The evolution of the Now That's What I Call Music series has been nothing short of spectacular. What began as a loose, unambitious collection of Top 40 hits has become a superb, tightly woven unit that samples the best songs from pop, rap, R&B and rock. With a blend of block-rockin' club hits, relaxing slow jams and engaging rock songs, Now That's What I Call Music, Vol. 9 goes above and beyond the strengths of the past compilations, as it shoots to be the best album as opposed to the flashiest.
The greatest strength of the album is its continuity, sounding more like a mix tape or specialty compilation than a collection of top-40 singles. Unlike a compilation where the songs are good, but do not necessarily flow together, the transitions here are excellent. The album begins with the pop and R&B ladies, highlighted by Britney Spears' sultry hit "I'm A Slave 4 U." It then leads to the section of hip-hop, which includes Ludacris' incredible "Rollout (My Business)" and Lost Boyz frontman Mr. Cheeks' solo effort, "Lights, Camera, Action." After all of the uptempo songs, the transition shifts to the mid-tempo singles, namely City High's "Caramel (Remix)" and Nelly Furtado's "Turn Off The Lights," which are followed by the slow jams and rock songs.
Compromise is the other strength of the album. Of each of the tracks on the album, the best versions are selected, whether that is a remix, the original version or a perviously unreleased version. Of the remixes, "Caramel," which features a verse from rap diva Eve and hot production by Trackmasters, is the version that appears on Now 9, rather than the original version from their self-titled debut album. On the other hand, the original version of Furtado's "Turn Off The Lights" appears on the album rather than the popular Timbaland remix that had a highly requested music video. Finally, Pink contributes a new version of "Get The Party Started." The new mix -- which is quite different from the original -- is a true party jam, vastly improved by Redman's two verses and Rockwilder's funky production that provides a trunk-thumping update of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams."
With the exception of the newly released material, all of the music here has proven itself. For example, fans ought to quickly recognize that Lenny Kravitz' "Dig In" was a theme song for the NBA playoffs, and Aerosmith's "Just Push Play" was used in several commercials for Dodge trucks. More importantly, every song is easily accessible, so despite including a variety of music, the entire album is appealing. Without question, Now That's What I Call Music, Vol. 9 is a bold progression for pop compilations, venturing into new territory of album style and construction.
By Aaron Ellis