After 13 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the “Frozen” soundtrack steps aside for the “Now 50” compilation. “Now 50” debuts at No. 1 with 153,000 copies sold in the week ending May 11, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Meanwhile, “Frozen” dips to No. 2 with 99,000 (down 7 percent) after seven straight weeks of sales north of 100,000.
Now 50 is the 50th installment of the long-running “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series that launched in 1998. It’s the 18th No. 1 for the franchise and its best sales week in nearly five years. The last “Now” set to sell more units in a week was “Now 31,” which debuted at No. 1 with 169,000 copies in the week ending July 5, 2009.
In addition to the numbered “Now” series – which features contemporary pop hits – the “Now” brand has spun off themed compilations like “Now That’s What I Call Christmas!”
In total, all 50 of the numbered “Now” albums have reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200. The franchise has also tallied top 10s with the themed releases “Now That’s What I Call Christmas!” (No. 3), “Now #1’s” (No. 6), “Now That’s What I Call Christmas! 3” (No. 10), “Now That’s What I Call Country” (No. 7) and “Now That’s What I Call Country Vol. 2” (No. 10).
Notably, since “Now 31,” the only other various artists albums to earn bigger weeks than “Now 50” were nontraditional compilations: the Kanye West-presented “G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer” album (No. 2 debut with 205,000) and the “Hope for Haiti Now” live charity release (No. 1 debut with 171,000).
Considering that compilation albums are basically a thing of the past, it’s notable that the “Now” franchise has endured for nearly 16 years. In 1998, often the only way consumers could own or personally enjoy hit songs was by purchasing a full-length album. Why? By the late 1990s, the industry had started to kill off the commercial single market, making CD singles obsolete. So, back in those pre-YouTube, pre-iTunes days, if you really wanted to get a hit single, usually the only way to do so was to buy a full album that contained the song.
Fast-forward to 2014: music fans can consume music in myriad ways, and are no longer forced to buy full-length albums for just one hit. Yet, the “Now” releases continue to represent a valuable purchase for many consumers – as evidenced by their chart-topping success – and especially for casual music fans, who see them as a convenient way to collect a bunch of hits in one tidy package.