Whether or not the US is in the midst of a boyband infatuation (the media would lead you to believe this), it’s interesting that the charge is lead exclusively by UK acts One Direction and The Wanted. They aren’t the first UK pop vocal groups to make a run at the top of the US charts, but in the past many of those efforts have enjoyed some initial success before fizzling out. Here are three of the more notable examples:
Westlife “Swear It Again”
Westlife really should have been bigger in the US than they ended up being. They hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2000 with “Swear It Again”, coming on the heels of Backstreet Boys’ and ‘NSync’s success. After that, they recorded a duet (“Against All Odds”) with Mariah Carey that helped her achieve one of her biggest hits in the UK up to that point. However, after “Swear It Again” peaked at number 20 and ended 2000 as the 75th biggest song of the year, they…disappeared. At least in the US they did: plans for their second album Coast to Coast being released in America were scrapped, and their duet with Mariah Carey was released pretty much everywhere except the US. Given the difficulty of an already-established group internationally to break the US market, it isn’t hard to imagine that the group decided to capitalize on their superstar status elsewhere.
Take That “Back For Good”
If Westlife seemed like a no-brainer to make it in America, the same might not have been said for Take That, who were a little older than the typical US boy band by the time they broke through in 1996 with “Back For Good.” In fact, they broke through in a big way, climbing all the way to number seven on the Hot 100. Unfortunately, the band started falling apart as “Good” climbed the chart, beginning with the ouster of Robbie Williams due to stress caused by his drug use and partying. I can only find a trace of one other US release (“How Deep is Your Love”) that never charted, and their sole album Nobody Else peaked at number 69 on the Billboard 200 album chart. When they reformed in 2005, it made sense that they only focused on markets where they had already been established, leaving America on the sidelines as they pursued a successful and lucrative comeback, even luring Williams back into the fold in 2010.
S Club 7 “Never Had a Dream Come True”
It seems strange to say that S Club 7 was the biggest of the three in the United States. Between two albums charting on the Billboard 200 chart and their TV show airing on Fox Family, they were not a flash in the pan, even if their fans were mostly kids. In 2001, S Club 7 released their 2000 UK charity single “Never Had a Dream Come True” in the US, becoming their biggest chart success. “Dream” reached number 10 on the Hot 100 and number two on the US singles sales chart. The band (renamed S Club after Paul Cattermole left the fold) was not able to capitalize on that success despite releasing a US-specific compilation in 2002 entitled Don’t Stop Movin’, and they broke up the following year. Even though there have been several rounds of rumors over the past few years that a reunion was inevitable, S Club has not fully reformed.