As I type this, the Nowers-that-be have yet to announce the eagerly awaited Now That's What I Call Music 96 over in the UK though that much-anticipated album should be unveiled very, very soon. To tide fans over in their insatiable hunger for more hit-packed NOW compilations, they have announced two multi-disc thematic albums with Now That's What I Call R&B coming February 10th and Now That's What I Call Mum due March 3rd.
As you can see from the album covers above or perhaps looking at your own massive international collection of NOW discs, Now That's What I Call R&B has been done before. The albums pictured above were released between 2011-2015 in four different countries. Grab your passport, place your seat in the upright position and put your wireless headphones on as we take a global tour:
  • Now That's What I Call R&B (US 2011) - A sixteen song, chronological trip through soul and R&B, from James Brown in 1968 through the Black Eyed Peas in 2003. The weakest tracks are the ones from the GAP Band and Robin Thicke. Available exclusively at Wal-Mart upon its release. 
  • Now That's What I Call R&B (UK 2011) - A 40 track, double-disc of songs that did well on the UK R&B charts in the late 2000s, I count maybe seven songs I really like so I guess I wasn't the targeted audience. Looking at the tracklisting reminded me it had been too long since I watched the "Party Rock Anthem" video so I remedied that sitch right quick - now every day I'm shuffling. 
  • Now That's What I Call R&B (South Africa 2013) - It should come as no surprise that the global NOW franchise is huge in South Africa - they have more numerical releases than the United States. This 21 track album features contributions from four South African artists though only one, AKA, is currently available on Spotify US. One of my favorite collabo tracks, with four of today's premier rappers trading lines, is track three on this collection. I repeatedly blasted that track in all of its explicit lyrics and minimal beats all over the streets of San Antonio when we spent a weekend there in 2013. 
  • Now R&B Volume 1 (Australia 2014) - Another country-centric release that stretches the definition of R&B (Miley Cyrus? Really?), the best thing I can say about this 20 song album is that it contains John Legend's "All Of Me" and Aloe Blacc's "The Man".
New from NOW UK in 2017 is Now That's What I Call R&B, a triple-disc collection of 63 tracks from 1989 through 2016. The great news for those of you with the 2011 UK version of Now That's What I Call R&B on your shelf or hard drive is there is absolutely no song overlap between the two albums - put the two albums together and you have over 100 different R&B tunes to enjoy. That's six and a half hours of both rhythm and blues with the emphasis firmly on the former. I took the liberty of breaking the album down disc by disc in the tables below and researching each song's chart success in the UK and the US for comparative purposes.
yeartitleartistUK Top 100UK R&B 40US Hot 100US R&B 100
1999No ScrubsTLC3111
2001SurvivorDestiny's Child1126
1996Return of the MackMark Morrison1124
2003In Da Club50 Cent3111
2003BreatheBlu Cantrell114113
1995Gangsta's ParadiseCoolio1112
1996Killing Me SoftlyFugees111
2009Empire State of Mind, Pt. 2 (Broken Down)Alicia Keys45576
1996No DiggityBlackstreet9211
2015I Don't MindUsher83111
1989Never Too MuchLuther Vandross13331
1993Right HereSWV321
1984Ain't NobodyRufus & Chaka Khan2221
1995This Is How We Do ItMontell Jordan11111
1989Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)Soul II Soul141
2001Get Ur Freak OnMissy Elliott4273
2001Family AffairMary J. Blige8211
2006SexyBackJustin Timberlake11111
The first disc is mostly Nineties tunes with more than a few jams from the turn of the Millennium thrown in. The three tracks from the Eighties achieved their biggest UK success in 1989 with two of them ("Ain't Nobody" and "Never Too Much") having been released earlier but charting higher after respective remixes were released in 1989. It should also be noted that the UK R&B Top 40 chart has only been around since 1994 and is known to have little or no correlation to the Pop chart. Disc one has seven Number Ones on both the UK and US Pop charts with ten more on the UK R&B chart and eleven more on the US R&B chart. I like a lot of songs on this disc, most of them actually, but tonight the one I'm feeling the most is Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair":
yeartitleartistUK Top 100UK R&B 40US Hot 100US R&B 100
2016Work From HomeFifth Harmony214
2016Girls LikeTinie Tempah5
2015What Do You Mean?Justin Bieber11
2015Girl Is Mine99 Souls5
2015Light It UpMajor Lazer773
2016Don't Let Me DownThe Chainsmokers23
2015All My FriendsSnakehips534
2016Side to SideAriana Grande44
2016Me, Myself & IG-Eazy13372
2015Can't Feel My FaceThe Weeknd3111
2015You Don't Own MeGrace457
2016Don't MindKent Jones9383
2014Don't Tell' EmJeremih5162
2015Five More HoursDeorro41
2015When the Bassline DropsCraig David & Big Narstie10
2013Talk DirtyJason Derulo1132
2015Do It AgainPia Mia871
2016Secret Love SongLittle Mix6
2014All of MeJohn Legend2111
Disc Two of Now That's What I Call R&B doesn't feature any songs that were released before 2013 - there are 10 songs from 2015 and nine from 2016. The disc's tracklist is also the most UK of the three discs, with 21 of the 22 songs cracking the UK Top 10 Pop chart and only 12 of the songs making the US Pop 10. Compared to the first disc, the second disc also has much fewer chart-toppers and fewer actual R&B chart hits from charts on both continents. Without contest and with all apologies to both Grace and Ms. Grande, John Legend's modern classic "All Of Me" is my favorite track on this disc:
yeartitleartistUK Top 100UK R&B 40US Hot 100US R&B 100
2013HappyPharrell Williams111
2003Hey Ya!OutKast3119
2014Uptown FunkMark Ronson11
2013Blurred LinesRobin Thicke1811
2011On the FloorJennifer Lopez113
1994Two Can Play That GameBobby Brown31
1999It's Not Right But It's OkayWhitney Houston3147
1992She's Got That VibeR Kelly and Public Announcement31597
2010DynamiteTaio Cruz112
2012StarshipsNicki Minaj21585
2014I Will Never Let You DownRita Ora177
2008ForeverChris Brown41266
2011Mama Do the HumpRizzle Kicks21
2014Dangerous LoveFuse ODG3
2011Just Can't Get EnoughThe Black Eyed Peas33
2014It's My Birthdaywill.i.am11
2015GDFRFlo Rida3183
2012Read All About It, Pt. 3Emeli Sandé3
With a dozen R&B Number Ones on the UK chart, the album's third disc wins the prize for Most #1 Songs. It is wholly evident that like disc two, disc three wears its Anglo heart in the tracklist with at least a quarter of the songs missing the US Pop chart and a higher percentage failing to make the US R&B chart. My research did not take into account that perhaps the songs were not released as singles here in the States and due to the somewhat spotty search feature on the Official Charts Company site, I was unable to fully verify all of the UK R&B chart positions I've listed in the three tables above. The oldest track here on disc three is R Kelly's irresistible "She's Got That Vibe" from 1992. The disc contains two other tracks from the Nineties: one each from former reality show starring couple Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston (RIP). The newest songs on the disc are two from 2015 but the best part of the third disc is the block of tracks - all four went to the top of US Pop chart - beginning with track two on the disc. My favorite song on disc three is track three, Outkast's poptastic "Hey Ya!":
In March, NOW UK will release what could prove to be the first in a series of discs aimed at Mums or as we say in America, Moms. Mother's Day falls on Sunday, March 26th in the UK this year. On March 3rd, Now That's What I Call Mum, a double-disc album featuring 42 tracks, all of which have been featured on prior NOW discs, including the tracks from John Legend, Destiny's Child, Rita Ora and Pharrell Williams that are on Now That's What I Call R&B, will be released. Once again, I'm not the targeted listener but maybe I'm the targeted buyer since I have a Mom who listens to the radio and isn't completely dismissive of today's pop music though the highest compliment she can pay any song after 1985 is "sounds like the music of my generation". That certainly applies to my favorite song on the album and a fitting tribute to a great pop star we lost much too soon, Mr. George Michael and "Faith":

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