on the Hot 100, there's no denying that the song is catchy and bound to get stuck in your head after a few listens. We're back to songs that didn't make an appearance on the Hot 100 with Zara Larsson's "All The Time", and despite its underperformance, listeners are treated to another fun song that should've had its moment to shine.
Marshmello and Kane Brown's top 40 hit "One Thing Right" closes out the album. It's a fun yet unexpected EDM and country mashup that works surprisingly well and feels right at home on a 'Now' album.
I won't even bother reviewing the NOW What's Next! tracks. Rather than releasing 3 20-track compilations a year, 'Now' has been releasing 4 16-track compilations a year with 4 - 5 throwaway tracks in lieu of actual hits to close out their releases for nearly a decade. Unfortunately these 'What's Next' tracks rarely become hits. In fact, I believe only 2 - 3 of them have actually become hits over the past decade. It's a waste of disc space, and quite honestly I'd prefer if they'd just leave them off rather than include them at all. With the advent of Spotify Discover and other similar setups, the entire concept of "NOW What's Next!" has been obsolete pretty much since the practice began.
Overall, 'Now 72' is not entirely horrible, but its lack of cohesion makes for a somewhat unpleasant listen. Noticeably missing from here are tracks like "Higher Love" by Kygo & Whitney Houston, "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo, "Trampoline" by SHAED and even "My Type" by Saweetie, all of which would've made 'Now 72' a much more enjoyable listen.