International Music: Sony Music Around the World

To commemorate the end of the century, Sony Music assembled the gargantuan 26-disc box set Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century. The title was imposing, as was the idea behind it -- to chronicle the life of the oldest record label in the music industry. To be clear, Sony Music has not existed for 100 years, but the heart of its catalog, Columbia Records, was founded early in the 20th century. Sony acquired Columbia and its various subsidiaries in the late '80s, purchasing one of the richest catalogs in pop history, as the box set proves again and again. Sony realized that most consumers wouldn't invest in a 26-disc box, no matter how impressive it was, so they simultaneously released a series of 12 genre-specific double-disc sets that culled highlights from the box. That left two discs exclusive to the box, which was appropriate, since anyone who spends over $300 on an album deserves a little bonus. As it turns out, the double-disc sets are every bit as impressive as the big box, perhaps more so, because they're easily digestible. Even so, the scope of the 36-track International Music: Sony Music Around the World is impressive. "International music" doesn't necessarily mean worldbeat, though it often does -- it also means the jangle pop of Canada's 54-40 or the adult alternative pop of New Zealand's Bic Runga or the experimental ambient pop of Belgium's Hooverphonic. Consequently, this set is more uneven than the average volume of Sony Music 100 Years; yet in its own way, it's quite impressive, since it proves that Sony Music has been as powerful a force globally as it has been in the U.S. and U.K. This is a great introduction to a number of different styles, artists, and countries -- not definitive, certainly, but a good sampler all the same. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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