UK urban breaks USA – part 2

Mark Beaumont tracks the course of the latest British invasion across the pond.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 24 Nov 2010
  • min read
Just three months after Jay Sean’s success, Londoner Taio Cruz’s debut US single Break Your Heart, featuring Ludacris, made the biggest leap to the number one spot for a debut release in the history of the Billboard chart – jumping all the way from number 53. This massive hop caused Break Your Heart to become the fastest selling single the US chart has ever recorded.

Within a few more months the likes of Chipmunk, Tinchy Stryder and MIA were getting the sort of US profiles usually reserved for Jay-Z’s latest protegés and American Idol judges.

British Urban Breaks Out

The writing was on the widest of walls. Where traditionally the UK chart has been swamped with production-line US R&B and pop acts while the home-grown scene remained localised, now British urban artists were breaking as big as their Stateside counterparts.

The number of ‘urban’ home-originated singles in the UK charts rose by 84 per cent between 2007 and 2009, while in America the chart positions and figures spoke for themselves.

The tide had turned; a new UK invasion was under way.

Some established acts got jumpy. ‘Sustaining longevity is all about time,’ Usher told MTV in May when asked about UK acts breaking big in America, ‘they have a lot to prove.’

Sean himself was fairly sanguine about Usher’s words, telling MTV: ‘I completely agree with what he says. Longevity trumps everything. America has only heard one album… I'm so new to America. I've got so much more to show them, so much more to give them.’

When interviewed by the BBC he was more enthusiastic about his position as a role model for British urban hopefuls in the States.

‘I want to do my best to represent the UK in America and let people really understand that it doesn't matter if we're from a little place called Hounslow. As long as you work hard and strive to do your best and make good music, and of course with a bit of luck, it is possible.’

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