Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Music 53 (review)

Now That’s What I Call Music 53 (Sony Music / Universal) review

Get through the cold Winter blah’s with the hottest hits of today

The latest in this quarterly hit collection series, Now That’s What I Call Music 53, kicks off with the Prince-inspired, retro R&B of “Uptown Funk,” a transatlantic collaboration between Brit producer Mark Ronson and US old school soulman Bruno Mars.  This killer track is reason enough to grab the disc, yet there are plenty more surprises here too.

No artist spent more time in the Top Ten in 2014 than Ariana Grande.  Yet, her teaming with Canada’s PBR&B singer The Weeknd may be her best song yet, with “Love Me Harder.” The pulsing, midtempo track is a great spotlight for both of their voices.

Many artists who were mainstays on the charts in 2014 return for their followup hits in 2015.  Meghan Trainor proves that she’s not just a one-hit wonder with the sugary sweet “Lips Are Movin’,” while Maroon 5’s second single from their latest record, “Animals,” bears a strong resemblance to their previous “One More Night.”

Coming off a recent lawsuit involving his song “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith returns with “I’m Not the Only One” – but I swear this one sounds like another song too – kinda of a Weezer meets Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.” Either way, it’s a decent, sparse R&B track.  Sweedish diva Tove Lo has one of the strangest roads to success – her “Habits (Stay High)” was released back in 2013, but was recently remixed and became a hit here in the States.  Teen sensations One Direction and Selena Gomez continue to churn out pop confections as well.

Most impressive is the Now Presents What’s Next section, included to spotlight up and coming acts.  The U2-fused “Shut Up and Dance” from the Cincinnati band Walk the Moon is a great mix of rock and pop, while Columbian singer Danny Mercer rides a Police-styled reggae groove on “Who Are You Loving Now.”  Jack + Eliza close out the disc with the very Gotye-esque “Hold the Line” – upping the ante with fantastic harmonies.  —Tony Peters