Before we all settled down to our cool musical fates, attending gigs in dive bars and buying heavyweight vinyl, there was Now That’s What I Call Music!

Each album brings back memories when songs like an ABBA medley performed by B*Witched, Steps and Billie Piper (Now 42) wasn’t an aberration against all that’s holy but a song you’d proudly play on your fluorescent cassette player.

Little did we know that in buying us these two hours of pop bliss every four months our parents weren’t just caving into pester power, they were also preparing us for the love lives ahead. The tracklisting of any ‘Now!’ album tells you everything you need to know about dating. They are the pop music equivalent of The Talk.

Like all relationships, Now! albums start great, chock full of classic hits, number ones and tracks that’ll have you ‘Spinning Around’ (Now 46) in and out of the bedroom. True, some of these early tracks will be one hit wonders, but sometimes that’s good for you if it’s the musical equivalent of the one night stand in ‘Before Sunrise’ (ignoring the other two films) where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy wander around Vienna then make love in a park. The Tamperer feat. Maya’s ‘Feel It’ (Now 40), for example.

These tracks are followed by the songs that are still enjoyable in a nostalgic way, but aren’t quite as good as what they proceed. This section of disc one is full of less successful singles from famous artists and songs that are hardly earth-shattering, but are still fun to be around. You’re still going out and having fun, but you’re starting to go to the same places again and again and generally getting into a bit of a routine – you can even start to pre-empt their bedroom moves. As Now 48 so eloquently put it, you’re ‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’, or to quote the eminent philosophy of the Sugababes on Now 59, you’re ‘Caught in a Moment’.


Sugababes: Making Great Pop Music and Mirroring Your Dating Life Since 2000


Things start to sour from then on. The second half of disc one really is a strange pop hinterland of imminent retirement and ill-advised ideas. Now 42 (my first), has a bizarre Hi-NRG cover of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’, a completely forgotten 90s R&B singer sampling Madonna’, and not one but two covers of tracks from ‘Saturday Night Fever’…over twenty years after it came out. It is the realm of those who are trying really hard to make it work, but the magic has long gone, and all that’s left is well past its prime. And SO MANY BEE-GEES COVERS, but that’s admittedly more applicable to ‘Now!’ albums than to dating.

But die hard romantics fear not; if the end of disc one is the love slowly going out of a relationship, disc two is the sound of couples’ counselling. They may even be a few more number ones smuggled in, albeit ones with a slightly darker edge compared to the innocent exuberance of disc one.

If you can get past the ‘end of disc one’ stage of your relationship you might just make it. There will be some rocky times ahead (disc two can has of the most inexplicable pop music you will ever have the misfortune of hearing) but it always ends well, usually with an old classic that’s been used in an advert.

And if it doesn’t work out, there will always be another along in four month’s time.


Samuel Spencer is a London-based blogger writing about arts and pop culture and answering pop’s important questions, like ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ and ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’. Read more of his work here.