I started this project with the expectation that these compilations would all be, at best, wretched, and at worst, literally painful to listen to. I went into the project with a full understanding of that because I care about you, the reader.
The first album I listened to was bad, but the second wasn't too terrible. This third one, though?
You guys, this third album is very close to pure freebased pop perfection.
I haven't done this yet, but I want to give you a complete listing of the tracks on this album:
"It's Gonna Be Me," *NSYNC
"Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)," 98 Degrees
"Jumpin' Jumpin'," Destiny's Child
"Don't Think I'm Not," Kandi
"I Think I'm in Love with You," Jessica Simpson
"Shake It Fast," Mystikal
"Case of the Ex," Mya
"Aaron's Party (Come Get It)," Aaron Carter
"Lucky," Britney Spears
"Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," Backstreet Boys
"I Wanna Be with You," Mandy Moore
"Doesn't Really Matter," Janet Jackson
"Back Here," BBMak
"Absolutely (Story of a Girl)," Nine Days
"Kryptonite," 3 Doors Down
"It's My Life," Bon Jovi
This album is an absolutely flawless encapsulation of what pop music sounded like in 2000. Chalk it up to my sense of nostalgia (I was 17 when this album came out), chalk it up to my pure and unabashed love of boy bands, but I absolutely love all of this. Make no mistake: these songs are truly awful. But they're so awful that they come back around the other side. They're bad in a Plan 9 From Outer Space sort of way rather than a Manos: The Hands of Fate sort of way.
Look at that lineup again. We get all three of the major boy bands from the late '90s, and we get HUGE songs from all three of them. We get early Destiny's Child crushing it with "Jumpin' Jumpin'," we get strong contributions from both Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, we get some staples of terrible alt-rock with "Story of a Girl," "Kryptonite," and "Wonderful," and we get a spectacularly hilarious radio edit of Mystikal's "Shake Ya Ass."
And I feel confident in saying that all of these songs pale in comparison to the bright sun in the center of this dazzling array of pop planets that is AARON CARTER. This song is exactly what you would expect if you gave an 11 year-old a Casio synthesizer piano and asked him to rap about middle school, then turned that rap over to a producer to remaster and put on the radio. (Yes, I am aware that Aaron Carter was actually 12 when this album came out. My point stands.) He raps about throwing a party when his parents are out on a date. He raps about throwing your hands in the air. He refers to himself in the third person. And at the end of the song, HIS PARENTS COME HOME AND HE GETS GROUNDED. This song is spectacular in its awfulness. It is truly brilliant. I am convinced that the only reason this song was not digitized and placed on the Voyager Golden Record was that it had not yet been recorded when the probe was launched. If we had only been willing to wait 21 years, we, as a human race, would have unanimously agreed that this should be the song that would represent our species to alien life forms.
When you listen to this album, you'll be shaking your head and remembering how horrible early 2000s pop was, but you'll have a smile on your face the whole time. You will thank yourself, and you'll do it while shaking your hips to songs like "Lucky" and "I Wanna Be with You."
I don't expect this will be a recommendation I can make often this year, but you should absolutely listen to this album in its entirety at your earliest convenience. There's a reason this album went quadruple platinum and was the best-selling of the series. It's probably difficult to find, because who would sell the album back, but if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend purchasing this compilation. You will not regret it.