Page last updated at 08:42 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

British stars lead Grammy charge

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Coldplay's Chris Martin
Coldplay lead the British Grammy contenders, with seven nominations

Coldplay, Radiohead, Adele and Robert Plant will lead a record British contingent at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Thirteen of the 20 nominations in the main four categories have gone to British acts - as long as you count Plant's collaboration with US bluegrass singer Alison Krauss (which the UK-only Mercury Prize did last year).

That is more than any other year in the ceremony's 51-year history, beating the previous best of 10 nominations, which was reached in the glory days of Sting, Phil Collins and Dire Straits in 1986.

The top Grammy award - record of the year - will be a battle of Britain after all five spots on the shortlist went to UK acts.

Coldplay - 7 nominations
Radiohead - 5
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss - 5
Adele - 4
Duffy - 3
Leona Lewis - 3

And this year's strong British showing follow's last year's five-trophy haul for Amy Winehouse.

As well as the Grammys success, British acts dominated the global sales charts in 2008.

Coldplay led the way, selling 6.6 million copies of their album Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends in 34 countries, according to MediaTraffic.

Winehouse came next, followed by Australian hard rockers AC/DC - who have roots in Scotland and the north-east of England - then Duffy and X Factor winner Lewis.

With big British successes ranging from Coldplay's tumultuous rock to Lewis' slick reality pop, and from MIA's kalidescopic agit-rap to Plant's sublime desert duet, there is no hot scene dominating the music landscape.

Adele (above) - Chasing Pavements
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
MIA - Paper Planes
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Please Read The Letter

That may be why there has been no media bandwagon, hailing the comeback of Cool Britannia.

But the facts and figures seem to suggest British music is getting the best reception it has had around the world for many years.

"British music definitely had a good year in the United States last year," says Mark Sutherland, international bureau chief at US music bible Billboard.

"It's definitely perceived in the most positive light it has been for a generation. There was a time when the UK was seen as producing acts that were heavily hyped but perhaps didn't have the substance or the staying power to crack the American market.

"In recent years, we've turned out lots of artists who have more global appeal, but also are prepared to do the hard work that is required to break the United States."

Mainstream acts in the UK have "a little bit more of an edge" than their US counterparts, he says, but do not have a typically British sound - which works in their favour.

"It's difficult to translate a scene like Britpop en masse to the United States," he says. "But a lot of the artists that are doing well, if you heard them for the first time, I'm not sure you'd necessarily think Duffy or Leona Lewis were British. They're acts with a global appeal."

British albums are "translating" more successfully in other countries, agrees Ged Doherty, head of Sony Music UK and chairman of the Brit Awards.

Britpop bands like Oasis became huge in the UK - but failed to break the US

"What happened for a long time was that British artists were very inward-looking about the types of records they would make, and didn't actually care about whether those records travelled around the world," he says. "I think artists care more now."

Part of the current success is down to UK record labels putting the focus back on new talent, he says.

"A better job has been done by all of the companies involved in creating that art, and therefore it's worked," he says. "That's what we've figured out.

"If we go back to our core, as a record industry, which is finding and developing talent, then we will be world beaters again. And this evidence shows this is what's going on."

And the UK is doing that better than the US, on the whole, he believes.

"Definitely, if you look at the number of new acts that are coming out of the US and breaking around the world, they're getting less and less."

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse accepted five Grammys by satellite last year

The label with the most British nominees in the main four Grammy categories - record, song and album of the year, plus best new artist - is not a major, but the independent XL Recordings.

XL signed Adele and MIA, and released Radiohead's In Rainbows on CD in the UK. Label owner Richard Russell says the Grammy showing is vindication for his policy of signing "artists who mean it".

He looks for acts who "have got a strong idea about what they want to do and have a good shot at having long careers, rather than having quick hit pop successes", he says. "So to me, there's a triumph of originality."

For one former British artist, the current success is no surprise.

Feargal Sharkey fronted punk group The Undertones, and now heads music industry body UK Music.

"It's simple - we're just very good at it. It's not any more complicated than that," he says.

"I think it's one of the most exciting times in British music right now that it's been for a very long time. The challenge we've got is I'm not sure that we in the United Kingdom actually give the kind of applause I think our artists deserve."

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