Picture this: it’s 1997 and the only way to capture the era of dreamy Leo DiCap as Jack Dawson, chokers, vampy lipstick and those magnificent fluffy pens is with a ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ CD. Your teenage angst is trendy and very Winona Ryder and god, why can’t your parents just understand that yes you really are going to marry Freddie Prinze Jr. one day.
Or picture this: it’s 2005 and your Motorola, along with your highlights, is your favourite accessory. You’re spelling bananas with Gwen Stefani in a club and trying to fight your way into a career that revolves around MySpace because hey, that looks like it might catch on. And when your friends ask you to chuck on some good music, you slip your latest Now! CD into your stereo and let it work its magic.
Since 1983, Now That’s What I Call Music has been pumping out era-reflective compilation albums of all the biggest, trendiest and oh-so-hot right now artists for people to enjoy. In fact, they’re so good at hitting the nail on the head that whenever we listen to past copies we’re instantly transported to the first time and place we heard it.
Let’s take a brief look at the album’s history, some highlights from their discography, and how they’ve managed to weave their way into our lives and our hearts.
The series first began in the UK as an idea to showcase talent from Virgin Records, which were seeing the rising success of acts such as Phil Collins, UB40 and Culture Club. The concept was then taken to EMI Records who loved the idea and agreed to a partnership, marking the first time two major labels had ever collaborated in such a way.
From the UK, ‘Now’ moved across the globe. It officially hit New Zealand in 1997 with its first ever edition, a stunner of an album including tracks such as ‘MMM Bop’ by Hanson, ‘Song 2’ by Blur and The Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony.’ Following that release, the NZ series put out two of the compilation albums each year which quickly turned into three. One in late March/early April, one in late July and one again in mid-November.
Today, Now That’s What I Call Music is the biggest-selling compilation album in the world with over 140 million copies sold worldwide. The UK just released their 100th Now! album in July 2018, celebrating 35 years with hits spanning several decades and oh, what hits they did have. Modern toe-tappers such as Ariana Grande’s ‘no tears left to cry’ and Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa’s ‘One Kiss’ are joined by grooving classics such as Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer,’ James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful,’ ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls and so, so much more. If you only buy one ‘Now’ album in your life then what is wrong with you but also, please let it be this one.
One thing you can always count on ‘Now’ for is their comfort in pop music. You’d have a better chance at actually marrying Freddie Prinze Jr. than finding a song belonging to a genre other than pop on one of the albums. But that’s what we love. ‘Now’ is familiar and safe, and we know it would never talk about us behind our backs. It may not be the greatest friend we’ve ever had but we sure do love the memories associated with them.
So, thank you ‘Now’! You truly are an amazing relic that will stay with us forever. And when future archeologists are trying to piece together our fallen civilisation, let them use you as their most precious and most vital artifact. Because even though your name sounds like a dad replaying his favourite Rolling Stones album, nobody has ever reflected a time and space quite like you and we will always be so grateful for the hits you remind us of.
What’s your favourite Now! album? Check it out on Spotify here.