Why U.K. pop stars don’t hit it big in Canada,

Big in Lon­don, but rel­a­tively un­known here, can Jess Glynne, this year’s big im­port from the U.K., break into North Amer­ica?


Jess Glynne, the 25-year-old North Lon­don dance/soul vo­cal­ist, was in Toronto at the wild, Wild West-themed Rock ’N Horse Saloon in Septem­ber when she found out her de­but al­bum had made it in Amer­ica. I Cry When I Laugh cracked the Top 25 on the U.S. Bill­board charts.

“It lit­er­ally charted at 25,” she says, awestruck. “I mean how over­whelm­ing is that? It’s only just start­ing in Amer­ica and the fact that it’s start­ing there is in­sane. That for me is a mas­sive dream.” But the next week it plum­meted to 95. In her na­tive U.K., Glynne has had five No.1hits, be­gin­ning with belt­ing the hook out of Clean Ban­dit’s pi­ano-driven dance jam “Rather Be,” a chart-top­per in 17 coun­tries.

Her team is work­ing it: Hip corners in down­town Toronto fea­ture her on bill­boards for skate-in­flu­enced cloth­ing line Bench, and Coke com­mer­cials on YouTube are scored with the pound­ing beat of her sin­gle “Hold My Hand.”

But North Amer­i­can suc­cess is no sure thing. For ev­ery Ed Sheeran or Adele, there is an Olly Murs or an Ella Hen­der­son who are em­braced as warmly here as bangers and mash.

Glynne be­lieves her soul-fu­elled de­liv­ery puts her more in the com­pany of Adele, Sam Smith and her idol, Amy Wine­house, than re­al­ity show win­ners and tabloid tar­gets.

“Ev­ery­thing I cre­ate is inspired by soul, and Amer­ica is full of it,” she says. “Hip hop, soul and R&B is what has inspired this whole al­bum. Com­ing over here I feel like peo­ple re­late to it so well be­cause it’s got that depth.”

She calls the re­sponse to her shows “in­sane” with ra­bid fans who know her mu­sic back­ward and for­ward. But her Toronto show on Sept. 21was at Ade­laide Hall, a venue with a ca­pac­ity of 680. Com­pare that to her shows in Lon­don, where she added a sec­ond date at the 5,000-per­son-ca­pac­ity O2 Brix­ton Academy af­ter the first sold out.

DJ Heidi, a Wind­sor-raised MC who has hosted a monthly house and trance ra­dio show on the BBC for seven years, says there is a cul­ture clash be­tween the kind of mu­sic that is cel­e­brated in Canada ver­sus the U.K.

“For Cana­di­ans, at least grow­ing up for me, it was very band based,” she says, cit­ing Ar­cade Fire as a per­sonal favourite. “They like rock mu­sic or they like quite ex­per­i­men­tal stuff.”

In con­trast, the Brits have an ap­petite for pop that North Amer­i­cans have tra­di­tion­ally found trea­cly sweet. “The ma­jor­ity are into mega mega mega main­stream things that are on re­peat on the ra­dio 24/7,” she says. “It’s like sub­lim­i­nal advertising. You don’t even re­al­ize you’re lis­ten­ing to it but you are.”

For Glynne, her own mis­sion state­ment is wo­ven into the name of her North Amer­i­can tour, Ain’t Got Far to Go, named for a song on I Cry When I Laugh.

“That whole song for me is about achiev­ing some­thing that isn’t too far from my grasp,” she says. And if she doesn’t take Amer­ica like Sam Smith with cop­per curls? She’ll al­ways have those sold-out 5,000-per­son-ca­pac­ity U.K. shows to fall back on.


Not only is Jess Glynne’s sound heard in YouTube com­mer­cials for Coke, she’s fea­tured promi­nently on down­town Toronto bill­boards for the skate-in­flu­enced cloth­ing line Bench.

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