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Still as popular as ever, despite fears the download market would make its whole concept slightly redundant, the all-conquering Now That's What I Call Music series steamrolls onto its 80th installment with 43 of the biggest U.K. chart tracks from the second half of 2011. Highlighting just what a great year the U.K. hip-hop scene has had, there are number ones from Professor Green ("Read All About It"), Dappy ("No Regrets"), and Wretch 32 ("Don't Go"), while the six contributions from the various X Factor alumni (JLS, One Direction, Matt Cardle) and two tracks that belatedly became Top Ten hits thanks to being performed in the audition stages (Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris," Damien Rice's "Cannonball") show that while the TV show may have had a lackluster year, its impact on the charts still remains powerful. Elsewhere there are chart-toppers from Rihanna ("We Found Love"), Pixie Lott ("All About Tonight"), and Sak Noel ("Loca People"), contributions from ever-presents Adele ("Set Fire to the Rain"), David Guetta ("Without You"), and Bruno Mars ("Marry You"), and two appearances apiece from the likes of Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Emeli Sandé, and Calvin Harris. Highlights from the first disc include Olly Murs' early-'90s throwback "Heart Skips a Beat," the Saturdays' triumphant trance-pop floor-filler "All Fired Up," and Charlene Soraia's stripped-back cover version of the Calling's "Wherever You Will Go," while the bouncy R&B-pop of Cher Lloyd's "With Ur Love," Rizzle Kicks' infectious mariachi band anthem "Down with the Trumpets," and the retro soul of Maverick Sabre's "I Need" are the standouts from the second. The whole dubstep scene seems to have passed the compilers by with the recent number one from Nero conspicuous by its absence, while Ed Sheeran is the closest thing the record gets to anything approaching indie music. But while Now, Vol. 80 is perhaps the most dance-pop and R&B-heavy volume in its 28-year history, its 300,000 first-week sales show that it's certainly not going anywhere just yet. ~ Jon O'Brien
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