This June, Lewis Capaldi’s face was plastered along the walls of London’s Underground stations. The ads, promoting his debut album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, featured an amusingly unflattering photo of the Glasgow-born singer, his head wrapped in a towel, tossing up a peace sign, and read “The Scottish Beyoncé on a London Underground billboard. Finally famous.” By that point, he was, at least in Britain: His single “Someone You Loved” had held the top spot of the Official U.K. Singles Chart for seven nonconsecutive weeks.
What Capaldi didn’t realize then was that five months later, he would be pretty famous in the United States, too. “Someone You Loved” -- an anthemic ballad about burning heartbreak -- hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late October and held the top spot for another two weeks in November. (It also reigned for multiple weeks on Mainstream Top 40, Adult Top 40 and Radio Songs, and it topped Adult Contemporary for one week.) Yet it was by no means an obvious international hit. It wasn’t propelled to viral popularity through a TikTok clip or meme, it boasted no big-name feature, and Capaldi -- a ginger-haired 23-year-old with no heartthrob aspirations -- was an unknown stateside and, by his own admission, an unlikely pop star.
But to Capaldi’s team, the reason for the song’s success was fairly simple: Its emotional content deeply resonated with a ready and willing audience, thanks in large part to the talent and commitment of the artist himself. “The American public always has had a strong connection to heartbreak songs,” says Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett, who led the effort to launch Capaldi in America (along with Virgin EMI/Vertigo in the United Kingdom and Universal Music Group Central Europe). “And it had been a while since a song like this has been as big as this. Lewis did it brilliantly -- and very much in 2019 style.”