In 1998, “As Seen on TV” compilation albums received an unexpected makeover. Instead of a mix of classics from the ’80s, smooth R&B jams or the Motown’s aging hits, Universal Music Enterprises offered fans something more fresh and of the moment: Now That’s What I Call Music! Just before the release of the iPod, mixed CDs represented a way fans could listen to all the hits without all the filler. Thanks to Now, those who couldn’t burn their own mixes could just pick up one for $15.99. And as music tastes and the way fans consumed music evolved, so did the compilations. They managed to capture the trends of that year, highlighting some of the best (and worst) in popular music. Sixteen years later, the 50th edition of the compilation is hitting stores on May 6. In honor of that landmark achievement, VH1 ranked all 50 compilations from the very worst to the very best.
Among the list are artists that have become staples since graduating out of the TRL era. Pink practically appears on every compilation, while Britney Spears, checks in every few years with a hit or two. Then on the other side of the spectrum are the one-hit wonders that managed to creep their way in. Artists like Semisonic, soulDecision and Anna Nalick will always be preserved on these compilations—serving a testament to their time and place in pop music.
Thanks to recent editions, even newcomer Lorde has found herself on the compilations. Given how quickly they are churned out, it should be no surprise that they knew she was a hit before she was: