In the past century, America has been rapidly and mercilessly establishing itself as one of the most powerful nations on the planet, which includes having their music topping the charts, their films crashing the box office and their media dominating TVs worldwide. All we Brits can do is watch and tut quietly. Or so it seemed. In recent years, a select number of our ‘talent’ have managed to cross the Atlantic and make it big in all aspects of popular culture. Britain is rapidly climbing the rungs of worldwide popularity, fighting to match America at the top.
As odd as it may now seem, the heart of the film industry used to be based in England, but when England fell behind, America surged forward. Hollywood certainly now stands atop the box office, pumping out the highest grossing films of all time like James Cameron’s Avatar ($2.8 billion) and Titanic ($2.2 billion), which makes the substantial list of British box office bombs look like a mark of severe failure. However, recent smash hit Gravity, the eighth highest grossing film of 2013 and the winner of seven Academy Awards, was actually filmed in the UK, despite having American actors. The same is true of TV giant Game of Thrones which was filmed in large parts of rural Northern Ireland.
Also, many British films have gained massive success, such as those from the Harry Potter franchise, The King’s Speech, and Skyfall. This suggests that the British film industry is gaining traction and may be on its way to rivalling the US once more. This rise in success is perhaps because the UK holds a certain novelty for our American companions, through the difference in accent, the landscape and the rich history, which is arguably responsible for fuelling the profit of period dramas such as The Duchess and the afore mentioned The King’s Speech. This is not nearly as much success as that accumulated in Hollywood (bearing in mind that only 1 in 10 Hollywood films made will be a hit) but British producers are still attempting to overcome the ridiculously huge advantage Hollywood has over the British film industry in terms of money.
Britain’s musical rising artists are also clawing at the ankles of America’s pop stars, faced with the intimidating popularity gained by musicians such as Taylor Swift, earning nearly $40 Million in 2013, and Justin Timberlake, who earned just over $31 Million, proving without a doubt who is actually in control of the pop music industry in monetary terms. Yet, British gems Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith have recent topped the charts in America, the first time that more than one Brit has managed it since Sting and Clapton in the 90s. Indie/Folk band Mumford and Sons have shown Americans the more muted brother of country music: folk, and with a hybridised rock twist to their sound, prove to be formidable contenders for similar American bands like Foster the People. On an even bigger level, English boy bands One Direction and The Wanted have both gained massive fan bases across America, appealing to the US’s hormonal teenage girls and knocking Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber off his pedestal. Charli XCX had a number one just last month with Australian recording artist Iggy Azalea and Adele has had 3.
So, non-American artists are permeating the charts and escaping the shadow of Americanised commercial glory; should Swift and Timberlake be watching their backs – and their bank accounts?
It’s hard to truly predict the future but one thing is for certain, us Brits aren’t going down without a fight.