Now That's What I Call Music albums dominated iTunes in 2017

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

image captionThe series began in 1983 and will reach its 100th instalment next year

If you think the instant availability of all of the music, all of the time has killed off compilation albums... you're completely wrong.

Apple Music has just revealed its biggest albums of the year, and the Top 10 includes four entries for the Now That's What I Call Music! series.

Now 95 is the most popular collection, coming third in the year-end chart.

Now 96, Now 97 and Now That's What I Call Christmas also feature in the countdown.

The list combines figures from Apple's streaming service, Apple Music, and the iTunes download store.

Only Ed Sheeran's Divide and Rag N Bone Man's Human outsold Now 95, which features such hits as Drake's One Dance and Clean Bandit's Rockabye.

Chart expert Fraser McAlpine believes the key to the series' success lies in its simplicity.

image source, Reuters
image captionEd Sheeran has dominated both the streaming and physical markets this year

"The Now compilations are easy to digest, reliable guides to a constantly changing pop landscape," he told the BBC.

"Over the years, each new edition has become a time capsule, charting the changes in the nation's favourite songs, like a biannual report.

"So this year, we've seen huge rises in Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa's stock, while Justin Bieber's shares remain buoyant."

'Carefully curated'

The Now series has been running since 1983, when the first edition included Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart and UB40's Red Red Wine.

Although compilation albums had existed before, they usually consisted of cheap cover versions or songs from a specific record label.

The Now series' masterstroke was to broker a deal whereby two companies, Virgin and EMI, collaborated on the tracklisting.

image captionThe first record included tracks by Kajagoogoo, Duran Duran and Tracey Ullman

The first album spent five weeks at number one and spawned an imitator - called The Hits - from rival labels Sony BMG and Warner Music.

By 1989, the commercial clout of these compilations was so strong that a separate chart was launched to stop them clogging up the Top 40.

These days, the Now anthologies continue to sell in massive numbers.

Now 95, released last November, was the UK's biggest-selling album of 2016, outperforming even Adele's 25.

The series also exists on streaming services like Spotify and Google Play, where playlists of the albums' tracklistings have hundreds of thousands of followers.

Fraser McApline notes that the compilations are "more carefully curated than it may seem".

"As well as noting the unavoidably huge hits of the moment, there are always one or two forgotten gems that deserve further exploration, with the benefit of hindsight."

image source, Getty Images
image captionNow 44, which featured Britney Spears' ...Baby One More Time, is the biggest-selling album in the series

Peter Duckworth, co-managing director of Now Music, said the series' success showed "the role of curation" had become "ever more invaluable".

"This chart shows how important a long-standing, trusted and well-loved brand like Now is in giving people the confidence to trust the curation," he told the BBC.

Outside of the Now series, Ed Sheeran dominated Apple's year-end charts, with Shape Of You, Castle on the Hill and Galway Girl all making the Top 10 tracks of the year.

"Really happy everyone has enjoyed the album this year, thanks to all who streamed and downloaded," said the star after hearing that Divide had become the year's biggest album.

Disney's Moana was 2017's most popular movie, while the seventh series of Game of Thrones topped the TV charts.

Apple's most popular media of 2017 (so far)

Top 10 albums in the UK

  1. Ed Sheeran - Divide
  2. Rag N Bone Man (pictured) - Human
  3. Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Music! 95
  4. Drake - More Life
  5. Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Music! 97
  6. Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Music! 96
  7. Little Mix - Glory Days
  8. Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Christmas
  9. The Weeknd - Starboy
  10. Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer

Top 10 songs in the UK

  1. Ed Sheeran - Shape of You
  2. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee - Despacito (Remix - feat. Justin Bieber)
  3. Ed Sheeran - Castle on the Hill
  4. Clean Bandit - Rockabye (feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie)
  5. Rag N Bone Man - Human
  6. Ed Sheeran - Galway Girl
  7. Clean Bandit - Symphony (feat. Zara Larsson)
  8. Jax Jones - You Don't Know Me (feat. Raye)
  9. Chainsmokers & Coldplay - Something Just Like This
  10. French Montana - Unforgettable (featuring Swae Lee)
image source, Disney

Top five movies

  1. Moana (pictured)
  2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  4. Wonder Woman
  5. Trolls

Top five TV shows

  1. Game of Thrones, season 7
  2. Suits, season 7
  3. Line of Duty, series 4
  4. Homeland, season 6
  5. Peppa Pig
image source, Nintendo

Top five iPhone games

  1. Super Mario Run (pictured)
  2. 8 Ball Pool
  3. Word Cookies!
  4. Snake vs Block
  5. Piano Tiles 2

Top five iPhone apps

  1. WhatsApp Messenger
  2. Snapchat
  3. Instagram
  4. Bitmoji
  5. Facebook Messenger

Top five books (fiction)

  1. The Girlfriend
  2. Lies
  3. The Girl Before
  4. Sometimes I Lie
  5. Origin

Top five books (non-fiction)

  1. Lion: A Long Way Home
  2. Sapiens
  3. Lean in 15 - The Shift Plan
  4. The Secret
  5. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A...

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