Photographers: Margaret Malandruccolo; Randee St. Nicholas; Cambria Harkey; Emily Joyce.
The title 21st Century Hits: Best of 2000-2012 is likely meant with a wink, as Dwight Yoakam hasn't exactly burned up the charts in the new millennium. He left Reprise after 2000's Tomorrow's Sounds Today (the soundtrack to South of Heaven, West of Hell appeared the next year but it's hard to count that as an official release), then released Population Me on Audium Records in 2003 before moving to New West in 2005, releasing Blame the Vain that year and the tribute album Dwight Sings Buck two years later. That's a total of three albums in a decade -- Dwight returned to the label in 2012 for 3 Pears -- and there were just four charting singles among them: "The Late Great Golden State," "The Back of Your Hand," "Intentional Heartache," and "Blame the Vain," not one of them placing higher than 52 on the country charts. That's pretty thin gruel for a compilation, so 21st Century Hits bends the rules a little bit, adding his rockabilly cover of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" -- his last genuine hit single, but it peaked at 12 in 1999, so it merits inclusion here by appearing on the soundtrack to the 2006 Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn film The Break-Up -- a cut from Tomorrow's Sounds Today ("The Sad Side of Town"), a cut from 3 Pears (the terrific "A Heart Like Mine"), and "Long Goodbye," a previously unreleased duet with Michelle Branch that aims for a crossover and may have gotten there if it had a discernable melody. Its inclusion is nice for the sake of completeness and it also underscores how Yoakam wasn't especially focused during the first decade of the 21st century. He certainly made good music, much of it included here -- this samples nicely from Population Me and Blame the Vain but Dwight Sings Buck deserves to be heard in its entirety -- and one of the nice things about the collection is how it never suggests how it took Dwight a little while to find his footing after he parted ways with longtime collaborator producer Pete Anderson after Population Me. By squeezing a decade or so to 14 songs, 21st Century Hits condenses Dwight's transitional years into a solid little record; anybody who came back aboard through 3 Pears will find it useful. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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