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Enya is an awesome Irish New Age/Neo-Classical/whatever-genre-people-feel-like-labeling-her singer. (She herself calls her genre "Enya", the musical equivalent of a Badass Boast.)Born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin in Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair), County Donegal, she started out in the early 1980s, with small gigs here and there for commercials and movies, usually providing vocals. She also had a short stint with her siblings in CLANNAD, but soon started seeking a solo career. In 1985, she released a soundtrack album for an obscure film called The Frog Prince that got her some recognition with BBC, who hired her to do the soundtrack to a 1986 documentary series titled The Celts. The photogenic singer was featured throughout the series, performing the opening theme on screen during the opening credits and also appearing in two music videos created for the series; highlights from the soundtrack were released initially by BBC Records as a Self-Titled Album that make the UK charts.Then, in 1988, she struck gold with her landmark album Watermark. From that album is the famous (or infamous as some of her fans hate the song) "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)", which gained some moderate radio airplay. Watermark has been critically praised as a masterpiece of New Age music, but for some reason Enya refused to let herself be labeled with the New Age scene.Her popularity stayed the same throughout the 1990s, with a few of her albums continuing the decent sales and critical praise. Towards the end of the 1990s she settled down for a bit to get some rest from the music scene.She made a triumphant return in the 2000s with a new album, and featured as a vocalist for "May It Be" in the first The Lord of the Rings movie. Around this time, Enya scored another major hit with "Only Time". The song became closely identified with the 9/11 attacks because US media, for some reason, incessantly used the song as background music during coverage of the aftermath. Enya was reportedly uncomfortable with this, but agreed to release a special version of the song, with proceeds supporting 9/11 families.She is still recording music, with her latest album being released in 2008 (Enya is a self-admitted slow worker, and as such it is not uncommon for five or six years to elapse between albums). She is also notable for being the second-best selling Irish artist next to U2. To be in competition with a band completely outside her genre is something of a Moment Of Awesome.The Fugees also sampled one of her songs, without permission. Enya originally wanted to sue, but changed her mind when she found out they weren't a Gangsta Rap group, and both parties settled out of court. She has had a sort-of friendship with the Hip-Hop scene since.She has worked almost exclusively in collaboration with the husband-and wife team Nicky and Roma Ryan (production and lyrics, respectively) throughout her career. Officially, "Enya" is said to be the partnership between these three individuals.Her albums include:
Shepherd Moons (1991)
The Celts (re-release of Enya, 1992)
The Memory of Trees (1995)
A Day Without Rain (2000)
And Winter Came... (2008)
And the compilation albums:
Paint the Sky with Stars: The Best of Enya (1997)
The Very Best of Enya (2009, notable for including a DVD of her music videos)
Book Ends/Call Back: Initially, during the Schedule Slip between The Memory of Trees and A Day Without Rain, Enya's work was bookended by the songs "Orinoco Flow" and "On My Way Home"—both songs contain the same Gaelic passage, as a bridge in the first song and after the chorus in the second. Once A Day Without Rain came out, it became a Call Back; in both cases it showed how far she had come in her music.
Cherubic Choir: In the English version of "Storms in Africa", complete with children in the music video.
Concept Album: And Winter Came... is a concept album about, well... winter.
"May it Be" also includes two lines in Tolkien's Quenya language, "Mornie utúlië" and "Mornie alantië" ("darkness has come" and "darkness has fallen" respectively).
Continuity Nod: During the music video for "Anywhere Is", one of the pictures on the wall is the cover for Memory of Trees—the album from which the song comes.
Cute Kitten: The music video for "Storms in Africa" includes shots of playing lion cubs.
Death's Hourglass: Downplayed in the music video for "Only Time"—the imagery is used, but it is less a fatalistic or threatening Motif and more bittersweet, a sign of how inevitably everything and everyone passes on and fades away.
Deliberately Monochrome: The music video for "Evening Falls", to underscore the melancholy of the singer pining for lost memories that can never be recovered.
Early Installment Weirdness: The video for debut single "I Want Tomorrow" (originally broadcast during an episode of The Celts) is... odd. For one thing, Enya is shown blowing stuff up using magic powers. Even more disturbing ... there's an electric guitar solo!note Enya didn't bring the evil stringed instrument back into her work in any major way until 2008's And Winter Came which included a full-out guitar solo on one track, which proved controversial with fans. Enya displayed some selective amenesia, claiming the 2008 recording was the first time the instrument appeared on one of her records.
The original BBC Records release of the 1986 album Enya has a front-cover photo of Enya looking sexy in an LBD, pumps, and posing with stuffed wolves. The rear sleeve featured her with more stuff animals and pouffed-up 80s big hair. Not quite the ethereal Celtic pixie princess look she cultivated from Watermark onwards.
Everything's Better with Sparkles: In both the music videos for "Caribbean Blue" and "Only If". The former involves a young boy going into the fantasy worlds he finds within books, while the latter is more explicitly a case of Enya as a muse inspiring a man with writer's block to make paper airplanes and a man struggling to blow up balloons to sail away on them, as well as repairing a girl's torn kite so she can fly it. In all of these cases she literally sprinkles or spreads sparkling light and dust from her hand.
Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: Though not the perfect example of this trope, she tends to use Uilleann pipes a LOT. (Which suits her anyways seeing as she's a Celtic artist).
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Some of the lyrics of "Anywhere Is" are "It's either this or that way, it's one way or the other." At the point where she sings this in the music video, she is faced with a set of four doors with placards that actually say "This Way", "That Way", "One Way", and "Other Way".
The soundtrack to the 1997 film Titanic had many thinking Enya had composed and recorded the music. Reportedly, James Cameron used Enya's music as a placeholder when editing the film, and when the time came to come up with a real soundtrack, he invited her to do it. Enya declined, so James Horner was commissioned to basically write a soundtrack in the Enya style. Sissel Kyrkjebo, a noted classic vocalist from Norway, was hired to provide Enya-like wordless vocals. Even elements of the (in)famous "My Heart Will Go On" love theme recorded by Céline Dion appear to reference Enya (at least, until Dion goes into full diva mode on the song).
Idiosyncratic Album Theming: The title tracks of all her albums were instrumentals (or at least, had only wordless vocals) until Amarantine broke the chain.
Iris Out: The ending of the video for "Anywhere Is."
Jungle Drums: In the "Storms in Africa" video, complete with tribesmen playing them.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The original 1986 Enya version of The Celts on the BBC label is very hard to find; it was replaced by a virtually identical release on Atlantic Records, and later her main label WEA reissued it in a remixed form, with one track replaced with an alternate take, and completely different artwork (replacing the off-piste images described in Early Installment Weirdness, above, with more on-brand imagery. The music video for "I Want Tomorrow" was never seen again, either ... at least not until BBC Video released The Celts on DVD in the mid-2000s.
Medium Blending: She tends to use this in a lot of her music videos, from simple matters such as back-projection putting her image on a wind-blown curtain in "Evening Falls" to literally becoming parts of the landscape in "Orinoco Flow" and "It's in the Rain." But the ultimate example of this would have to be "Caribbean Blue", where all the scenes within the portraits were filmed, rotoscoped, re-colored with smudged pastels, and even glass painting to achieve a swirling, dream-like effect that is rather stunning.
Mind Screw: A lot of her songs are this, especially "Anywhere Is" and "Orinoco Flow". As are the music videos based on them.
Non-Appearing Title: "Evacuee". The non-appearing title is effectively Word of God on the song's context - the lyric itself is vague enough that it could be about any parting from loved ones.
Picture-Perfect Presentation: The first painting the boy goes into in the video for "Caribbean Blue" comes to life in this way, and there are also several examples of moving scenes freezing to become paintings in books. Enya also poses like the cover for Memory of Trees in the video for "Anywhere Is", then "comes to life".
Pimped-Out Dress: The cover art of almost every one of her albums depicts her wearing this sort of dress; notable examples are The Memory of Trees, Amarantine, And Winter Came, and The Celts. She also wears similarly gorgeous, sumptuous dresses in her music videos, such as "Book of Days", "Caribbean Blue", "Amarantine", "The Celts", "Only If", and "On My Way Home" (the latter also being an example of Pretty in Mink). Even her more simple dresses are still stunning and elegant, but with her ethereal beauty she could make almost anything look beautiful.
The Power of Love: A few of her songs at least hint at this, such as "Exile", "Hope Has a Place", and "Marble Halls".
Production Posse: Enya is not quite a group, but lyricist Roma Ryan and producer Nicky Ryan are ever-present collaborators. It has been stated multiple times that "Enya" as an entity, consists of these three people. Indeed, as of 2014 Enya has yet to release a single recording that has not involved at least one of the Ryans, and that includes her time with Clannad, too.
Self-Backing Vocalist: Part of her signature sound are the vocal layerings. Several interviews have stated that she doesn't use studio techniques to create the effect; she actually sings every layer of the thick, cloud-like harmonies. She also has quite the range, seeing as she can sing well into the male vocal range and way up into the high soprano range. This is also why she doesn't play live concerts, and even when she performs on TV she is quite often forced to lip-synch in order to replicate the sound unless she is performing a song with minimal backing.
Self-Titled Album: Later re-released as The Celts. The original print is quite valuable.
Shout-Out: Thanks to Enya being inspired by the artwork of Maxfield Parrish, a number of his images appear either on album covers or in music videos. The cover of Memory of Trees is a direct Homage to The Young King of the Black Isles, a scene of young girls hanging lanterns in a snowy forest in the "On My Way Home" video references the work Lantern Bearers (as well as John Singer Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose), and the music video for "Caribbean Blue" imitates or outright reproduces Dream Days, Chocolate Factory; Man in the Moon; and Garden of Allah.
Warner Music UK chairman Rob Dickins, who worked on art direction for Enya, is mentioned by name in the lyrics to "Orinoco Flow".
Something Completely Different: Every once in a while she'll throw in something unusual and unique, or at least unlike her usual fare. A good example would be "My! My! Time Flies" from And Winter Came, which not only includes rather informal lyrics ("Four guys across Abbey Road/One forgot to wear shoes") but thanks to a reference to Elvis ("A king to sing you the blues") has a bridge passage of bluesy music come out of nowhere.
Uncommon Time: Enya commonly uses uncommon time signatures in her work, often switching them mid-song. "Book Of Days" changes time signature nearly every measure (4/4 to 3/2 to 5/4 to 2/4 to 5/4, etc...) except for the bridge which maintains the opening 4/4 time.
Vocal Evolution: Especially between her first two albums Enya and Watermark.
Woman in White: In the videos for "Wild Child", "On My Way Home", and "Only Time" (during the winter segment, of course). This last is particularly relevant since the Motif and the meaning of the song both refer to loss and death.
Word Salad Lyrics: Not always the case, but a few of her songs just make no sense, though this is not necessarily unintentional as in Enya's music her voice is used as an instrument.