Michael Stephen Hahn analyses the choice of British musicians at the Olympics and the Games’ impact on their careers
Evidently, performing at both of the ceremonies during the Olympics has been hugely influential on Emeli Sandé’s popularity, with sales figures rising dramatically after performing at the opening and closing ceremonies. Sandé’s song Read All About It (Pt. III) – a continuation of Professor Green’s song which featured Emeli – originally placed at 49 in the charts reached number 3 upon re-release, after the Olympics. Abide With Me and My Kind Of Love have both also seen dramatic rises in sales also, and Sandé’s debut album Our Version of Events recently became the biggest selling album of 2012 overtaking Adele’s 21 which itself spent 21 weeks at number 1. She even propelled Imagine by John Lennon, which she covered at the ceremonies, back into the charts at number 18.
But was the representation of Britain through Olympic music choices fair or even? Whilst many iconic artists, such as The Beatles, Queen, and Oasis were paid tribute to or performed in some way, many others were not. Sirs Elton John and Tom Jones were two artists that featured prominently at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and yet were not showcased at all during the Olympics. Having sold over 250 million records and with six Grammy Awards and four Brit Awards amidst a host of other musical achievements, Elton John is surely one of the most appreciated British artists in history. Tom Jones is similarly recognised, commonly regarded as one of the most famous British singers of all time. One may have also wondered why Sting – winner of 16 Grammy awards – and Rod Stewart – who would have surely made the perfect Pink Floyd tribute act – were not included in the celebrations, to name but two examples.
It is not just the Scottish star than has benefited from performing during the Olympic Games – newer additions to the music world such as Ed Sheeran, Jessie J and former X-Factor contestants One Direction benefited similarly to Sandé, seeing sales figures increase significantly following performances at the closing ceremony. In fact, as of Sunday 19 August, the Sunday after the Olympics ended, 57 of the top 200 albums and 66 of the top 200 singles belonged to artists who had performed during one of the ceremonies. Some of the more classic British musicians also benefited from participated in the ceremonies. Elbow’s One Day Like This was released in 2008 and had previously peaked at number 35 in the charts, but two weeks following the closing ceremony reached a new high of number 4. Despite not actually performing live, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, which was featured during a video montage during the closing ceremony, has also re-entered the charts at number 6, having originally been released in 1985. Another main benefactor of the Olympic ceremonies is George Michael who played arguably his most iconic song, Freedom! ’90, but followed this by his relatively unknown new single White Light – the result of which is his new single entering the charts at number 15.
So, if iconic British artists were excluded from the events, it is questionable as to whether newcomers such as Emeli Sandé deserved to feature so prominently in the ceremonies. The closing ceremony was entitled A Symphony of British Music – and so surely this should have encapsulated all of the greatest and most appreciated British artists of all time. The Olympic Games is an event which is supposed to entertain and enthral the entire world, not merely the host nation, and iconic stars such as Elton John or Sting, or even newer artists such as Adele or Coldplay, who are well known world-wide and would have catered to the diverse and international audience far better than relatively unknown singers.
On the other hand, whilst they have been amazing additions to the music industry, iconic figures such as Tom Jones and Elton John already have financial success guaranteed with any new release due to their prolific status, whilst more modern artists such as Emeli Sandé are just starting out and so the benefits of performing at the Olympic Games could make a real impact on their careers. These younger singers, with the exception of Adele are not particularly well-known abroad, and the ceremonies provide a unique opportunity to be heard by and showcased to 750 million viewers throughout the world.
Whilst these missing iconic stars of British music would have made nice additions to the event, priority must be given to those whose careers could genuinely be significantly changed by the opportunity. Breaking into the US music scene, as well as other foreign charts, is an extremely difficult task for young British artists nowadays, and so any opportunity and help they can be given is extremely useful and worthwhile.
Michael Stephen Hahn
Image by NRK P3