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 four decades of music, and at the no. 1 hits on August 10 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 Mariah Carey, One Direction, TLC and more in the field.
1975: "Can't Give You Anything (But My Love)" by The Stylistics (UK) vs. "Jive Talkin'" by The Bee Gees (U.S.)
Naturally there is plenty of interchange between the UK and the U.S. in terms of music as listeners on both sides show up to the other nation's party a few months late. The creates phenomena such as Beatlemania in the United States. But Beatlemania couldn't have taken off if the band hadn't become a smash in its own homeland, as rock 'n' roll was a little slower to get overseas. We won't sugarcoat it: The UK has produced some smash-up acts, but they usually derive from genres created in America. Hence why R&B was still all the rage in the UK come 1975, and Philadelphia quintet The Stylistics were tearing up the charts with "Can't Give You Anything (But My Love)," while the U.S. was about to enter a new era entirely when the Bee Gees released "Jive Talkin'," the first of its eight disco no. 1 singles that decade. The UK may have been stylistically behind but it's better to be late than wrong. No offense to the Bee Gees, but we'll take R&B over an early disco single any day. America loses by choosing a British artist and the UK wins for choosing an American one...
ROUND ONE WINNER: UK
1985: "Into The Groove" by Madonna (UK) vs. "Shout" by Tears for Fears (U.S.)
...until this round. Once again the UK opts for an American performer (Madonna) while the U.S. imports Tears For Fears. It's the Yanks who have the better taste this time however, as "Shout" is an essential portion of the new wave movement. This isn't to put down Madonna's "Into The Groove"—it's a passable pop track that packs plenty of the somewhat subtle sexual innuendo that would make her an icon—but she would need to bust out "Like A Prayer" or "Vogue" to wrangle with Tears For Fears in its Songs From The Big Chair era. Tears would never hit no. 1 in its homeland, but "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" made consecutive appearances atop the Hot 100 during 1985. Madonna can take relief in that, although she lost this battle, she's got 13 career no. 1 singles in both the United States and the UK.
ROUND TWO WINNER: U.S.
1995: "Never Forget" by Take That (UK) vs. "Waterfalls" by TLC
Finally, both sides of the pond decide to adopt their own respective performers to provide a no. 1 hit. And let us tell you: It works a lot better for one than the other. Sometimes American listeners haven't heard of essential UK performers, such as Dizzee Rascal, because of bad publicity for the smaller act. Sometimes that act is huge and we Yanks collectively dismiss its work. That's the case with Take That, a '90s pop group that was Whitney Houston-huge in its homeland yet has never landed a single in the Hot 100. "Never Forget," the single in this example, was one of six consecutive no. 1s for the group in the UK (including the gap caused by the band's breakup during 1996), and was represented in a stretch where 10 of the group's 11 singles went to no. 1. The problem for our American ears: The '90s were about to give us NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys and, yeah, the Spice Girls, meaning Take That now sounds considerably aged by comparison. Meanwhile, TLC's "Waterfalls" has never gotten watered-down.
ROUND THREE WINNER: U.S.
2005: "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt (UK) vs. "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey
The two sides of the Atlantic were like-minded come 2005: Everybody wanted ballads. In the UK, James Blunt was building the confidence of every girl who turned on the radio with "You're Beautiful," while across the pond, Mariah Carey was leading everyone question why they questioned her potential as a hit-maker. It had been more than five years since her previous no. 1, which sounds fine to the common musician, but when you're the record holder for most no. 1's, that's quite a drought. The song eventually became Billboard's no. 1 song of 2005, and then it's no. 1 song of the decade...and listeners weren't wrong. We (and probably Blunt) would conclude that the song is beautiful. UK listeners, probably bitter ten years in advance that we choose Mimi over James, only allowed the track to get to no. 2 on their singles charts. Blunt fought a valiant battle, but the world has spoken here.
ROUND FOUR WINNER: U.S.
2015: "Drag Me Down" by One Direction (UK) vs. "Cheerleader" by OMI (U.S.)
In a somewhat ironic conclusion, it's a battle between the UK's choice, a band of young men that the United States has fallen in love with, against a Jamaican reggae vocalist who was made a star months ago in the UK, but has no risen to no. 1 on the Hot 100 as well. So although the UK gets all the credit for the discovery of both performers in this case, the Americans still get the win as "Cheerleader" stands to argue as "song of the summer," while most of the media surrounding Direction's new song has dealt with whether a lack of Zayn makes any difference. We're not experts on that particular discussion but we can tell a good One Direction single when we hear it, and this ain't it. That group will certainly have more smash hits in the near future, whereas OMI could easily be a one-and-done, but we'll acknowledge that it's a hell of a theoretical one-and-done.
ROUND WINNER: U.S.
MATCH WINNER: U.S. 4-1 (this is by far the most lopsided victory in the history of Music Times' U.S. vs. UK segment).