• Robyn Walford

Culture Shock: 'Coming Home' - a brief discussion of British music on the global stage

In the first edition of her new digestable opinion series 'Culture Shock', Robyn takes a look at how music from the British Isles gained its standing on the world stage.


As we all know, the British music scene is huge, and popular the world over. Anywhere you visit, people will be able to name a handful of their favourite British artists. And despite being from the other side of the world, a whole range of international students from different backgrounds join in singing along to my ‘British classics’ playlist on Spotify for pre-drinks. Having asked an array of individuals their favourite artists, I was shocked to see that despite living thousands of miles away, the same names continued to reappear: The Beatles; Queen; Arctic Monkeys; Oasis; Radiohead… However, maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

"Despite living thousands of miles away, the same names continue to reappear."

Since the beginnings of modern pop culture, British groups have always appeared the cultural front runners, with many bands' careers spanning over multiple decades and being enjoyed by individuals of all ages and cultures. Manchester in particular being known as a hot spot for producing some of the best British artists who have gone on to be popular worldwide (think Oasis, The Smiths, New Order). Comparative to its size, Britain has produced some of the biggest names in music – the so-called ‘British Invasion’ of America in the 1960s lead by The Beatles paved the way for this. Even today bands discuss ‘cracking America’ in order to reach a far greater audience. Our history and connections make this fairly easy in comparison to popular bands from other parts of the world.

"Comparative to its size, Britain has produced some of the biggest names in music."

Moreover, where English is such a widely spoken language, it is more able to reach widespread audiences. Even artists who do not speak English as their first language often opt to translate their songs, whether this be to reach a wider audience or for a more practical reason - English lyrics can often be manipulated to fit the music without changing the meaning of them, whereas many other languages rely on much more precise pronunciation by stressing a different vowel or syllable, thus changing the whole meaning of the word. The initial giants of pop culture in the 1960s – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks to name but a few – continued to alter the course of British popular music for years to come with the emergence of Britpop in the 1990s. Bands such as Oasis and Blur were offering an alternative rock style and more light-hearted alternative to the emergence of the Grunge scene which was taking America by storm. This sort of music remains immensely popular in the UK and the world over today with everyone enjoying belting out a drunk rendition of Don’t Look Back in Anger at the end of a night out.

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