The British Invasion, a pivotal and influential period from 1964 through 1966 that introduced us to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who, was one of the biggest pop culture movements the U.S. has ever seen. Every few years, a new crop of British superstars crosses the pond with hopes of following in their countrymen’s footsteps and this generation is no exception.
In the late 70s and early 80s, an aptly titled “Second Invasion” saw an influx of New Wave artists who also hailed from The Queen’s country. Artists like Duran Duran, Culture Club and WHAM! dominated American radio, as well as a newfangled television channel known as MTV.
The 90s were also not immune to the charm of the British accent. The “Britpop,” or “Cool Britannia,” scene brought garage bands like Oasis, Blur and Pulp to the forefront. However, this invasion didn’t quite stand the test of time. In an article for British magazine NME, reporter John Harris stated that the resurgence of Beatle-esque pop music "snatched the spirit of the age from those responsible for Britpop," and the scene imploded on itself. Interestingly, the 2003 documentary Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop notes that it was one song in particular that brought down the Britpop movement. Curiously, that song, Angels by Robbie Williams, failed to make much of an impression on the American market, though it did make for one of David Archuleta’s more notable American Idol performances.
Though Cool Britannia didn’t quite catch on the way that some might have hoped, anglophiles can once again rejoice. If you take even the most cursory of glances at the current Billboard chart, it appears the country might just be in the midst of the fourth British Invasion. With English singer/songwriter Adele’s record smashing album 21 blowing her American contemporaries out of the water, and artists like Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Ellie Goulding not far behind, the phrase “the British are coming” never rang more true.
Adele, already known to some in the states for her Grammy Award-winning 2009 debut album 19, has had a banner year. Her music has been covered twice on Glee, she sold out her North American tour and made history with her first U.S. number-one hit Rolling in the Deep. The song is the first by a British female artist to hold the number one spot on the Billboard chart for more than one week. Moreover, the last time any British artist held the spot for more than one week was when Phil Collins did it in 1989. To put that into perspective, Adele was a mere one year old then. It’s safe to say that if anyone is leading the Brit Pack, it’s 23-year-old soul sister, Adele.
Jessie J may be a newer name, but she’s been around for a while. The 23-year-old Londoner studied at the prestigious BRIT School (a performing arts and technology school), opened for Cyndi Lauper and wrote songs for artists like Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, including Cyrus’ mega-hit Party in the USA,
before securing her own hit with Price Tag
. She made her first televised appearance in America on the iconic Saturday Night Live
stage, and has been featured on soundtracks for the hit movies Easy A
and Step Up 3D
. While it’s still early in her career, it’s safe to say Jessie J is here to stay.
How many British rappers can you name? Go ahead, think long and hard. None? Well, that’s about to change because Tinie Tempah, a rapper hailing from South London, is blowing up the charts with his smash hit Written in the Stars. In late 2010, just as he was about to gain popularity stateside, Tinie told entertainment website ContactMusic.com, "I reckon in 2011, toward the end of it, I'm going to do an arena tour - and sell it out - then I reckon I'm going to release another album, and fingers crossed it can go platinum again, and double platinum, and triple.”
Rounding out the lineup of British superstars of tomorrow is a girl whose name you might not be totally familiar with, but give it time. After being introduced by Tinie Tempah to Prince William and his future bride Kate, “folktronica” artist Ellie Goulding was hand-chosen by the couple to play at their royal reception. Thrust into the international spotlight, Goulding secured herself spots on some of the U.S.’ most prestigious stages including Lollapalooza, Coachella and even SNL, before she even released a song here. Look for Goulding's first U.S. single, Starry Eyed, to skyrocket up the charts this summer.