October 08, 2006

Almost famous


By Danica Lo

October 8, 2006 -- IF you can make it here, you'll make it anywhere - unless you're from over there, like Europe or China.

Just because a band hits big in their home country, they've got no guarantee American audiences will ever want to hear them croon their latest single. While big-time American artists are usually well-received abroad, their fame seems to be rolling down a one-way street - that stops at the border.

Because for every artist that's become a major star in the rest of the world before finding success on our shores - Sean Paul, Kelis, Shakira and the Spice Girls - there are countless musical casualties by the wayside. Just think of British superstars like soul crooner Robbie Williams and boy band Westlife, both of whom topped charts across the pond, but barely leaked into pop-culture consciousness here.

While there's no secret formula to getting made in America, here are five acts poised to take a shot in the next few months - and despite the long odds, they have a damn good chance at sticking.


If you came of rock consciousness in the '80s or '90s, it's likely this Tuesday's release - "Hide From the Sun," the first big American album from Finland's The Rasmus - will knock your socks off with its play-to-the-masses anthems and just-polished-enough power-rock refrains. The band has already attained superstar status in Europe and Latin America with six albums under its belt. The quartet's last, "Dead Letters," sold nearly 2 million copies - its first single, "In the Shadows," became the No.1 most-played video on MTV Europe.

Download: Wistful breakup song of the year "Sail Away" or "Immortal," the album's darkest, most visceral track


Like Gwen Stefani, but far more street and oh-so-London in her chav-lite doorknocker earrings, Lily Allen burst onto the scene this summer when her first album, "Alright, Still," debuted at No.2 on the U.K. charts. There's nothing generic about Allen's twisted lyrics (delivered in an innocent sing-song falsetto) set to reggae beats. Though her album isn't set to drop till February, Allen's generated enough buzz to sell out her first New York show, Tuesday night at Hiro Ballroom.

Download: "LDN," a snarky sing-along guide to London, or ode to reality, and "Everything's Just Wonderful" wherein Allen rhymes "Kate Moss" with "weight loss"


Blue was one of the most successful U.K. boy bands of the '90s, selling more than 12 million albums and 5 million singles in Europe and Asia. Never heard of them? It's not too late for a sampling - Lee Ryan, just 23, the now-defunct group's lead singer and songwriter, who previously collaborated with the likes of Elton John and Stevie Wonder, lands in the United States next week to cut an American solo debut slated for release sometime next year. We're betting on success - I mean, not only is Ryan really, really cute, but he's got style and soul - like a boy Joss Stone.

Download: The video for "How Do I?" at officialleeryan.com - a real tear jerker


Punk-pop trio the Living End have enlisted star producer Nick Launay (INXS, Gang of Four, Midnight Oil, Silverchair) to produce "State of Emergency," the band's latest full-length release, which debuted at No.1 and is about to go platinum in their native Australia. The band's eponymous debut album has gone quintuple platinum since its 1999 release, and its "Second Solution/Prisoner of Society" EP is the highest-selling Australian single of the past decade.

Download: Wildly catchy Generation-Next anthem "Wake Up"


Credited for bringing hip-hop culture to Asia, Chen designs streetwear, owns the biggest youth clothing store in Hong Kong and has a worldwide cult of clothes freaks who gobble up every garment he makes for Nike, Levis and Lacoste. Pepsi cans all over Asia have his face on them.

Rapping in Chinese, he's released 11 full-length albums and won 23 music awards, including MTV Asia's 2004 "Best Male Artist of the Year." Oh, and in the last year he managed to star in his first English feature film, Friday's "The Grudge 2," opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar and Amber Tamblyn.

Go See: "The Grudge 2"