Compiling the (commonly corrupt) compilation
Compilations are a confusing instrument in the music world. They aren't a progressive idea like an original album, but instead the songs are plucked from various trees in the musical history orchard and placed into the same basket. That means you could have a song by someone as wonderful as Janis Joplin followed by someone as horrid as Yanni. No, it probably wouldn't happen, but it could. And that is why compilations are scary: they have the capacity to be very, very bad. If an album is horrible, at least you can write the band off and never listen to them again. But if a song near and dear to your heart is followed by something that makes your stomach turn, if you're anything like me, you get very offended.
There are varying forms of compilations including everything from MTV Party to Go to Sounds of the 70s and everything in-between. Because these mixes come in such a vast assortment, the musical quality scale ranges from the first-class to bottom of the barrel. Buying a compilation is taking a chance. But let's face it, compilations are as important to your generic college party as Natty Light. No one puts on a full-length album at a big party. Instead you get a range of some specific musical genre depending on your host's tastes.
If you've ever poked around a Wal-Mart music section, besides realizing that it sucks (unless you like Faith Hill), you will notice they do have an impressive selection of Now That's What I Call Music! compilations. How about that's what I call crap. The newest member of the Now That's What family, volume 11, is to be released on November 19. Warning: if I hear anyone on campus playing it I will hunt you down and force you to mutilate your CD. You'll thank me. Tracks on the unreleased compilation include, but are not limited to, such vomit-inducing pseudo-musicians as Creed and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Like a bad accident, I couldn't look away. I had to check volume 10: NSYNC, J-Lo, the Baha Men. Volume 9: more of volume 10 but wait! What are U2, Mary J. Blige, and Incubus doing on the same album with Britney?!
On a more comforting note, movie soundtracks often supply the best compilations. Maybe that is because your favorite songs combined with amazing movies can equal nothing but pure bliss. It's a pretty simple formula: think of a great song, plus a great movie, plus a favorite actor and you have success. Example: The Rolling Stones + Mean Streets + Harvey Kietel and Robert DeNiro = wonderful. Jefferson Airplane + Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas + Johnny Depp = harmony. Queen + Wayne's World + Dana Carvey and Mike Myers = perfection! On the other hand, if you have a bad song paired with a bad movie, you have complete evil. Avril Lavigne + Sweet Home Alabama + Reese Witherspoon = abysmal.
Sometimes people just get too carried away with the thought of combining their favorite songs. Did you know there is actually a compilation called the Copulation Compilation? No, I do not own it. If you are going to be so tacky as to actually make an "I'm-going-to-get-laid" mix, at least don't make it blatant. On www.amazon.com they even have a place to post your own musical mixes for certain moods. There was this one guy, a self proclaimed "music consumer/glutton," who made a "Bubble Bath List-Music to Soak By." Yeah, it's weird. His list included Barbara Streisand.
In retrospect, it is clear that in order for a compilation to be successful, the creator must put some tender loving care into her selections. A compilation bible would be Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction soundtrack; where as Rhino Records' Heartthrob Hits! can burn in compilation hell as far as I am concerned. However, if you're in the mood for one type of music and one type only, a compilation can be your answer; just be aware that you are taking the artist's work and removing it from its original element. Despite artists' intents, compilations are popular. Totally Hits 2002: More Platinum Hits and Totally Country Vol. 2 are 21 and 23 on the Billboard Charts this week, respectively. Two fine examples of what makes 90 percent of all compilations "totally" worthless.