Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

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Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2019-04-03, 21:00

This is a thought I just had. Obviously, many music acts choose to sing in English to increase their consumer base. But are groups that do this popular at all in their homelands, or are they all catering solely to the anglophone population?

I've noticed online that its shockingly easy to find non-British Europeans that speak English fluently. Honestly, I find it kinda creepy, even if it is awfully convenient for me (minus the fact that, like all Americans, I struggle to learn languages because I've literally never once in my entire life found myself in a situation where only knowing English was a detriment to me). Yeah, I've met Hispanics, but I don't recall ever finding one that didn't know at least some English. Besides, I chose to study German rather than Spanish, so that doesn't help me much personally.

Back on topic, are these groups actually popular in their homelands? How common is it actually for non-British Europeans to know English? Surely not everyone knows English. I know Americans often don't like music in foreign languages, because it makes them feel like they're missing part of the song. And no, even Rammstein isn't universally known here. Yeah, if you ask around randomly you'll occasionally find someone that at least recognizes their name, but that's not too common. Either way, they're the only non-English act that anyone here would recognize.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby linguoboy » 2019-04-03, 21:34

xBlackHeartx wrote:This is a thought I just had. Obviously, many music acts choose to sing in English to increase their consumer base. But are groups that do this popular at all in their homelands, or are they all catering solely to the anglophone population?

Short answer: no. There are plenty of examples of successful bands performing in English who were at least as popular at home as they were abroad--ABBA, Nightwish, Ace of Base, HIM, Modern Talking, etc.

If you want recent examples, the current #1 single on the Swedish pop charts is "Too Late for Love" by John Lundvik. (Although he was born in London, he was adopted by a Swedish couple and has lived in Sweden since he was six.) The most popular single in Denmark last year (nine weeks at #1) was "Love Someone" by Lukas Graham, a Danish band that performs in English.

I'm not sure exactly who you have in mind when you speak of the "anglophone population". As you say, English is widely known throughout Europe, so a band performing in English can be a huge success without ever having a song make it into the pop charts of the Anglosphere. For instance, French singer Imany's 2015 release "Don't Be So Shy" was #1 not only in France but also in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Slovenia. But Canada was the only majority anglophone country where it charted and there it barely broke the top 100.

You don't need a lot of English to understand a pop song, and you don't need any English at all to enjoy a pop song in English.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby kevin » 2019-04-04, 15:00

I would in fact say that most popular bands sing in English rather than the local language.

And no, of course most people don't really understand what the bands are singing unless they specifically look it up. But who needs to understand the lyrics when the music is good? Honestly, often it could be considered better not to understand the lyrics...

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby linguoboy » 2019-04-04, 15:31

kevin wrote:But who needs to understand the lyrics when the music is good? Honestly, often it could be considered better not to understand the lyrics...

When I lived in Freiburg, I often found it easier to listen to the French pop stations for just that reason.

kevin wrote:I would in fact say that most popular bands sing in English rather than the local language.

I assume you mean in Germany? Honestly, I'm not finding that borne out either in current charts or in lists of overall sales.

In any case, the situation varies considerably by country. I had to go back three years to find a #1 hit on the Spanish charts that was primarily in English ("Cheap Thrills" by Sia). This shouldn't be a surprise, though, as Spanish has half a billion speakers worldwide and can draw on a huge global pool of talent when it comes to hitmaking. It's quite different even in neighbouring Portugal, despite the size of the Brazilian market.

Conversely, Italian has far fewer speakers overall and no significant overseas markets, yet the last number one song entirely in English there was "God's Plan" by Drake in March of last year. Japan has an extremely robust local music industry and I can't find any correlation between popularity of a Japanese band and whether they sing in Japanese or English.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby Johanna » 2019-04-04, 16:03

linguoboy wrote:If you want recent examples, the current #1 single on the Swedish pop charts is "Too Late for Love" by John Lundvik. (Although he was born in London, he was adopted by a Swedish couple and has lived in Sweden since he was six.)

Any song that wins Melodifestivalen is bound to end up at #1, and most of the quality stuff in that competition is in English for strategic reasons (easier to win the Eurovision Song contest in that language), so the charts aren't a very good indicator this time of the year.

But yeah, I'd say that it's pretty much 50/50 when it comes to what language Swedish pop artists sing in and they are about equally likely to do well domestically. If they make it in the Anglosphere, they they are more or less guaranteed to do even better at home.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby kevin » 2019-04-04, 16:19

linguoboy wrote:I assume you mean in Germany? Honestly, I'm not finding that borne out either in current charts or in lists of overall sales.

There are a few successful German singers in the list, especially at the top (definitely didn't expect Rolf Zuckowski there!), but if you sum up the whole list, I count 15 primarily German language artists, 34 for English and 3 that don't clearly fit in either group.

But I must admit that the original question was about bands from non-English-speaking countries and I answered a different question. Sorry if that caused the confusion.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby linguoboy » 2019-04-04, 16:35

kevin wrote:
linguoboy wrote:I assume you mean in Germany? Honestly, I'm not finding that borne out either in current charts or in lists of overall sales.

There are a few successful German singers in the list, especially at the top (definitely didn't expect Rolf Zuckowski there!), but if you sum up the whole list, I count 15 primarily German language artists, 34 for English and 3 that don't clearly fit in either group.

But I must admit that the original question was about bands from non-English-speaking countries and I answered a different question. Sorry if that caused the confusion.

Yeah, I think we all recognise that, overall, bands from Anglophone countries are more popular in Germany than German-language artists. But when it comes to the latter, those who sing in German do better in German-speaking countries than those who sing primarily in English. There are a few exceptions who also succeeded in the Anglosphere (e.g. Scorpions, Alphaville) but not many.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby md0 » 2019-04-04, 21:07

I think that in Greek and Cypriot Greek bands that sing in English are limited to niche genres (hard rock, metal, punk). I don't know how popular they are outside the local scene even though they sing in English.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby Prowler » 2019-04-04, 22:25

It's really hard to find good german music. Most of the most well-known German artists I've found have a very sterile and generic sound and lyrics. It seems like all of the good German bands I know sing in English. Like all of those 80s thrash bands such as Sodom, Tankard, Kreator and Destruction. Or the power metal band Blind Guardian. Every single one of them sings in English. If they sang in German instead they'd probably be unknown to most metalheads outside of Germany and German speaking countries in general.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2019-04-05, 2:32

Prowler wrote:It's really hard to find good german music. Most of the most well-known German artists I've found have a very sterile and generic sound and lyrics. It seems like all of the good German bands I know sing in English. Like all of those 80s thrash bands such as Sodom, Tankard, Kreator and Destruction. Or the power metal band Blind Guardian. Every single one of them sings in English. If they sang in German instead they'd probably be unknown to most metalheads outside of Germany and German speaking countries in general.


I always thought Faun has good music (though most of their songs are in various different languages, but a few years ago I think they decided to just stick with their native German). There's also Rammstein. I think Eisbrecher and Megaherz sound fine too. Oh, and there's Finsterforst. Frankly the only German-speaking group I know of that I don't care for is Stahlmann. They seem to be more popular with people who have no clue what they're saying, and its not hard to see why. Though the same is true of Rammstein it seems. It seems like virtually no one knows what they even sing about. I recall years and years ago while I was playing World of Warcraft that I stumbled upon a bunch of Rammstein fans in the chat, but none of them actually knew German. They were all in shock and disbelief as I told them what each of their songs are about (this was sometime after Rosenrot was released, to give you an idea how long ago this was). More recently, I believe a lot of fans of Rammstein were shocked by Lindemann's lyrics. Somehow, few people had any idea that he said shocking things at all, though you THINK they could guess that from their live shows and music videos. And of course, its not that hard to find translations. I was looking up translations myself before I knew enough German to understand them without looking in a dictionary. But with what the internet is today, there's probably people passing around false translations to make people think that Rammstein is something that they're not. It wasn't until after their Deutschland video was released that I found out that most of their fans are alt-righters, which I'm still surprised by.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby TeneReef » 2019-04-07, 13:40

Most Eurodance artists (singing in English) were popular all around Europe back in the 1990ies.
Nowadays, it is more difficult to get that kind of ''Euro''globalization. (Eurolization?)

More often than not, a modern Swedish song sung in English will need to break into
US charts before being recognized all around Europe.


current Swedish chart:
https://www.sverigetopplistan.se/

Looking at this chart, most songs in English by Swedish artists have not been released outside Sweden, so other Europeans don't know them.


For example, Malou will need to hit the US charts in order to get to European charts:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM9OMLND7xg
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2019-04-08, 13:07

The only 'foreign' music that ever charts here comes out of south and central America. The only European act anyone will recognize here is Rammstein, and even that's rare. But you simply won't find ANY other group that ANYONE will have heard of, unless you somehow manage to stumble upon an immigrant from Europe of course, but I haven't seen too many of those honestly. I've only ever met three, and two of those were foreign language teachers. The third was some Welsh guy who used to work at the local Walmart. Everyone knew about because of his distinctive accent. Also, he's the only person I've ever heard with a Welsh accent, its pretty much unheard of here (as I said, foreign media here is virtually non-existnent, the last British film we had here was Deathly Hallows to give you an idea, and Pan's Labyrinth was the last non-English film we had here, and that was the first one we had in decades!).

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-04-08, 14:04

All I'm going to say on this topic is that there is a pan-European song contest that takes place every single year where most of the songs are in English.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby linguoboy » 2019-04-08, 14:41

xBlackHeartx wrote:The only 'foreign' music that ever charts here comes out of south and central America. The only European act anyone will recognize here is Rammstein, and even that's rare. But you simply won't find ANY other group that ANYONE will have heard of, unless you somehow manage to stumble upon an immigrant from Europe of course, but I haven't seen too many of those honestly. I've only ever met three, and two of those were foreign language teachers. The third was some Welsh guy who used to work at the local Walmart. Everyone knew about because of his distinctive accent. Also, he's the only person I've ever heard with a Welsh accent, its pretty much unheard of here (as I said, foreign media here is virtually non-existnent, the last British film we had here was Deathly Hallows to give you an idea, and Pan's Labyrinth was the last non-English film we had here, and that was the first one we had in decades!).

It's unclear to me what you mean by "here" in this post. At first it sounds like you're talking about the USA as a whole (since you mention "charts", which are mostly national) but then your focus seems to narrow to whatever small town you're living in.

Also, by "European act" you appear to mean "European act performing in a language other than English". I'd be very surprised if no one where you live had ever heard of Ed Sheeran or Dua Lipa.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby Johanna » 2019-04-09, 11:09

xBlackHeartx wrote:The only 'foreign' music that ever charts here comes out of south and central America. The only European act anyone will recognize here is Rammstein, and even that's rare. But you simply won't find ANY other group that ANYONE will have heard of, unless you somehow manage to stumble upon an immigrant from Europe of course, but I haven't seen too many of those honestly.

Really, no one where you live has ever heard of this small little band from Liverpool* called The Beatles? Or of The Rolling Stones? What about U2, Queen or David Bowie? Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Elton John, The Police (or Sting as a solo artist), Phil Collins (or his band Genesis), Eurythmics, George Michael (solo or part of Wham!), Sex Pistols, The Clash... Or from a country outside the Anglosphere, ABBA? And they've never ever heard the song The Final Countdown?

The Beatles is the act with the most number ones on the main American chart for cryin' out loud! And anyone who's ever watched an episode of CSI or its spinoff shows has heard The Who. What else... Oh, the band who did that song I mentioned is Swedish and called Europe :twisted:

If we go modern, what about Ed Sheeran, Adele, and One Direction?

* For those who don't know, Liverpool is a major city in England, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Which is situated in Europe.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2019-04-09, 11:54

You're mentioning stuff that's all from decades ago. America isn't exactly the same place it was back in the 60s. Back then we DID get foreign media, such as various British comedy shows, and of course the Godzilla films. And then you have the Beatles and who knows who else from back then (that was long before my time).

As for the more recent things you mentioned, I've only ever heard of this 'Ed Sheeran' before, I have no clue who those others are. And honestly, I don't even know who Ed Sheeran is, I've just seen the name in a few places online.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby Johanna » 2019-04-09, 12:36

You said that no one has heard of any European act, so bands from decades ago still count, especially when quite a lot of their songs are still played to this day. Sure, not on all radio stations, but they are used a lot in movies and movie trailers if nothing else. ABBA has even had two pretty popular Hollywood movies based around their songs, one in 2008 and the sequel in 2018, movies that were musicals rather than biopics.

About the new stuff, you probably have heard their songs but have no idea who sing them, Adele's had four number ones on Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010's, which is just one behind Taylor Swift. The latest one caused a pretty popular meme even.

Rolling in the Deep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYEDA3JcQqw
Someone Like You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQl3WQQoQ0
Set Fire to the Rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2giXO6eyuI
Hello: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQHsXMglC9A

Ed Sheeran has had a couple of number ones, though one also came in a version that's a duet with Beyoncé, so not sure if that counts.

Shape of You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGwWNGJdvx8
Perfect: solo version -- duet version

One Direction hasn't had a number one single in the US, but they have had four number one albums. And their songs have charted high, reaching number two and three.

Best Song Ever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XALIOohc0g
Live While We're Young: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbPED9bisSc
Drag Me Down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwgf3wmiA04

Edit and more edits: typos.
Last edited by Johanna on 2019-04-14, 9:09, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2019-04-09, 12:39

I haven't listened to the radio in years. I just look up music videos on youtube, and there I've only been looking up foreign stuff for 10 years now.

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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby linguoboy » 2019-04-09, 14:55

Ed Sheeran has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide. Adele has sold over 100 million, a third of that from her second album, which was the best-selling album in the world in both 2011 and 2012. The fact that you don't know who either of them is makes you a pretty poor judge of what "anyone will recognize" when it comes to pop music.
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Re: Are European bands that sing in English actually popular at all in Europe?

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-04-10, 1:38

xBlackHeartx wrote:You're mentioning stuff that's all from decades ago. America isn't exactly the same place it was back in the 60s. Back then we DID get foreign media, such as various British comedy shows

European stuff is fairly popular at least in the part of the US I'm from among certain groups of immigrants. I'm not white, so I'm not really sure to what extent this differs across ethnicity lines (e.g. do white people here really never watch British comedies because they're among the few TV programs that have been or at least were accessible to everyone with access to a TV here for years), but I know for example that a lot of European immigrants watch British media and a lot of people from Indian immigrant families read Tintin and/or Asterix or at least know who they are, as do probably most people here who have ever taken French in school.
I have no clue who those others are.

You've never heard of Adele or One Direction? :o I'm sorry, but I'm having difficulty imagining how that's even possible in the US today. There's no way you can live under a rock deeper than the one I live under, but even I've heard of them.
I haven't listened to the radio in years. I just look up music videos on youtube, and there I've only been looking up foreign stuff for 10 years now.

I haven't (knowingly or willingly) listened to the radio pretty much ever. I've almost exclusively listened to foreign stuff my whole life.


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