Looking for a minor cultural milestone to make you feel old this morning? “Now That’s What I Call Music!” — the undying line of pop-music compilations born of the late ’90s — just released its 50th edition.
Now! 50, retailing for the low low price of $10, plus whatever it costs to get a device that still plays CDs, has all the staples you’ve come to expect from America’s favorite mixed CD: club jams, Top 40 earworms, several hook-y pop anthems you’ve probably sung alone in your car. The artists have changed, but the formula hasn’t.
In fact, since launching in the U.S. in 1998, the Now! series has remained remarkably stable — even as CD sales cratered and some of its early stars self-destructed. In fact, even though Spotify basically enables anyone to make a Now! compilation any time they want, the original item remains weirdly compelling. They’re like time capsules from car rides and dance clubs past. Remember Mandy Moore? No Doubt? Lenny Kravitz, before he was in movies? Lindsay Lohan, before she was out of them?
That said, Now! has also favored certain artists over the years. Britney Spears has not two, not three, but 18 inclusions in the Now! catalog. (Her most recent? “Work Work,” on Now! 49.) In an anomaly sure to attract the Beygency’s attention, Nickelback impossibly — appallingly! — edges out both Beyonce and Destiny’s Child. And forget the boy band battles of the early aughts: Backstreet Boys have 11 songs on these things. *NSYNC only has six.
All told, there have been 984 songs — and 583 individual artists — memorialized by the series. But don’t take my word for it! You can, for your own nostalgia/bemusement, browse the entire catalog below.