Now THAT’S what
I call a collection!

While there are still a few clunkers, the music
on "Now 16" makes for enjoyable listening

"Now That's What I Call Music! 16"

Various artists (UMG Recordings)

What with the immense popularity of downloading hit songs, I'm wondering what keeps something like the "Now That's What I Call Music!" compilations consistent best sellers.

If you buy these things at the average sale price of around $14, and with 20 radio-friendly tracks, each track is worth a mere 70 cents. And if you like more than half of the stuff contained on the CD, I think it's still comparable to a bunch of iTunes downloads.

But I've found past volumes of this British-inspired series spotty at best, and this was the case with No. 15, which came out earlier this year.

Volume 16, however, makes for a welcome difference and is a near-perfect collection of particularly fine pop songs. I only hear a couple of clunkers on this particular volume, namely Lenny Kravitz's "Where Are We Runnin'?" and Jessica Simpson's weak cover of the '80s classic "Take My Breath Away," but even they're bearable when listened to in the shuffle mode on my CD player.

Care has always been taken to group the rap, hip-hop and rock tracks such that the CD as a whole has some semblance of a flow when played end to end. And while I didn't check to hear whether starting with D12's edited version of "My Band" and finishing off with Gretchen Wilson's country hit "Redneck Woman" made any sense, I opted to have my CD player "choose" the sequence of songs.

Starting off with track 6, "Hey Mama" from the revamped Black Eyed Peas, my player made the obvious follow-up with OutKast's "Hey Ya!"

After Kravitz on track 13, the shuffle mode bounced back to No. 8 and Petey Pablo's club smash "Freek-A-Leek." It then only made sense that Beyoncé's "Naughty Girl" would give the ladies' side. Next was a taste of that popular emo-flavored rock with "Just Like You" from Three Days Grace.

I found it amusing that the D12 track came up next, going from tortured boy-music to the goofiness of Eminem and his crew. Two of my favorite singles of this year popped up next: Christina Milian's teasing "Dip It Low" and "Move Ya Body" from sister act Nina Sky.

The switch back to the sensitive in Hoobastank's monster hit "The Reason" preceded a couple of more club hits in "Slow Motion" from Juvenile and Beenie Man's catchy "Dude."

My player then opted to play the last three tracks in order: Switchfoot's "Meant to Live," the wonderful retro-rockin' soul feel of Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven" (a welcome choice) and the aforementioned Ms. Wilson.

After listening through JoJo, Chingy and Yellowcard, it was only right that things finished up with the blond duo of Simpson and Britney Spears' quiet and breathy "Everytime."

Ah, "Now That's What I Call Music!"

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