Coldplay Has No. 1 Single in America: First By a British Group Since Spice Girls

Coldplay‘s “Viva La Vida,” buoyed by strong digital downloads, is the band’s first U.S. No. 1 single (and only their second top 10 single after 2005′s “Speed of Sound”). This is a quite notable achievement, as it has been over 11 years since a British group has topped the Billboard Hot 100. And that group was…

Yes, the last British band to hit No. 1 in the U.S. was The Spice Girls, way back in February of 1997. Why has it taken 11 years for another British group to reach this milestone? Much ink has been spilled over how difficult it has become for British bands to make it in the States these days, and the reasons are many: media consolidation; the decline of radio and MTV as platforms for international artists; the decline of guitar bands and pop groups in general; the defeat of Britpop by American grunge and nu-metal; and the rise of American hip-hop into the mainstream. And many UK-based bands have been ill-equipped to face the grueling touring required to build a U.S. following.

After three straight decades of British dominance of popular music, it’s shocking to see so few UK groups have an impact in America. Here’s a list of Billboard No. 1 singles by UK bands since the breakup of the Beatles by decade; you can see, after an extraordinary run of UK No. 1 hits from 1984 to 1986, there was a sharp drop-off in British chart toppers after 1989:

2000s (1 No. 1)

“Viva La Vida” by Coldplay

1990s (2 No. 1s)

“Wannabe” by The Spice Girls (February 1997)
“I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred (February 1992)

1980s (25 No. 1s)

“Good Thing” by Fine Young Cannibals (July 1989)
“She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals (April 1989)
“Red Red Wine” by UB40 (October 1988)
“(I Just) Died in Your Arms” by Cutting Crew (May 1987)
“Human” by Human League (November 1986)
“Venus” by Bananarama (September 1986)
“Invisible Touch” by Genesis (July 1986)
“Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red (July 1986)
“West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys (May 1986)
“Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits (September 1985)
“Shout” by Tears For Fears (August 1985)
“A View To a Kill” by Duran Duran (July 1985)
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears (June 1985)
“Everything She Wants” by Wham! (May 1985)
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (May 1985)
“Careless Whisper” by Wham! featuring George Michael (February 1985)
“The Reflex” by Duran Duran (June 1984)
“Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club (February 1984)
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes (January 1984)
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police (July 1983)
“Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners (April 1983)
“Don’t You Want Me” by Human League (July 1982)
“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen (October 1980)
“Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” by Pink Floyd (March 1980)
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen (February 1980)

1970s (17 No. 1s)

“Pop Muzik” by M (November 1979)
“Love You Inside Out” by Bee Gees (June 1979)
“Tragedy” by Bee Gees (March 1979)
“With a Little Luck” by Wings (May 1978)
“Night Fever” by Bee Gees (March 1978)
“Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees (February 1978)
“How Deep Is Your Love” by Bee Gees (December 1977)
“Blinded By the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (February 1977)
“You Should Be Dancing” by Bee Gees (September 1976)
“Silly Love Songs” by Wings (May 1976)
“Saturday Night” by Bay City Rollers (January 1976)
“Jive Talkin’” by Bee Gees (August 1975)
“Listen To What the Man Said” by Paul McCartney and Wings (July 1975)
“Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings (June 1974)
“Angie” by The Rolling Stones (October 1973)
“My Love” by Paul McCartney and Wings (June 1973)
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul and Linda McCartney (September 1971)

In other news:

  • Charlotte Church is preggers with her second child. (The Sun)
  • A David Beckham Armani underwear ad in San Francisco has sparked pandemonium akin to “Beatlemania,” according to The Sun.
  • Amy Winehouse‘s family may force her to stay in the hospital for several weeks in order to get her off drugs. Admirable, yes, but this will only work if she wants it too. (The Sun)
  • Our girl wants to sing! Please God, don’t let her embarrass herself in front of Mandela. (BBC)
  • Do the problems with the Life On Mars remake boil down to a bad lead actor? The Guardian‘s James Donaghy says, “Firstly, Jason O’Mara has to go. Although reports suggest his position is safe, he has neither the range nor charisma of John Simm and just plain looks wrong. His face and physicality jar with everything we need to believe about Sam Tyler. A character tells him ‘you don’t look like a cop – you have a soft face’, but that is exactly what he lacks – any sensitivity, ambivalence, or nuance.”
  • Actor Nigel Harman, who upped the sex factor on EastEnders until his character was offed, has signed on to replace the departing Max Beesley on Hotel Babylon. (Daily Mail)
  • NSFW: Kate Moss‘ boobs. (Daily Mail)
  • The Daily Mail has dubbed Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley “thin and thinner” as the two stars walk the red carpet at the premiere of their film, The Edge of Love. (Wow, Keira has an enormous head.) But it was Joely Richardson who was turning heads in a fabulous golden gown.
  • Keira is much more confident simulating sex for strangers than singing. What’s this about her doing My Fair Lady again? Maybe she should convince producers to make it My Bare Lady? (Daily Mail)
  • Uma Thurman will co-star with Paddy Considine and Jonathan Pryce in a BBC drama written by David Hare. It’s titled My Zinc Bed. (Guardian)
  • Craig David is still whining about how those Bo Selecta parodies nearly killed his career. For godssakes, can’t he just shut up and stay naked all the time? I like him much more that way.
  • My Big Fat Gay Divorce: Little Britain star Matt Lucas has hired Princess Diana‘s legal team to divorce his husband. Oh Mary, pass the popcorn. This sh*t’s gonna get nasty. (The Independent)
  • Tony winner Mark Rylance thinks UK theater award ceremonies should emulate the Tonys: “The thing that struck me was the incredible marketing machine that made the most of the evening to raise awareness of what was happening on Broadway. It’s a shame there isn’t that kind of support around the awards in England. I also really loved the ensemble awards that the drama desk gave out to two companies. I wish there were more of those, like a Best Chorus Award, perhaps.”(The Stage)
  • What was Rylance jabbering on about during his acceptance speech on Sunday’s Tonys? The Times has the story: “Backstage, the actor explained that his words came from a prose poem, “Back Country,” by the Midwestern writer Louis Jenkins. He said he had also recited a Jenkins poem when he won a Drama Desk award for his role.”

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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