Grammys 2011: Why can't Lady Antebellum find success in the UK?

The Stateside country behemoths were The King's Speech of last night's Grammys, winning six awards. But despite being No 1 across the world, their music barely bothers the British charts

Country-pop trio Lady Antebellum were The King's Speech of last night's Grammys, winning six awards (compared to Firth and Co's seven at the Batfas), including best country album, best country song, song of the year and record of the year, a sweep so clean the other Lady-in-waiting, Gaga, could only pick up the Nashville band's scraps.

Of course, the difference between Lady Antebellum and The King's Speech is that, whereas the latter is doing big business in the States and looks set to repeat its Bafta glory at the Oscars next month, Lady Antebellum have been unable to translate their US success (including multiple weeks at No 1 and multi-million-selling singles and albums) over here. Yes, they had a No 21 single in the UK with Need You Now, and their album, also called Need You Now, reached the top 10 and went gold, but that hardly matches their achievements in America – and Canada, Australia and New Zealand – where the album peaked at pole position. And they're nowhere to be seen on the list of nominees for tomorrow night's Brit awards, conspicuous by their absence from the international breakthrough or international group categories.

But then, 'twas ever thus, right? Taylor Swift is another Stateside country-pop behemoth (not literally, she's actually quite svelte) who enjoys nothing-to-write-home-about sales in Britain, and "hat acts" such as Kenny Chesney or Tim McGraw, while enormous in America, mean bugger all here. Occasionally, an Achy Breaky Heart-style novelty will convince us Brits to briefly embrace all things redneck and join line-dancing clubs, but on the whole we are as impervious to country's charms as the US is to, say, fey'n'flouncy synth-pop – although La Roux won a gong at the Grammys last night, and the Human League and Soft Cell were massive in the US in the early-80s, so maybe it's just us who are not receptive to America's "indigenous" culture.

Maybe we're threatened by music that speaks so clearly to their national condition. Perhaps we don't have the right demographic – Lady Antebellum themselves have joked about the soccer moms and "grizzly lumberjacks" in their audience. It could be that Lady Antebellum's music makes most sense in vast, open spaces – hence its success in Australia and New Zealand. Or it might just be that we don't have much of an appetite for countrified MOR that sounds like anodyne out-takes from Fleetwood Mac's Rumours – hence the current struggle by the Pierces to make it big in Blighty.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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