Welcome to our new home – Spotlight
September 8, 2021
Since Sony’s formation way back in 1929 under the name of American Record Corporation, the label has been home to some of the most innovative and influential music stars of all-time. Under its Spotlight arm, the iconic label celebrates their incredible roster of artists that continue to push the music scene forward.
Thanks to that amazing catalogue, the Spotlight website, newsletter and newly rebranded social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are treasure troves of inspiration and discovery. Here, we take a look at some of Sony’s most legendary acts and their enduring influence.
George Michael – Wham! star and beloved, influential songwriter
If George Michael had never gone solo, his career with Wham! Would have been full of enough major milestones for him to be considered one of British music’s big successes. But after being a part of one of the most commercially successful pop groups of the ‘80s, Michael went it alone and carved himself a place as a true legend. His 1984 single ‘Careless Whisper’ became an instant classic and boasts one of the most iconic sax solos in modern music, while 1990’s ‘Freedom 90’ is still inspiring young artists today, most recently with Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’. Thanks to Michael’s knack for writing powerful and perfect pop songs, between 1984 and 2004, he was the most played artist on British radio – an astonishing achievement that reflects how beloved his work really is.
Whitney Houston – Billboard record-breaker and one of the greatest singers of all-time
When a Whitney song comes on, you know about it – that voice is unmistakable. No wonder, then, she’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, with over 200million records sold across the world. As one of the world’s most influential singers, whenever Houston put out a new release, it was guaranteed to fly up the charts – a fact that’s highlighted by her seven consecutive Number Ones on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1985 to 1988. She’s the only artist so far to have achieved such a streak – and it’ll take a lot of talent for anyone to best her.
The Clash – The punks that ripped up the rulebook
The great debate around exactly who started punk rock – the US or the UK – and which band ignited it all will likely never die but, regardless of your opinion, one thing that can’t be disputed is The Clash’s influence on the genre. Thanks to the group’s boundary-free approach, punk became more than just anarchy played out over three chords. The London quartet infused it with influences from outside the scene, like reggae, dub, funk and ska, reflecting the multiculturalism of their surroundings and broadening the horizons of their listeners. Decades later, their songs are still relied on for adding deeper meaning to other cultural works, like “Should I Stay Or Should I Go’’s impactful part in season one of Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things.
Elvis – The original King of rock’n’roll and true cultural icon
Elvis is known as the King of rock’n’roll for a reason – because there are few who have had quite the impact and influence on popular culture that he has. He set the bar for artists who skip from genre to genre, moving through pop, rock, country, gospel and more. While it might be common for pop stars to dabble in acting now, Presley also was an early adopter there too, appearing in 33 movies in his career.
Thanks to the current pandemic, broadcasting a show around the world is part of artists’ everyday lives now, but Elvis’ ‘Aloha From Hawaii’ was the first solo artist’s gig to be beamed across the globe. None of that even takes into consideration his strong iconography – the quiff, the turned up leather jacket collar – which will forever be associated with one of the greatest stars the world has known.
Beyonce – Member of one of the best-selling girl groups of all time who collects Grammys for fun
There are few currently reigning stars more iconic than Beyoncé, whether you’re looking back at her time as a member of Destiny’s Child or at her flawless solo output in the years since. Sometimes great artists aren’t recognised by music institutions for their talent, but that’s certainly not the case for Bey. When she collected four awards at the 2021 Grammys, she cemented her place in the history books, becoming the female artist with the most golden gramophone trophies awarded to her with a total of 28.
The record-breaking doesn’t stop there though – her tally also meant that she’s now the performer (male or female) with the most Grammys, and tied with Quincy Jones for most Grammys ever. It seems like a safe bet that it won’t take her much longer to surpass the infamous record producer to make the record purely her own.
George Ezra – The folk-inspired singer-songwriter next in line to British pop’s throne
Over the last eight years, George Ezra has quietly been building his ascension to British pop’s upper echelons. Now, he’s in a position where he could overtake its throne, thanks to his compelling take on folk and the relatable stories in his songs. He has the stats to convince anyone he’s worthy of the crown too – his debut album ‘Wanted On Voyage’ was the third best-selling record in the UK in 2014, while he’s a mainstay in the peaks of the singles charts.
Mark Ronson – Super-producer defining modern pop
If there’s one person who’s defined our last two decades of pop music from behind the mixing desk, it’s Mark Ronson. The producer’s initial releases – 2003 debut album ‘Here Comes The Fuzz’ and 2006 covers record ‘Version’ – sparked a rise in brass-laced pop songs, while his work since has seen him link up with a host of icons, from Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga, to Miley Cyrus and Queens Of The Stone Age, helping shape the sounds of the charts and beyond with his Midas touch. That’s not to mention the juggernaut that was ‘Uptown Funk’, which not only owned 2014 but cemented its place as one of the Top 10 selling singles of the last decade.
Calvin Harris – Scottish DJ and producer with a chart record of champions
When Calvin Harris emerged with ‘I Created Disco’ in 2007, the world should have known big things were on the horizon for him. Yet the type of success he’s scored in the intervening years is likely beyond what even he could have imagined for himself. Not only has Harris become a go-to collaborator for the world’s biggest acts (with collabs with Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, Frank Ocean and more all under his belt), he’s also beaten one of Michael Jackson’s chart records. In 2012, his third album ’18 Months’ scored eight Top 10 singles in the UK, giving him the title for most Top 10 songs from one studio album.
Eurythmics – New wave icons of invention
One of Britain’s most inventive bands, Eurythmics – aka Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart – have never been ones to stay in their lane. Although they’re generally associated with the sounds of synth-pop, across their back catalogue they take that genre into surprising new directions that are bold and brilliant. Even their most commercial hits – including the iconic ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ – aren’t typical pop smashes, highlighting the power of their originality. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the duo were honoured with the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 1999 and inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
Sade – One of modern soul’s most influential voices
The soul singer’s distinctive, husky voice and her insights into love and life have secured her legions of fans throughout Sade’s career. Among them are musicians from across all genres, with megastars like Missy Elliott, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Aaliyah, King Princess, Jessie Ware, and heavy metal star Greg Puciato all talk highly about Sade’s impact and influence on their own work.
Leona Lewis – Unstoppable singer with the X factor
In the 15 years since she won The X factor, Leona Lewis has made dominating the charts look effortless. First, her winner’s single – a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘A Moment Like This’ – shifted a phenomenal 50,000 downloads in 30 minutes. Then, one year later, came the era of ‘Bleeding Love’, where the classic pop song took over the airwaves and Number One spot not just in the UK, but around the world. In fact, it became only the second song in history to top the charts in 35 countries, following in the footsteps of Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’.
Little Mix – Britain’s most successful chart queens
Since winning The X factor in 2012, Little Mix have made an indelible mark on modern British pop. In 2021, the former four-piece made history when their collaboration with Galantis and David Guetta, ‘Heartbreak Anthem’, scored another week in the Top 10 of the Official UK Singles Chart. That saw them become the only girl group to have at least one track in the Top 10 for 100 weeks – quite a feat, particularly when you consider the calibre of girl groups that have come before them.
Dolly Parton – Country music Hall Of Famer setting the bar for decades-long success
When it comes to decades-long careers, Dolly Parton’s is about as impressive as they come. Since entering the spotlight in 1956, the Tennessee legend has tried her hand at everything – and come up trumps every time. She’s penned classic songs like Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and her own ‘Jolene’, the latter of which has been covered by stars from a range of genres. She’s put in star turns as an actor in films like 9 To 5 and Steel Magnolias. She’s dominated Netflix with the eight-part series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings and her very own Christmas special Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square, for which she wrote every song featured in the film. Despite being in the business for over 60 years, she’s still a favourite of young music fans, as shown by her 2014 Glastonbury performance, which pulled in a 180,000-strong crowd.
Jimi Hendrix – Virtuosic guitarist who changed rock music
It’s likely that modern rock would be completely different if it hadn’t been for Jimi Hendrix, who only got to release three albums in his career, but certainly made them count. The guitarist is regarded as one of the instrument’s biggest pioneers, pushing the boundaries of what six strings, an amplifier and effects pedals could do, while his ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ performance at Woodstock was a legendary example of the showmanship rock’n’roll thrives on.
John Legend – The first Black man to win an EGOT
Getting an EGOT – an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony – is no easy task. The “grand slam” of showbiz has, at present, only been achieved by 16 people ever, and John Legend is one of that elite club. In 2018, he became the first Black man to collect the haul, securing his final step with an Emmy for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Along the way, he also won an Oscar for Selma soundtrack contribution ‘Glory’ and a Tony for Best Revival of a Play with Jitney, not to mention the impressive 12 Grammys he’s received since 2006 – the most any EGOT winner can call their own.
Alicia Keys – Widely respected star crowned the top R&B artist of the 2000s
From a young age, it was clear that Alicia Keys had been blessed with talent but her career since she signed her first record deal at 15 has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the last 25 years, she’s sold 90 million records around the globe –ushering her into the best-selling artists of all-time club – recorded a Bond theme in ‘Another Way To Die’, smashed charts with her own songs (‘Fallin’’, ‘No One’) and iconic collabs (‘Empire State Of Mind’ with Jay-Z, ‘My Boo’ with Usher), and crafted a legacy as the modern queen of R&B. Bow down.
Miley Cyrus – Chameleonic pop icon and one of the most successful artists of all-time
Over her illustrious career so far, Miley Cyrus has covered a lot of ground, shifting effortlessly between guises. She was a teen idol in her Hannah Montana days, a liberated woman on ‘Bangerz’, pastoral country queen on 2017’s ‘Younger Now’ and a rock rebel on her latest album, ‘Plastic Hearts’. What’s striking is her ability to make all those personas feel true to who she is – something that’s reflected in how well they connect with the world. For proof of that, look no further than her status as the female artist with the most Top Five albums on the Billboard 200 in the 21st century, or the 165 weeks her singles have spent in the Top 40 in the UK.
These artists are just a handful of Spotlight’s eclectic, incredible hits and throwbacks, all of whom have had their own deep impact on our musical world. To discover more, visit the Spotlight social channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.