Two decades ago, the end of year album charts for 1997 painted a clear picture of the British music scene at the height of its Britpop era. The top ten alone included Oasis’s third album Be Here Now, after the success of its 1994 and 1995 predecessors, plus magnum opus Urban Hymns from The Verve, as well as Radiohead’s Ok Computer and The Prodigy’s The Fat of the Land. Oh, and two from The Spice Girls, in case you were wondering. Twenty years on, however, it’s interesting to see the legacy of these iconic home-grown albums, especially in comparison to British music today. Is it true the nation has lost its Cool Britannia reputation?
Britpop is still huge today – ten minutes listening to Radio X is peppered with British rock of the millennium as well as 90s classics fans know inside out (Parklife, I’m looking at you). Perhaps it’s the pride and essence of ‘Britishness’ about it – no category of music since has had the UK’s name carved into it. Additionally, its influences spill into upcoming and chart-topping groups today, however, nonetheless, a comparison of the genres in 1997 and 2016’s end of year charts shows more diversity and an impressive growth in the British music industry.
British music has never been so varied, nor accessible
Arguably, British music has never been so varied, nor accessible, thanks to the internet and new music platforms. Streaming, downloading and more specialist radio stations mean there have never been such fluid methods of music consumption – it’s never been this easy for listeners to find what they like. With the addition of social media, fans can easily stay up-to-date with their favourite artists and follow what they’re doing, regardless of whether they’re from the same country or not. International and domestic appreciation for British music is immortal, with every genre is having its moment in the sun, and for that reason, the catalogue of British music is rapidly growing; a varied, brimming mix, all of which slots together so well.
In this respect, its dual ability to hold its own and blend together is another strength for the power of British music. For example, last month’s issue of Q magazine sees interviews with The xx, Richard Ashcroft and Clean Bandit, spanning several genres within a mere few pages. With this in mind, the past month of January alone saw many British musicians making headlines for different reasons. Ed Sheeran announcing his third singer-songwriter LP and dropping two brand new singles, Kasabian and Muse headlining Reading and Leeds in August, and grime artist Ray BLK winning BBC’s Sound of 2017 Award mean the talent and potential of UK artists is ever-popular and well-rounded.
British music has peaked and troughed in the eyes of the world since before its beatlemania days
Die-hard fans may continue to debate that late 90s British music reached a sort of peak in terms of how it was viewed by the world, yet this isn’t necessarily the case. Whilst the ‘Cool Britannia’ period was certainly a timestamp in the history of this fascinating industry, British music has peaked and troughed in the eyes of the world since before its Beatlemania days, and continues to do so. Ultimately, whether or not it’s viewed as ‘cool’ as it was two decades ago, it continues to give it its best shot.