Wednesday, March 9, 2022

"Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)" by Enya

Song#:  3772
Date:  01/21/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  24
Weeks:  17
Genre:  New Age, Celtic

Pop Bits:  Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, aka Enya Patricia Brennan (the English translation eventually shortened to just Enya), was certainly an unlikely pop star. Born in Ireland as one of nine kids, music ran in her family. She would study piano and eventually learn to compose music. In the 70s, three of her siblings along with twin uncles formed the Celtic band Clannad. By 1979, the band had experienced some success and had recorded three albums. Wanting to expand their sound, they brought in Enya to play keyboards. After a couple of albums and tours, tensions arose with the band's management, Nicky and Roma Ryan. After a meeting, the Ryans were ousted and along with them went Enya who felt that she couldn't expand her creativity with the band. The Ryans then worked on making Enya a solo artist with Nicky as manager/producer and Roma supplying lyrics. Over a couple of years, Enya would work on recording her own music that utilized a vocal layering technique that turned her voice into a choir. In 1984, a demo tape secured her a job composing music for the film The Frog Prince. From there she would then provide a score for the BBC documentary The Celts. A recording contract came her way and her 1987 self-titled debut album, which consisted of selections from her Celts score, was released. It did well in a few countries including Ireland where it reached #8. She then signed with Warner UK (Geffen in the US) for her second album Watermark. The new age-leaning LP was expected to do fairly well with a certain audience, but there seemed to be little thought towards mainstream success. Even the exec who signed Enya somewhat jokingly asked her a few times for a single. Eventually, Enya gave him the last song written for the album, "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)." The song was pushed out in the fall of '88 and it suddenly blew up. It would reach #1 in Ireland and the UK while hitting the Top 10 in other European countries. The song was then release in the US and it began to catch on as well. It would reach #6 Modern Rock and #7 AC while making the Pop Top 30. By June, the album would peak at #24 and go gold. Eventually, it would sell over 4 million copies. "Orinoco Flow" would also earn Enya two Grammy nominations. The Irish singer/songwriter who had no intentions on becoming a music star suddenly found herself one.

ReduxReview:  Oh the phenomenon that was (and still is) Enya. I'm not exactly sure why, but I bought Watermark right after it was released without having heard a note of it. I'm guessing I must have read about her and knew that her song with an odd title was an unexpected hit in the UK. Whatever it was, I got the CD and it immediately intrigued me. The beautiful opening title track led to the pulsing, eerie "Cursum Perficio." Then later on came the left field hit "Orinoco Flow." I loved the tune but was surprised it was such a big hit in Europe. I didn't think it would get anywhere in the US, but the odd tune did surprisingly well and it seems folks wanted more as the album sold. Her sound and compositions were fascinating. I remember I'd have Watermark on sometimes when people came to the house and it never failed that they asked about it (and eventually went to get their own copy). She was captivating. Odds were that she'd become a sort of flash in the pan, but then Shepherd's Moon came out and I think it was even better than Watermark. Unfortunately, by the time her third LP came out, I was a bit tired of the Enya sound and had moved on to other artists. Yet I'm still a big fan of the two albums and listen to them on occasion. "Orinoco Flow" still remains a fave and gets included in some of my playlists. It's a great throwback that will still catch people by surprise when it comes on.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The massive success of Watermark was certainly unexpected and not typical for a new age or Celtic artist in such a mainstream way. When that happens, typically the artist's career cools quickly as folks move on to other new artists and sounds. However, that didn't happen with Enya. Her next LP, 1991's Shepherd's Moon, would also be a huge hit. In the US it would reach #17 and also sell over 4 million copies. It would also win the Grammy for Best New Age Album. Her 1995 LP The Memory of Trees would be her first to crack the Pop Top 10 (#9). It would earn Enya her second Grammy as well. Her fourth LP, 2000's A Day Without Rain would become her most successful. Boosted by the #1 AC/#10 Pop hit "Only Time," the album would reach #2 and sell over 7 million copies. Another Grammy would follow. Since then, Enya would release three more albums that each made the Top 10 and she would secure one more Grammy win. She would also be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for "May It Be," which was featured in 2001's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. Enya remains the best selling solo artist in Ireland. Overall, she is the second best selling music artist in Ireland behind U2.


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