Kill Us Now, Please

Resist the Temptations of Those Soul-Sucking 'Now!' Compilations

If you subscribe to iTunes, like most people who have two eyes and breathe regularly, every so often you may have noticed an album from the Now! series pop up in your “recommended” feed. Released last month, the latest entry is titled Now That's What I Call Rock, but there's a catch: Sadly, by most aesthetic definitions of the term, most of those songs – by artists such as BØRNS, Imagine Dragons, Florence + the Machine and X Ambassadors – are not "rock" at all. The few that are, from the likes of Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin and Bring Me the Horizon, are no great shakes. About as good as it gets is poor Chris Cornell’s relatively toothless “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart.”

Walk the Moon's inescapable neo-synth-pop hit “Shut Up and Dance” is on here, for God's sake. That’s not rock.

Imported from the UK, where it began in 1983, this series has been in the U.S. since 1998 and remains successful because it’s making money. Which, logically, means someone out there is actually buying this flotsam. That’s right, hard-earned money is getting thrown at a corporate compilation of dubious creation. Think about that the next time you drive past a landfill.

What evil is upon us? Sure, there’s Muzak, Kidz Bop and Chris Brown if you really want some tunes to go bottom-drawer and lose the will to live. We know there’s no shortage of other awful spam out there, but why is this a thing in the digital-music age, and why are people paying for it?

Last year’s Now! compilation of crap, er…“classic rock" included such titles as Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” and The Knack’s “My Sharona.” Sure, other tracks there could be classified as legit classic rock – Rainbow, The Who, Deep Purple – but why suffer through the aforementioned titles and not just buy the actual albums of the artists you like?

Because compilations like this are placebos for the kind of people whose interest in music is on the same level as those who limit their in-home entertainment to the Top 20 shows on prime-time network television. While not explicitly evil in intent, these records are certainly passive and innocuous, which is the opposite of what great rock and roll should be. They do sell by the bucketload, which means ideally Universal or Sony could use the cash to offset some of the worthy artists out there whose albums lose money. Since this is the music business we're talking about, though, we suspect otherwise.

Imagine if we could redirect the profit margins of this artless enterprise and bankroll 10,000 decent bands (like, for example, Houston’s own Kickstarter-funded The Suffers). But, for some reason, the Sony/UMG-distributed series is content to repackage shit pop hits as exciting new compilations. It’s like the sequel to your favorite movie after a hundred more sequels. At some point, the original idea is just lost. Who would want to watch or listen to that?


Just the hits, please. No need for an honest listen to an entire album as a thematic artistic statement. We’d rather hear the songs we’ve already heard, ad nauseam. Do not distract us with new albums, new songs or even new musicians. If I don’t know the words to their songs, I can’t possibly enjoy them, right?

Know your enemy: The Beast is a shapeshifter taking on many faces, offering up blight and death in the forms of Now That’s What I Call EDM!, That’s What I Call ACM Awards!, Now That’s What I Call USA! and Now That’s What I Call Disney Princesses! It’s even bilingual: Now Esto Es Música! What a sad state of affairs it is when rock is reduced to the same level of cookie-cutter product as Now That's What I Call a Country Christmas.

This thing is even available on vinyl. Yes, good wax is being wasted right here. Unless you’re a collector of garage-sale kitsch, an Americana culture collector or just completely inept at buying whole records, we cannot begin to imagine why anyone would buy this, especially when you could waste money on Pet Rocks, bottled tap water or tickets to Pearl Jam’s 2016 tour.

At some point in our lives, all of us have our brushes with death, heartbreak, sickness and the Now! series. Its tales are not uncommon; people everywhere have suffered its spirit-deflating influence. I recall one Christmas when a family friend had gifted us with one of these compilations on vinyl; I can’t recall the name, something like Now That’s What I Call Emasculating! The music, barely tolerable, was something along those soft-rock lines — you get the idea. We weren’t entirely sure what its purpose was.

After opening gifts, we used it as a Frisbee, then later as a giant pizza cutter, then a flyswatter. It was my father who suggested actually playing it. We all scoffed at his madness, but sure enough, when set on the turntable, it played music, to our collective shock and dismay. Ever the family protector, after a few songs of this “gift,” my father sought to correct the misdeed by testing our home’s smoke detectors for the next several hours. The auditory stimulation from that exercise alone was far more sonically interesting and creative than anything we heard on that Now! detritus.

It was our worst family Christmas to date. Naturally, we no longer speak to that turncoat of a family friend.
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.