Album Review: NOW What’s Next 61

NOW That’s What I Call Music 61! includes JoJo among its six Now What’s Next contenders

Last time I reviewed NOW What’s Next, it was NOW That’s What I Call Music! 60 and the featured up-and-coming artist was former teen idol Aaron Carter, who’s now 28. It took him 14 years to come back to the pop music game, and on NOW What’s Next that accompanies NOW 61 the comeback kid is JoJo Levesque. You may remember her two solo hits from the 2000’s, the feisty “Leave (Get Out)” and the ballad “Too Little Too Late.” @iamjojo has not released a studio album in 10 years, though because she first charted at age 13, she’s only 26 years now. In the time she’s been gone, JoJo was not really gone, she was just in the D league of showbiz, appearing on Hawaii Five-O and releasing independent mixtapes. In October 2016, @iamjojo finally made her return official with Mad Love, her third studio album. Lead single “No Apologies” (the explicit version says eff apologies) makes an appearance on Now What’s Next and even brings in Wiz Khalifa, but musically JoJo is still stuck in the pop-R&B of the mid-2000’s. Maybe bringing that “Leave (Get Out)” fury to “F Apologies” would have made it a bigger hit.

@iamjojo is all smiles now that she’s back in the pop game

After I complained about how NOW 60 had exclusively male artists, NOW 61 atones not only with JoJo, but also with three more female newcomers. First, meet Maggie Rogers, who is a bit of an outlier with her indie-electronica on the NOW compilation. She composed her first single “Alaska” in her NYU Masterclass taught by Pharrell and he was into it. Her first EP comes out this month and being an indie up-and-comer who distorts pop like recent sensations Grimes and Kiiara bodes well for @maggierogers. Next up is Aanysa, who brings a pop-R&B sound to the bouncy “Burn Break Crash.” Her influences include Janet Jackson and Beyoncé, though this first single, produced by British duo Snakehips, most reminds me of Tinashe‘s “2 On.” The European side of Now What’s Next gives us Dagny, who is from the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø, though now she’s recording pop tunes in London. Growing up in Tromsø @dagnymusic had “24 hours of darkness in the winter and 24 hours of light in the summer,” but that life in a northern town must have had a positive influence on her creativity. “Fool’s Gold” feat. Børns is the most joyful pop track on the entire NOW 61. It also, bizarrely, shares the title of Aaron Carter’s comeback single on NOW What’s Next 60.

Congratulations go out to Dagny on her first sold out show in Norway

And then there are the dudes. Specifically, two four-person boy bands. On team Europe we have Urban Cone, who hail from Sweden and ask you to “let me love you old school.” Happy Valentine’s Day! These childhood friends need to try a bit harder to break through in America, though having gone on tour with Tove Lo may help. Representing team America are Citizen Four, “goofy and professional, diverse and authentic,” and very model-looking. Their entry “Testify” channels the sexy sound of Nick Jonas‘s last album with a range of voices that recall the Zayn-iest One Direction songs. Similar to 1D, Citizen Four are a supergroup of sorts, with three of the guys having participatied on television singing competitions. I guess if the 1D formula worked once, it can work again.

Only time will tell who among these NOW What’s Next 61 artists will break through, though the gentlemen in Citizen Four can certainly find employment as fashion influencers if the music thing does not work out.

Citizen Four are either singers or catalog models

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