Just a couple of weeks ago, Now That’s What I Call Music released its 50th album here in the U.S. Uh-huh. You read it correctly. It’s been around that long. Number 50 is chock full of great party pieces and rock hits, including the ultimate feel-good song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, Bastille’s “Pompeii” and the ever-adorable Bruno Mars’ “Young Girls.” Also includedON the album are five songs from up-and-comers Mary Lambert, Wrabel, Foxes, Conway and PIA MIA, as well as 14 “throwback” hits from the past 49 albums. Now That’s What I Call Music 50 deftly knocked the Frozen soundtrack from its number one spot after having been settled comfortably for 24 weeks. But it’s not the first compilation album to blow our collective minds. In honor of #50, let’s revisit some of the best, shall we?
The Beatles, 1
Speaking of number ones…. It’s no surprise that when this album dropped it took the top spot in 35 countries, including the Billboard Top 200 where it sat for 8 weeks, and was certified 10x Platinum by July of 2013. Featuring nearly every number one single released in the UK and United States, 1 became a massive sensation and is ultimately responsible for restarting Beatlemania… that is, if Beatlemania ever stopped.
Must-listen: “Come Together,” “Day Tripper,” and the George Harrison treasure, “Something”
Elvis Presley, Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits
If you’re anything like me and you grew up listening to the dulcet tones of The King, then this is the album you remember best. Released in September 2002, it was the first Elvis album to top the Billboard Top 200 since 1973 and featured a new remix of the song “A Little Less Conversation” by Dutch producer and multi-instrumentalist Junkie XL. This one is a great album to start up a sunny Saturday morning, with its cheerful rock and roll vibe. Who wouldn’t want that?
Must-listen: “Heartbreak Hotel,” the dance-inducing “Jailhouse Rock,” and personal favorite, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”
Now That’s What I Call Music! 7
The fine folks over at Elle Magazine chose this Now album as their overall favorite… and rightly so. With songs like Samantha Mumba’s “Baby Come Over” and “Jaded” by rock and roll legends, Aerosmith, it’s no wonder that so many single it out as a preferred pick. At the time of its release in 2001, it topped the charts at number one, edging out ‘N Sync’s Celebrity, and stayed there for nearly a month before being dethroned. Yeah, nostalgia!
Must-listen: American Hi-Fi, “Flavor of the Weak,” Backstreet Boys, “The Call,” and “This I Promise You” by (squeal!) ‘N Sync
Time Life compilations… just in general.
I know you’ve bought one or have thought about buying one. The commercial comes on television and you’re ready change the channel when they get you with that one line, “With hit songs like….”. There are so many compilations, Time Life is practically its own island of musical memories. Fan of country? They’ve got that. 80’s hair bands? Yup. Gospel from 1997? Absolutely. Time Life even released an album of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians in case you’re looking strictly for winners.
Must-listen: Rock ‘n’ Roll Era with kicky Rockabilly tunes by musicians like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, and Hard & Heavy: Bang Your Head chock full of songs you used to listen to in the car with your brother or dad—Kansas (“Carry On Wayward Son”), Survivor (“Eye of the Tiger”), Heart (“Magic Man”) and Lita Ford (“Kiss Me Deadly”). Rock on, dudes.
Madonna, The Immaculate Collection
Did you really think I’d include The King and not The Queen? Most people have some sort of opinion on Madonna: they love her, they hate her, they can’t understand her, they want her muscle tone….. The point is she is everywhere. There is absolutely no escaping the siren call to sing along loudly when you’re in the car and “Like a Virgin” comes on the radio. The Immaculate Collection contains not only “Like a Virgin” but a slew of fan favorites such as “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Holiday.” Try not to dance, I dare you.
Must-listen: “Lucky Star,” the unusually accurate “Material Girl,” “Vogue” and “Like a Prayer,” which is guaranteed to give you plenty of Never Been Kissed feels.
Of course, there are plenty of compilations that could be included here that weren’t mentioned: if you’re a huge Beatles fan like myself, make sure to check out the entire Beatles Anthology on iTunes to have access to raw takes, funny interludes and the glory that is John Lennon’s speaking voice. Like modern pop but want an unprocessed take on it? Make sure you check out a capella powerhouse Pentatonix’ latest album, PTX II which is stuffed with heart-pumping covers of “Can’t Hold Us”, “Natural Disaster” and the shivers-up-your-spine Daft Punk compilation. ABBA Gold makes for incredible running music, if you like that sort of dance-jam music. Classic Rock fan? Queen’s Greatest Hits and The Rolling Stones GRRR! will surely wake you up in the morning. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.