Are We in the Middle of a Second British Invasion?

Cat Henderson

Adele has set records in receiving awards. Forbes declared One Direction the fourth highest-earning celebrities in the world recently. And Calvin Harris became the first British artist to surpass a billion streams on Spotify. The immense success of so many artists from across the pond begs the question: Are we in the middle of a Second British Invasion?

I can make your girlfriend scream louder than you ever could just by pressing her follow button.

-Harry Styles

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

The first British Invasion was a cultural phenomenon that took America completely by surprise. However, the recent surge of adoration for Brits and their music seems less like a second “invasion” and more like a much-needed revival of feeling. What can move you like Adele on “Someone Like You” or Ed Sheeran in “Shape of You”? The original British invasion artists revolutionized music in every aspect and their present-day counterparts are topping Billboard charts and dominating the music scene in an eerily similar fashion.

In terms of pure, unashamed fangirl love, the 60s had the Beatles and we have One Direction. Blues-inspired soul? They had the Stones and we’ve got Ed Sheeran. The Who and The Kinks then, Calvin Harris and Adele today. Fans from both eras are fiercely loyal and for good reason.

With a frenzy of girls at their heels, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr might as well have invented the word swoon. The 60s music scene was a hotbed of talented Brits with the intent to take the music industry by storm. With the Beatles at the forefront, the British sound was a force to be reckoned with.

There are a lot of theories as to why the first British Invasion occurred. Some believe America fostered the new wave of Rock & Roll as a way to cope with the shock caused by President Kennedy’s assassination. Americans needed to harness their angst during the turmoil and Beatles songs like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” helped them do so. Lines can be drawn to the therapeutic effects of today’s songs like “Hello” by Adele (or any song by Adele).

Beatlemania was just as hysterical an experience for 60s teens as One Direction is for teens today. The Telegraph reported, “online movie ticket vendor Fandago found that 98 per cent of advance tickets for the One Direction movie This Is Us were bought by girls.”

Success is the best revenge for anything.

-Ed Sheeran

The Beatles’ first television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was viewed by an estimated 73 million people–making it the largest in history. For seven straight weeks afterward “I Want to Hold Your Hand” topped the singles chart. Americans were spellbound by the free-spirited foursome and this didn’t stop with TV appearances and chart topping records. One Direction’s Take Me Home featured contributions from fellow Brit, Ed Sheeran, and “[earned] multi-platinum certification in half-a-dozen countries.”

The Beatles kicked off their first American tour that August and merch sales raised $50 million in retail business solely in 1964. Just like their forebears, One Direction’s 100-show tour resulted in Morgan Spurlock’s documentary This Is Us in 2013. The group had earned an estimated $41.2 million by April 2013 (less than two years after the 2011 release of the single “What Makes You Beautiful”).

These days, Adele has broken attendance records for Wembley with almost 100k fans on her recent tour for 25. Fans lost their minds when the singer-songwriter announced she might not tour again in the future.

“I only ever did this tour for you and to hopefully have an impact on you the way that some of my favourite artist have had on me live,” said Adele. “And I wanted my final shows to be in London because I don’t know if I’ll ever tour again and so I want my last time to be at home.”

London / Wembley Stadium / Jun 29

A post shared by Adele (@adele) on

Adele’s album, 25, broke N’ SYNC’s previous record to for fastest-selling album in one week with 2,433,000 in sales and it’s still on repeat in my car so clearly she’s doing something right. Winning every award she was nominated for in 2012, Adele has more Grammy’s than she can cradle in both arms. That in itself just goes to show how respected and valued she is as an artist.

The Rolling Stones, with their more amplified rock and debauchery didn’t censor themselves nor their music and that seemed to be the appeal. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” became a worldwide #1 hit in no time and is said to be the song that propelled the band to fame. The tone and sex appeal of “Satisfaction” can be heard in Calvin Harris’s collaboration with Rihanna on the tracks “Where Have You Been” and “This is What You Came For.” “We Found Love” and a spot on Rihanna’s Loud Tour helped launch the DJ and producer’s international fame.

While The Beatles set records, another set of British lads did something they couldn’t. One Direction is the first band from the UK to debut at #1 on the USA Billboard Charts and held 19 spots on the Hot 100 charts in 2015. Their single “What Makes You Beautiful” reached a whopping 870 million views and counting. Video of the Just Dance 4 dance routine for the single has over 100 million views.

Incredibly like the Beatles, One Direction’s hiatus and the break-up that followed was felt in the hearts of many young girls. But their solo ventures have not gone unnoticed. Success follows the five heartthrobs on their personal endeavors with Harry Style’s surpassing even Sam Smith’s records and appearing in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, Dunkirk. Styles’s 2017 tour sold out in two minutes. Former bandmate, Zayn Malik, has collaborated with noteworthy artists like Taylor Swift, and Niall Horan has released two very John Mayer-esque singles that have gained radio play country-wide. No surprise, coming from the (second) boyband that changed the world.

Ed Sheeran properly represents genius-level singer-songwriters like Paul McCartney. Not only can Ed’s falsetto make you weak in the knees but his lyrics can hit you in the feels. He has written ballads and upbeat songs for dynamic artists ranging from Justin Bieber, Hoodie Allen, Taylor Swift, Tori Kelly and even the beloved One Direction. He has performed duets with The Weeknd and Queen Bey at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival. He’s even been featured on hit HBO show, “Game of Thrones” (to positive and negative reviews). And he’s done it all with such class that it’s impossible to find a flaw.

Whether you claim to be in favor of “Beatlemania” or have experienced “One Direction Infection” firsthand, there’s no denying that the UK is due some thanks for the remarkable evolution in recent music history. The first and second British Invasions prompted changes in the music industry and made lasting impressions on American society and pop culture as a whole. It’s difficult to choose which wave of the British Invasion is superior when each have received such enthusiasm and notoriety, and luckily, you don’t have to pick a side.

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header/cover image credit: “British Music Experience at the o2” by Mark Hillary