Now That's What I Call Music! 5

It may have taken a long time for the Now That's What I Call Music! series to cross the ocean from the U.K. to the U.S., but it was worth the wait, since no other compilations offer such accurate portraits of pop radio -- it's a Polaroid, really, of a particular, brief moment of time. In the case of Now, Vol. 5, it's a Polaroid of the summer of 2000, a summer that seemed to pale in comparison to the giddy summer of 1999, when Christina and Britney battled it out for supremacy, while LEN delivered the best summer single of the decade. That was the year mainstream pop radio popped back to life after a dormant period, so 2000 was bound to not live up to its standards, and, as it rolled along uneventfully, it didn't seem as if it did. Now, Vol. 5 proves that it was a pretty good year after all, containing several very good dance-pop and urban singles, balanced by a handful of great singles. Those great singles stand out here as they did on the radio -- they're Jessica Simpson's "I Think I'm in Love With You," Janet Jackson's "Doesn't Really Matter," and Everclear's "Wonderful" -- but the context is stronger, partially because the compilers dip back into 1999 and partially because the 'N Sync, 98 Degrees, Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Backstreet Boys, BBMak, and Bon Jovi songs all reveal themselves as solid pieces of pop craftsmanship. Nothing can save Aaron Carter's "Aaron's Party (Come and Get It)," but a bum track or two doesn't matter -- there's always something embarrassing in a Polaroid. Here, those embarrassing moments don't arrive often, and the summer of 2000 sounds better because of it. One of the better volumes in the American series. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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