Few people realize just how different the music across the pond is from that we listen to in America, that the Hot 100 doesn't exist in the UK, and that its equivalent to our singles chart doesn't just feature a whole bunch of American artists with even more One Direction and Ellie Goulding tracks. Music Times is looking back at the last five decades of music, and at the no. 1 hits on April 2 every ten years on the spot, going back to 1975. The ultimate contest, of course, is which country has better taste. Last month the win went to the UK in the best-of-five showdown. This month features Madonna, 50 Cent, Mark Ronson and more in the field.
Let's start with the old stuff first:
1975: "Bye Bye Baby" by the Bay City Rollers (UK) vs. "Lady Marmalade" by LaBelle (U.S.)
The culture divide comes fast and strong during the '70s, at least during this begotten week in UK music history. Two songs both offer the listener some sugar, while also offering dramatically different interpretations of the word "sugar." The Scottish Bay City Rollers present "Bye Bye Baby," a pop track so saccharine that it almost leaves a bad taste in our mouth afterward. LaBelle, the vocal trio led by Patti LaBelle, delivers sugar in its most explicit sense, outright asking during its iconic hook (in French, mind you) if the listener would like toengage in sex. One is presumably about a high-school sweetheart and the other is about prostitution in New Orleans. We might have given the Rollers' hit more credence if it came 15 years earlier, but in the wake of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, the need for skiffle leftovers such as this doesn't ring true. That and LaBelle's pop classic adds up to more than just shock-and-awe. You can check out our feature on "Lady Marmalade" here.
ROUND ONE: United States
1985: "Easy Lover" by Philip Bailey (UK) vs. "One More Night" by Phil Collins (U.S.)
The '80s round will come down to a battle of the Phils: Phil Collins on the American hit "One More Night" and Philip Bailey on the UK no. 1 "Easy Lover." Not quite coincidentally, Collins also appears as a vocalist on Bailey's hit. Bailey—better known as a member of Earth, Wind and Fire—and Collins take different approaches to women during their respective hits. The former Genesis drummer works with the balladic approach in begging a former lover to give him one more chance. Bailey takes the opposite role, warning the listener to stay away from the subject of "Easy Lover" lest she take advantage. Both undeniably represent the era in which they were recorded, however the upbeat nature of "Easy Lover" has made it more of a mainstay on modern playlists. Just as the still-relevant "Lady Marmalade" won Round One, we'll give the UK the nod here. Funny to consider an American won the round for the UK, while a Brit lost the round for the U.S.
ROUND TWO: United Kingdom
1995: "Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)" by The Outhere Brothers (UK) vs. "Take A Bow" by Madonna (U.S.)
American, apparently not learning from the last round, once again sends a ballad against an even more energetic track from "across the pond." The ballad in question is Madonna's "Take A Bow" while the UK opts for The Outhere Brothers and "Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)," a track that failed to find traction in the U.S. The "hip-house" producers managed to catch on in Europe however, taking this single to no. 1 as well as its next single, "Boom Boom Boom." Somehow listeners in the UK managed to miss the group's prior single release, the curiously-titled "F*k U in the A*s." This match serves as a counter to the last round, where Madonna's sincere address to heartbreak makes the accelerated dance attempts of The Outhere Brothers look ridiculous. It makes one wonder if today's house music will stand up to two decades of time passing, or if it will sound as awkward as Eurodance such as this do today.
ROUND THREE: United States
2005: "(Is This The Way to) Amarillo" by Tony Christie (UK) vs. "Candy Shop" by 50 Cent
So the UK has the occasional weird week where a hit from a bygone age will suddenly resurface and become a national sensation, similar to the "rick-rolling" trend, if everyone actually went and bought Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." The nations of the UK were gripped by a fascination with Tony Christie's 1971 single "Is This The Way to Amarillo," which drove the song to become the top-selling single of 2005. Peter Kay, an English comedian, made a music video for the song, featuring an army of celebrity guests—including Queen guitarist Brian May, Happy Mondays' frontman Bez, and Paul McCartney's then wife Heather Mills—and turned it into a viral sensation, driving sales of the original single through the roof. Does this make the song any better? No, but its challenger is 50 Cent's "Candy Shop," a sexual debacle that makes "Lady Marmalade" sound downright subtle. We'll give the UK the nod for the movement "Amarillo" inspired.
ROUND FOUR: UK
2015: "Hold My Hand" by Jess Glynne (UK) vs. "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars)
Few performers packed as much potential into 2014 as Jess Glynne. The British songwriter became the Rihanna of the UK by appearing on no. 1 singles such as Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" and Route 94's "My Love." Now it's her turn, as the second single from her forthcoming debut album reaches the top spot on the Official Charts Company's singles list. Unfortunately, she's going against a force of nature with Mark Ronson (another Brit) and his "Uptown Funk," which has now held the no. 1 spot in the United States for nearly every week of 2015 thus far. And it's tough to deny that Ronson and vocalist Bruno Mars haven't earned it with the funky first single off of Uptown Special. "Hold My Hand" is a great single—making this the first decade in this month's competition where both no. 1's are quality—but it's David Robinson great versus Tim Duncan great. The U.S. evens the score in the overall matchup, one-to-one.