Various Artists - NOW That’s What I Call Pride Music Album Reviews

Various Artists - NOW That’s What I Call Pride Music Album Reviews
The inexhaustible compilation series reaches the pot of gold at the end of Rainbow Capitalism with a bulging 84-track compendium for Pride. Even a cynical corporate package can’t quash the music’s joy.

Who is the I who calls this Pride? Originally, the phrase “Now that’s what I call music” appeared on an antique poster advertising Danish bacon, written in the voice of a pig listening to a squawking hen. Then, it was British media mogul Richard Branson, who saw the poster and borrowed its sentiment for the long-running compilation series. The annual compendium of mainstream hits began in 1983 and runs to this day, as does the American version that launched in 1998. NOW’s authority is popularity, and that’s part of its appeal: If the market supports a track, on it goes. People around the world have bought some 250 million copies of NOW compilations. The albums have topped the U.S. Billboard charts 19 times. In the flagship series, the I is a kind of we. 

At times, the I became political. The American series embraced popular right-wing movements like evangelical Christianity (NOW That’s What I Call Faith) and nationalism (NOW That’s What I Call the USA: The Patriotic Country Collection, which culminates with country music’s own Triumph of the Will, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”). This summer, whether as atonement or a pot of gold at the end of Rainbow Capitalism, I is proud.

NOW That’s What I Call Pride comes out in two ways: an 18-track U.S. version, and a bulging UK edition with 84 tracks spread across four CDs. Neither claim to be NOW That’s What I Call the LGBTQ+ Community. It’s about “celebrating and paying tribute to Pride,” per the press release, an orientation that allows the UK edition to slide in artists like the Weeknd as allies despite their iffy history. It includes undisputed allies, like Liza Minnelli, feeling her “Love Pains” in collaboration with the gay heroes Pet Shop Boys, who offer their revolutionary cover of “Go West” by Village People. With Village People’s own ode to cruising, “Y.M.C.A.,” positioned between Baccara’s tantalizing “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” and Chaka Khan’s masterpiece “I’m Every Woman,” the three-way is a good time.

The sounds of celebration fill the fourth UK disc, which concludes on a truly fabulous run of the Scissor Sisters’ aptly-titled “Filthy/Gorgeous,” CeCe Peniston’s eternal “Finally,” and Ultra Naté’s “Free,” a pledge of allegiance to a truly queer nation. Tributes arrive on the third and strongest disc, which centers queer saints like Divine (“You Think You’re a Man,” a song that eviscerates toxic masculinity with a shit-eating grin), Grace Jones (“I Need a Man,” still voracious), and Patrick Cowley and Sylvester with their ribald, rhetorical “Do You Wanna Funk?” George Michael’s homage to public sex, “Outside” is, to this day, the fiercest retort to homophobia to ever make the pop charts.

The other UK discs plumb those pop charts for fresher fruit. Disc two’s run of Miley Cyrus’ “Midnight Sky” into Christine and the Queens’ “Tilted” into Fletcher and Hayley Kiyoko’s “Cherry” into Kim Petras’ “Coconuts” seeds a new queer canon. Disc one struggles, with Lady Gaga’s earnest but counterrevolutionary paean to essentialism “Born This Way” leading into Kylie Minogue’s “Better the Devil You Know,” which is a perfect song but nothing to do with feeling proud. Both Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin have legendary queer anthems, but their “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” goes out of its way to assert that feminism is for opposite-sex lovers. Read the room.

Which brings us to the conundrum of the compilation, distilled by the American single-disc version. A thesis could be written on the differences: Where the UK has bangers, the U.S. has ballads. Apart from supercharged entries by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and a censored Lil Nas X, the U.S. disc privileges this country’s tenderqueer longing for no kink at pride, swapping out George Michael’s camp house “Outside” for the fierce self-determination of “Freedom! ’90.” There seems to be not a trans person in the lineup. And while a Pride flag flaps on the UK cover, the front cover of the U.S. version is a series of rainbow-colored hearts, neither asking nor telling but relying on IYKYK.

Perhaps this is by design. As the conservative takeover of America continues, a phone in a Florida classroom playing NOW’s anodyne Katy Perry ballad “Roar” might violate “Don’t Say Gay” laws. UK’s NOW includes Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down,” and now is the moment when I mention that Universal Music Group, Swift’s publisher and label, distributes the U.S. version. UMG exceeded the maximum allowable political donations to national embarrassment and Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn’s 2024 campaign. In Swift’s 2020 documentary, Miss Americana, Swift describes Blackburn as “a homophobic racist.” This is accurate. “I think it is so frilly and spineless of me to stand on stage and go, ‘Happy Pride Month, you guys’ and then not say this, when someone’s literally coming for their neck,” Swift said then. She does not appear on the U.S. compilation.

It’s easy—realistic, even—to be cynical about all this. I, if not I, am guilty of it here. But if we believe in music, that pleasure is political and representation matters, that art changes and challenges its makers and audience, then we must surely marvel at this album’s existence. The UK is roiling with TERFs. The U.S. is terrorized by gun-toting bigots. And a multinational conglomerate has seen fit to stock shelves with a textbook of queer cultural production. The pinnacles are breathtaking, and none are higher than the ecstatic revelation of the late Peter Rauhofer and his Club 69 mix of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” Over nearly 12 minutes, we hear the best-case back-and-forth between white gay men and Black women; in the swish and boom of his circuit house and the call and response of her miraculous voice there are churches and closets, dancefloors and doctor’s offices, partners and friends. Only the dead of spirit could deny finding its strength in love. Or being given its sense of pride, even. Who is this for? Whoever needs it.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Various Artists - NOW That’s What I Call Pride Music Album Reviews Various Artists - NOW That’s What I Call Pride Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Sunday, June 26, 2022 Rating: 5

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