Music Monday: The British Are Coming
As we swing into the final quarter of 2014 and enjoy the greatest month in the calendar year, I’m reminded that 50 years ago the Beatles came to America and the music world was never the same. I look at today’s artist and especially on the women’s side the British have quietly invaded again, and not a big enough deal is being made about it. Perhaps it’s nationalism, or the kind of music that’s being made, but outside of Adele it’s almost much ado about nothing.
Over the past 10 years, there has been a steady stream of British talent being unleashed to the musical world. From Coldplay to Jessie J, there can be no doubt that when it comes to selling records the sun never sets on the British Empire.You will never hear me bragging about One Direction, but they move units. I do not do boy bands and the only one I’ve ever liked was the Jackson 5. It’s not easy to go platinum anymore. With album leaks, piracy, streaming, and the economy, it’s a miracle to go platinum, never mind multi platinum. (Unless of course you’re Lil’ Wayne and Baby buys two million copies of your album).
Music is entertainment but it’s primarily a business, a business that has seen TLC, Toni Braxton, and even Michael Jackson go broke. (In fairness, Jackson’s broke and the other’s are two totally different things. For now, we’ll focus on straight talent because record sales are NOT what makes an artist, YouTube is.) (See Macklemore) If you’re not careful, the industry will eat you alive and you’ll find yourself being sued by BET for sleeping in your dressing room nights because you’re homeless even though you’re a host on 106 & Park.
The UK has always produced great music and some may argue recognized and supported artist more quickly than the US. For example, Bob Marley was a superstar and sold more records in the UK than the US, something that still holds today. Today’s acts include Coldplay, Laura Mvula, Adele, Joss Stone, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dionne Lightwood, Fatima, the late great Amy Winehouse and Jessie J. Since this is obviously the year of the women we’ll focus on the females and the little known artist.
Adele needs no introduction, she’s in brief retirement after giving birth to a son. Adele’s first solo album 19 took the world by storm. Not only where the vocals smashing, she’d written the album. I was immediately hooked. Her second album proved that a broken relationship can yield so much success as she shed the guy who broke her heart and won a Grammy and an Oscar soon after. My favorite Adele song: “Right As Rain”
Joss Stone dropped the “Soul Sessions part 1” on 16, September 2003. At the ripe old age of 16, the Kent born songbird took the world by storm. How could such a voice be so soulful and how could Stone put so much feeling into a record at such a young age? “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me?) Pt. 1” was the first single I recall hearing and I bought that CD. Stone is a modern hippie and is known for her barefoot performances and her powerful vocals. Joss Stone is still in the business and writes and produces and maintains a loyal fan base.
Corrine Bailey Rae came onto the US music scene in 2004 with her self titled album “Corrine Bailey Rae” which produced the smash single “Girl Put Your Records On” Oddly enough, it wasn’t that song that brought to Rae it was “Trouble Sleeping.” Those were the Myspace days, and I remember offering Rae condolences after her husband Jason Rae was found dead in a Leeds flat. One might imagine the effect that losing the man she loved effected her immensely. Jason’s untimely death pushed the release of Corinne’s second album as she grieved and was certainly not up for promoting the album and touring. It would take her until 2009 to release “The Sea” another beautifully written album and the lead single “Closer” garnered her a Grammy nomination. In 2012 she did a remake of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love,” and won her 2nd Grammy for best R&B performance. You can often hear the smile in Corrine’s voice when she sings, we’re glad she’s smiling again.
Laura Mvula joins Ozzy Osbourne as another great talent the make it out of Birmingham, England. It’s fitting that someone as beautiful and talented as Mvula would hail from Birmingham, it’s a rough place. Mvula released “Sing To The Moon,” on 4, March 2014 and it topped out at number 10 on the UK charts but only 173 in the US and 93 in France. (All other modern countries the album finished in the top 40’s) Laura just released “Laura Mvula with Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley” on 18, August and is currently number 61 on the UK charts but it has not reached Billboards 200 as of press time. Mvula has a beautiful, powerful singing voice. If you get to see her live you’ll be surprised as to how such a powerful instrument can come from such as small woman. We are looking for big things to continue for her in the coming months
Amy Winehouse was bigger than all of these women although tinier in stature. Winehouse, like Stone, sang in contralto. She could blow out a dance record, “Rehab,” or break your heart with ballads like “Love Is A Losing Game.” Winehouse was special to me, and not simply because she was a Virgo who was born one day after myself. It was because she was uncompromising. “Rehab,” was penned as a f*ck you to the record label for wanting her to go get help for her alcoholism. She was no Brittany Spears, and she wasn’t going to be treated like a child. I thought it was hilarious, who would know that she should’ve listened to the label. On 23, July 2011 Winehouse died in London of alcohol poisoning and she left fans heartbroken around the world. Winehouse had won the Grammy for Song and Album of the Year. I’ll never forget that Winehouse performed at 4am
London time after being denied a visa to enter the US due to her drinking and dust ups. She knew that night that she had made it, sadly that was the highlight and crowning moment of her musical career.
Now that brings us to Jessie J. the current darling of the US music scene. Her performance was only second to Beyoncé at Sunday’sVMAs. Jessie along with Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande preformed, “Bang Bang,” which is number 1 in the US and UK charts respectfully. Though it may seem like the 26 year old has come out of no where, in the music business there is no such thing. Songwriters always have a job and because of that ability Jessie (who’s birth name is Jessica Ellen Cornish) has been in the business for almost 10 years. Jessie (I have not been able to find out what the J is for for) released her 3rd album this year and not unlike her first two, this solo project already looks as if she will be giving some people a run for their money come award time. Jessie can flat out sing. she shows flashes of AmyWinehouse with soulful vocals. Unlike some Caucasian acts that sell because they’re white and are therefore marketed better (Adele vs. Marsha) Jessie has earned her R&B and hip hop credit. We can only hope that there are more great works to come as she takes the reigns as a grown woman.
Marsha Ambrosius is the current champion of British Acts and she proved so on 25, August 2014 when she preformed in Sefton Park in Liverpool, England. She was welcomed home like the star that she is. Did you really think I was going to do a whole piece and not mention my girl? (In my British accent) That’s preposterous!
Amy Winehouse picture via Reuters
Dionne Lightwood via her official Facebook page
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TK’s Bio: Terrence Kyrell Hodge I was born 9/13/79, in what was then W. Berlin Germany, to Qualise and Lieutenant Tyrone Hodge of the United States Marine Corps. He lived in London England and graduated from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 2000 with BA in English and Political Science. Terrence writes about any and everything. Terrence is planning a series of novels that are works of “faction” part factual (nonfiction) and partly fictional. He plans to bring a dual vision of American and European observation and opinions to PMA. He will bring blunt honesty with a sense of comedy. He says “I will write wherever I’m needed as I am NOT a one trick pony.”