Friday, May 13, 2011
British Girls atop the American Charts
So this week on the Hot 100, Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" rises up a notch up to #1, earning the singer her first American chart-topper as well as making her eighth British female singer to score a US #1 (and only the second to occupy both the singles and albums chart simultaneously after Susan Boyle). It's an incredible achievement that highlights--without sounding hypocritical--that a genuine soulful vocal, meaningful lyrics and non-computer generated instruments still has its place atop of the charts and can still rise above the electro-pop norm.
Here's a run down of the British female singers who have topped the chart before (there was a couple artists I wasn't sure whether or not to include, such as Olivia Newton-John, I wasn't sure if she was British or Australian and Eurythmics):
Petula Clark - Downtown (1964, 2 weeks)
So, the first British singer to score an American #1 was Petula Clark. She released quite a lot of singles between 1949 and 1953, however her first charting single was a cover of french singer Rudi Revil's "Le petit cordonnnier" which translates into "The Little Shoemaker" in English, which peaked at #7 in the UK in 1954. In America, her first charting single came further down the line--a decade later--In 1964, "Downtown" the lead single from her second album of the same reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. I'm not familiar with Clark's original, the song was given new life in 1984 by country icon Dolly Parton and again in 2006 for Children in Need by Spice Girl Emma Bunton--none of which fared as well as the original--Parton's stalled at #80 US, while Bunton's fared a little better in the UK peaking at #3 scoring her third top 3 single.
Petula Clark- My Love (1966, 2 weeks)
As well as being the first British female singer to score a US #1, she is also the only one to land more than 1 at the top. Her second was this sweet lovelorn pop of "My Love" (I presume) the lead single from her fifth album of the same name. In the UK, it was her first top 5 hit since "Downtown." I don't think this ranks amongst her most remembered work, "Downtown" gets played quite a bit on the Vintage music channels in the UK.
Lulu - To Sir, with Love (1967, 5 weeks)
The following year, Scottish (or Glaswegian) singer Lulu scored her first American chart-topper with "To Sir, with Love," the theme for her second starring movie role of the same name and was also featured on the accompanying soundtrack. Oddly, it was never released in the UK--although it appeared as B-Side to her single "Let's Pretend" which peaked at #11.
Sheena Easton - 9 to 5 (1981, 2 weeks)
Scottish singer Sheena Easton became the first British female of the '80s to land an American #1. Her second single "9 to 5" or "Morning Train (9 to 5)" from her debut album Take My Time spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart (1983, 4 weeks)
What an awesome slice of grand '80s balladry! Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler's power ballad "Total Eclipse of the Heart" not only landed the singer her first US #1 but also became her first single to top the UK singles chart too. It was lifted from her fifth album Faster Than the Speed of Light, her most successful album to date and this remains her signature number. Sensational video too!
Kim Wilde - You Keep Me Hangin' On (1987, 1 week)
Kim Wilde's cover of The Supreme's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" was her biggest hit in America, topping the Hot 100 for a week--in fact it was her only single to enter the top 40, follow-up charting singles "Say You Really Want Me" and "You Came" didn't make the top 40 but were moderate hits in the UK.
Spice Girls - Wannabe (1996, 4 weeks)
British pop sensation the Spice Girls' debut single "Wannabe" was an instant smash, raising the five-piece onto the world's pedestal, becoming the one of the best-selling girl bands of all time. The single went to #1 in nearly every country around the world. In America the single stayed at #1 for 4 weeks, unfortunately they never quite matched its success, although follow-up singles "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1" were top 3 hits and "Too Much" which came later, earned the group a fourth top 10.
Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love (2008, 4 weeks)
X Factor winner Leona Lewis' dive into American success was a remarkable achievement even more so considering up and until this point no British female singer (or female group) had scored a #1 in the US since the Spice Girls. Her debut single "Bleeding Love" remained at #1 for 4 non-consecutive weeks--after its first two weeks it was displaced by Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" then again by Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" following its rise back to the top the previous week.