Is Enya pop or not. Let’s discuss…
by Christopher Smith
Is Enya pop? Is she not? What is she? Well one thing’s for sure, quietly and without fanfare she is near the top of the list of the biggest selling artists of all time. Since her debut, self titled solo album was released in 1986, Enya Brennan has only released a total of EIGHT albums – that’s one every 4 years roughly – eight albums that have sold over 75 million copies globally!
Whilst not a big commercial success, “Enya” (recorded in 1986, released early 1987) marked her break from the group Clannad with whom she had joined in 1980 and enjoyed huge global success with “Theme From Harry’s Game” in 1982 and the soundtrack to the TV series Robin Of Sherwood in 1984. Prior to her debut, Enya had written and recorded the soundtrack to the 1985 film ‘The Frog Prince’ which was released in some countries under the title of ‘French Lesson’. The album “Enya” would be used in the TV documentary series The Celts but would only find limited success in sales and chart status. It wouldn’t be until 1992 when Enya reissued the album under the title of “The Celts” that it would become a big hit, shifting over 8.5 million copies.
The Fugees and P Diddy have obviously been influenced by her, when both of them used and sampled the song “Boadicea” for their global smash hits “Ready Or Not” and “I Don’t Wanna Know” respectively. Just one example of Enya’s music creeping into the minds of the millions. “That’s a good song” we heard. “I bought that” said many. “That’s Enya” I said. “WHAT?” came the response. Oh yes!
It would be in 1988 that Enya’s magical and unique presence gained a worldwide following with the song “Orinoco Flow” that topped the UK singles chart and her album “Watermark” that would sell over eleven million copies. This was where new age, Celtic, instrumental music crossed over into the mainstream and claim the top spot away from the normal pop, rock, dance, whatever else was out there at the time. Is that not popular culture? She continued this with “Shepherd Moons” in 1991 that included the single “Book Of Days” that featured on the soundtrack of the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman film ‘Far And Away’. The album has sold over thirteen million copies.
And so every four or five years, Enya came back time and time again with thought provoking, epic and chart busting albums. “The Memory Of Trees” (1995, 10+ million), “Paint The Sky With Stars” (1997 12+ million) all dominating the charts across dozens of countries and continents the world over, often ousting more hip and trendy artists and bands from achieving chart topping glory.
Enya has often had her biggest impact when the world’s population (that’s you and me!) have been totally unaware of it, but her sounds and melodies has infiltrated us all and we have acted upon it accordingly. Two examples demonstrate this. The first was the use of her haunting theme “May It Be” in the original Lord Of The Rings film ‘The Fellowship Of The Ring’, which has been seen by a worldwide audience of over three hundred million people. How many went home humming its captivating tune? The film (adjusted for inflation) took over $1.2 billion at the box office in 2001 and sent “May It Be” to the top of the charts across the globe.
The second was the horrific images that came out of New York on 11th September 2001. American television seemed only to be able to show pictures of the carnage without commentary, but in music and it was to a backdrop of Enya’s “Only Time” that this was depicted for days and weeks afterward. And it seemed to affect the country’s population by selling mass millions of copies of the single and the album. “Only Time” would claim the top spot on the singles chart just as “A Day Without Rain” took to the top of the album chart selling over seven million copies within just a few short weeks following 9/11.
Enya doesn’t abide by rules or conform to schedules. She releases material when she wants and when she’s ready. Since “A Day Without Rain” we’ve only been blessed with “Amarantine” in 2005, “And Winter Came…” in 2008 and her most recent work “Dark Sky Island” in 2015. And who knows, it could be another four or five years before we get the next one. And yet, Enya’s songs are often heard in television programmes, adverts, films, on trains and buses, in shops, in times of glory and moments of sadness, she continues to sit in the background of all our conscience and subconscious whether we like that to be or not.
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