Our Top 10 Enya Songs list presents the best Enya Songs like “Only Time,” “Orinoco Flow,” “Caribbean Blue,” “May It Be” and many more. Born as Eithne Padraigin Ni Bhraonain on May 17, 1961, the Irish singer-songwriter best known for modern Celtic music was anglicized as Enya Patricia Brennan. She was raised as the sixth of nine children that lived in a Roman Catholic household that all had a musical background.
Her father, Leo, was the leader of an Irish showband known as Slieve Foy Band. He also ran his own tavern in Meenaleck. Maire, Enya’s mother, was a Spanish descendant whose ancestors settled on Tory Island. She was a musician who played in Leo’s band as well as taught music at Gweedore Community School in County Donegal, Ireland. Enya’s maternal grandmother, Aodh, was the founder of the Gweedore Theatre Company as well as served as the headmaster of Dore’s primary school.
In 1970, several members of Enya’s family formed a Celtic folk music band, Clannad. Nicky Ryan became the group’s manager, producer, and sound engineer. Roma Ryan, his wife, served as their administrator and tour manager. Ten years later,
When Enya was three years old, she participated in the annual Feis Ceoil music festival’s singing competition. She also performed pantomimes at her grandmother’s Gweedore Theatre, singing along with her siblings as a member of her mother’s church choir in Derrybeg. While in school, Enya learned the English language. When she was four years old she began to learn the piano.
Seven years later, her father paid for Enya’s education at a convent boarding school in Milford that was run by the Loreto order of nuns. It would be at this location she began to show an appreciation for classical music, art, Latin, and painting in watercolors. Although the distance from her family was difficult, the environment was ideal for Enya to develop as a musician.
When Enya turned seventeen years old, she left for college to study classical music as it was her desire to teach piano music. It didn’t occur to her at the time she’d one day compose and perform music as a recording artist. However, in 1970, a year after spending time at the college, she chose not to chase after a music degree as she opted to take Nicky Ryan’s offer to join Clannad. What Ryan was seeking to achieve at that time was expanding the family band’s sound with an additional vocalist, as well as an introduction to keyboards.
When Enya was part of the lineup, Clannad recorded their sixth studio album, Crann UII, which was released in 1980. She was not credited for her role in that album but her name was included in the group’s seventh album, Fuaim. The 1981 release also had her photographed alongside the rest of the band members on the album’s front cover.
Destined For Independence
For Ryan, it was never the intent for Enya to accompany her siblings and uncles as a permanent member of Clannad. It also seemed obvious at the time Enya’s time away from her family at the boarding school played a role in the woman’s personal independence. While with Clannad, she wanted to play her own music but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Inspired, Ryan worked with Enya to develop a layer of tracks to create a choir of one that used Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound technique.
In 1982, Clannad’s internal issues reached the point where Nicky Ryan felt it was important to have them addressed. This resulted in a family vote that had Nicky and Roma Ryan ousted. The decision also had Enya decide she preferred to embark on a solo career instead of just another face in the background. She accompanied the Ryans as they parted ways from Clannad, opting to take a chance with Nicky and Roma to pursue a musical career in Dublin.
As a means to raise enough income to pursue this career choice, Enya sold her saxophone and gave piano lessons so that she and the Ryans could afford to build a recording facility. Aigle Studio was the result of this combined effort. In order to afford to keep the studio going at the time, it was rented out to other musicians. In the meantime, Nicky Ryan became Enya’s arranger and producer while Roma Ryan served as her lyricist.
Over the course of the next two years, Enya developed her technique by listening to recordings of her own reciting pieces of classical music. This allowed her to compose musical material as she improvised sections while developing her own musical arrangements. Her first composition was “An Taibhse Uaighneach.” In English, it stands for “The Lonely Ghost.”
In 1983, Enya performed her first solo when she recorded two piano instrumentals. “An Ghaoth On Ghrian” (Irish for “The Solar Wind”) and “Miss Clare Remembers. These songs were released on the 1984 album, Touch Travel. It was a limited release that featured music from various artists that were signed to the Touch recording label. This led to Enya’s first live solo performance at Dublin’s National Stadium. The September 23, 1983 show was televised for RTE’s Festival Folk.
Enya’s demo tape had Niall Morris, a fellow musician, assist the woman as a keyboardist in her compositions. This was sent to various film producers, including David Puttnam. It was he who offered Enya to compose a soundtrack for the 1984 romantic comedy, The Frog Prince. Enya agreed and put together nine musical scores for the film. However, most of them were later rearranged and orchestrated which went against her wishes. Only “The Frog Prince” and “Dreams” were left alone, which were the two songs she sang in. The lyrics behind “Dreams” was written by Charlie McGettigan.
According to the film editor, the rearranging of Enya’s musical scores was necessary as she seemed to have difficulty composing them to picture. When the soundtrack was released in 1985, it was the first time Enya received credit for her work with this name. Up to this point, any recording credit she received was as Eithne Ni Bhraonain. According to Nicky Ryan, he felt “Eithne” would be mispronounced by non-Irish speakers so it was he that suggested changing the phonetic spelling of her name.
Enya did look at the composition work on the film as both a good and disappointing chapter in her career as a musician. It was good because it moved her career forward but disappointing because she nor Ryan was kept out of the final development of the soundtrack. The success of The Frog Prince as a soundtrack led Enya to sing on three tracks of 1985’s Ordinary Man.
For the Love of Music
1985 was a big year for Enya as she agreed to take part in a six-part BBC television documentary series, The Celts. She already wrote a Celtic-based song called “The March of the Celts,” which was submitted to the project. While each episode of the series was supposed to feature a different composer, director David Richardson liked Enya’s music so much that he stuck with her musical scores throughout. There were a total of seventy-two minutes of music that was recorded at Aigle Studio and BBC studios. At the time, this was done without recording the music to picture but she was required to portray certain themes and ideas that the producers were looking for.l This gave her more freedom to express her own style than what she experienced with The Frog Prince.
Two months before The Celts aired in 1987, Enya’s first solo album as a recording artist was released. As Enya, BBC Records released this in the United Kingdom while Atlantic Records did the same in the United States. In the U.S., it was promoted as a new age imprint, a move Nicky Ryan felt was a cowardly action for the American label to do. On the Irish Albums Chart, Enya peaked at number eight. On the UK Albums Chart, it peaked as high as number sixty-nine. “I Want Tomorrow” was Enya’s debut single that came from this album.
Also in 1987 was Sinead O’Connor’s debut album release, The Lion and the Cobra. In it, Enya recited the Holy Bible’s Psalm 91 in Irish for the song, “Never Get Old.”
After the release of Enya, the Celtic recording artist secured a contract with Warner Music UK. Upon the realization the chairman of Warner, Rob Dickins, signed her for the sake of making quality music over mere profit, it was enough for Enya to drop Atlantic Records in favor of Warner’s Geffen Records.
From June 1987 until April 1988, Enya recorded her next second studio album, Watermark. This was initially recorded in analog at Aigle Studios before it was digitally re-recorded at Orinoco Studios in Bermondsey, London. The album was released in September 1988 and became a surprise hit. In the U.K., it was a number five seller while on the US Billboard 200, it peaked at number twenty-five. The lead single from this album was “Orinoco Flow,” which was not intended to be released as such as the song was originally performed as a joke.
Enya’s music style during the 1980s was unlike the material that was dominating the billboard charts worldwide. The idea she would become an international sensation with Watermark, as well as “Orinoco Flow,” seemed unlikely. However, upon realizing new possibilities, Enya spent a year traveling around the world to promote the album. This catapulted the woman’s popularity, and she found herself on the receiving end of several lucrative offers as it was clear the audience was fully captivated by her brand of music.
Thanks to the success of Watermark, Enya was able to purchase new recording equipment so she could work on her next studio album, Shepherd Moons. At first, Enya found the task challenging before realizing she needed to start with a blank canvas and go with what felt right as a songwriter. In November 1991, Shepherd Moons was released via Warner’s Reprise Records in the United States. This recording proved to be even more successful than Watermark as it became the top-selling album in the U.K. On the US Billboard 200, it peaked at number seventeen. This was the album that produced another hit single for Enya, “Caribbean Blue.” It also won a 1993 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.
Also in 1991, Warner Music released a five-song collection of Enya music home videos, titled Moonshadows. After this, Warner managed to obtain the publishing rights of Enya in 1992 and had it re-released as The Celts with a new album cover. The second release of The Celts managed to outsell the first release in the U.K. After Shepherd Moons was Enya’s fourth studio album, The Memory of Trees. After it was released in 1995, it charted as high as number five in the U.K. On the US Billboard 200, it peaked at number nine. This album produced two big hits, namely “Anywhere Is” and “On My Way Home.” After this release came The Christmas EP in 1994.
In 1997, Enya put together her first compilation album. Paint the Sky with Stars: The Best of Enya not only featured music she chose from previous recordings but two new songs, “Paint the Sky with Stars” and “Only If…” Just like her studio albums, this 1997 release achieved worldwide commercial success, selling over four million copies as a result. For Enya, this album felt like a musical diary.
Going into 2000, A Day Without Rain became Enya’s fifth studio album that was released. This was a recording that was vastly different from the previous ones as she used a string section in her musical compositions. This was not originally intended at first but upon realizing how well this complemented the songs that were written, it was included. Again, Enya realized commercial success with this album as it peaked as high as number six in the U.K. and as high as number seventeen in the United States.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, “Only Time” became a song that soared in popularity as it was used during the coverage of this terrorist event that shook both the American nation and the entire world. This resulted in A Day Without Rain becoming even more popular as it jumped back up on the US Billboard 200, this time peaking as high as number two.
It was also in 2001 that Enya agreed to write and perform on two tracks for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack. The musical score for the film was composed by Howard Shore who imagined Enya’s voice as the vocal talent behind the music. For Shore, this was not a common occurrence as he usually preferred to compose music without the inclusion of another artist. For Enya, after observing the filming in New Zealand, she returned to her Irish home and composed “Aniron (Theme for Aragorn and Arwen).” The lyrics came from Roma Ryan who used the fictional Elvish language, Sindarin.
“May It Be” was the second song that came from the creative team of Enya and the Ryans. After it was released as a single in 2002, it became a giant hit that also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. For her, performing this song at the 74th Academy Awards ceremony with an orchestra was considered a career highlight.
In 2001 and 2002, Enya took on additional studio projects that included a soundtrack for the Japanese romantic movie, Calmi Cuori Appppassionati. The soundtrack was released in 2001 as Themes from Calmi Cuori Appassionati. This particular album was formed of tracks that spanned Enya’s career from her debut album to A Day Without Rain. This became yet another commercial success for Enya as it was the second time to sell at least one million copies in that nation.
Enya’s sixth studio album, Amarantine, was a September 2003 recording that came from Dublin’s Aigle Studio. This was the first time the artist sang in Loxian, which is a fictional language that was created by Roma Ryan when Enya was working on “Water Shows the Hidden Heart.” At first, there were attempts to sing the song in English, Irish, and Latin but all failed to capture the magic of Enya’s vocal talent. This resulted in Roma designing a new language that Enya would sing. This same language was also applied to “Less Than a Pearl” and “The River Sings.” As for “Sumiregusa (Wild Violet),” this was sung in Japanese.
What started out as a language creation turned into a design of culture and history regarding Roma Ryan’s Loxian people. In the story, they’re from another planet that questions the existence of life on others. This became a huge payoff for the Ryans, as well as Enya, as Amarantine sold over one million copies. While it didn’t achieve the same success level as Enya’s previous albums, it was still no slouch as a commercial success. Enya dedicated this album to the memory of Tony McAuley, who was the producer of BBC that commissioned Enya to write The Celts‘ soundtrack.
The legacy of Enya has her regarded as an icon in the world of modern Celtic music. To date, she remains the best-selling Irish solo artist in history. Overall, she sits just behind the Irish rock group, U2. In addition to the powerful Celtic roots featured in her music, Enya has also made an impact in the musical genres of classical, gospel, new age, and pop.
Enya’s discography boasts about eighty million albums sold worldwide. This makes her one of the best-selling musical talents of all time. A Day Without Rain still holds the record as the best-selling new age album with about sixteen million copies sold worldwide. Her collection of awards includes four Grammy Awards and seven World Music Awards.
Although the Grammies gave Enya four wins in the category of new-age music, she argues this doesn’t properly brand her style of music. As far as she and the millions of fans are concerned, this is a music style that belongs in its own music category. Nicky Ryan has also commented that Enya’s music isn’t technically new age as her melodic style and multi-instrument play don’t exactly match what’s typically associated with the genre.
As a practice, Enya opts to work on her music five days a week as a schedule. Her weekends are designed as breaks she takes from songwriting. Whenever she is writing, she does so in Irish as she feels this is a better method to express her creativity. Nicky and Roma Ryan still work with Enya as this collaboration helps determine what works best for musical pieces.
In addition to her legacy in music, Enya also has a minor planet named after her. The 1978 discovery was labeled 6433 Enya in 1991. When a discovery of a new species of fish was found in 2017 in the Orinoco River drainage area, it was also named after her Leporinus enyae.
As for Enya’s personal life, this is information she keeps private. She has made a point to maintain a fine line so that the life of a celebrity doesn’t interfere with the life of a person who wishes to stay as close to her core self as possible. Although born and raised as a Roman Catholic, Enya prefers to embrace a spirituality that matters instead of religious beliefs. This is reflected in her music as a personality trait that continues to demonstrate she’s always had a voice of her own. It’s this same voice that has earned the Irish artist multiple platinum, gold, and silver certifications on a global level that remain in agreement mankind was blessed with one of the most gifted musical artists of all time.
Top 10 Enya Songs
#10 – Boadicea
In 1996, The Fugees sampled “Boadicea” for their single, “Ready or Not.” They did this without seeking permission and did not give Enya the credit. This resulted in the Celtic artist taking legal action against them that resulted in a three million dollar settlement.
Throughout the song, Enya hummed her way through it but it was so enchanting and so haunting that it became a favorite song of choice among streamers to use when it came to presenting slideshows and video presentations. From her self-titled album, this 1987 recording has been sampled by several artists, each of whom who made sure not to repeat the same mistake The Fugees made.
As a tale, Boadicea was a Celtic warrior queen that was responsible for uniting several British tribes in a revolt against the Roman occupation in 6-61 BC. She earned her fame by capturing and burning Londonium to the ground, along with its neighboring towns. This resulted in about eighty thousand Romans and British killed by Boudicea’s troops. Instead of a victory, the Roman Empire fought back against the Britons at the Battle of Watling Street and reestablished its authority in the region. Boadicea’s final fate remains undetermined other than the fact she wasn’t captured by the Romans. One story has it she killed herself while another suggested she perished after succumbing to some kind of illness.
#9 – Amarantine
“Amarantine” was taken from the ancient Greek word that means everlasting. It also means immortal. Amarantine was also the name of the album it came from, which was released in late 2005. The single version became a number twelve hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart and a number ten hit on the US Billboard Hot Singles Sales chart. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number fifty-three. Globally, it was at least a top fifty hit among the nations of Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Sweden.
#8 – Only If…
“Only If…” was a song Enya released as a single in 1997, which came from her first compilation album, Paint the Sky with Stars. It became a number eighty-eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 but soared within the top forty among the nations of Belgium, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Poland. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number forty-three.
Regarded as a peaceful and memorable melodic, “Only If…” became a musical source of inspiration among a fan base who fell in love with Enya’s angelic voice. Adding to her vocal talent were the background vocals, drums, and violin that made this song sound as if God himself sent his angels to perform it. Although Enya never considered her music as new age as it was categorized by the industry, it rightfully earned its place as a mood-enhancing favorite.
#7 – Book of Days
The original version of “Book of Days” came from Enya’s 1991 album, Shepherd Moons, and was sung in Gaelic. The 1992 version was performed bilingually in English and Irish and was released as a single. It was the version Ron Howard chose for his 1992 movie, Far and Away. In the music video, scenes from the film are featured in it.
On the UK Singles Chart, “Book of Days” peaked at number ten. On the Irish Singles Chart, it was a number twelve hit. Adding to this song’s legacy was James Cameron’s choice to use it as a temp track during the editing of 1997’s Titanic. Incidentally, Enya was approached to write the musical score for Titanic but turned the offer down. The ethereal feel of “Book of Days” illustrated yet again Enya’s talent as a musical artist that really knew how to make the most out of such incredible talent.
#6 – Anywhere Is
Released as a single in 1995, “Anywhere Is” was the lead single released from Enya’s fourth studio album, The Memory of Trees. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number seven. It was also a top ten hit among the nations of Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Poland, and Scotland.
The search for temporal heaven was the focus of “Anywhere Is” as a song that invited all cultures to call home. Performed in English, the album’s sleeve dedicated to Rob Dickins as the chairman of Waner Music UK played a key role in this song’s survival. At first, Enya, along with Nicky and Roma Ryan, felt the song wasn’t good enough to be included in The Memory of Trees. Instead of simply ditching it, they invited Dickins to have a listen. It was his input that inspired the songwriters to make some adjustments and finish what they started.
#5 – Caribbean Blue
In 1991, “Caribbean Blue” was the hit single released from Enya’s third studio album, Shepherd Moons. This waltz time signature made mention of the Anemoi, which were Ancient Greek wind gods. Boreas, Afer Ventus, Eurus, and Zephyrus were their names.
On the Irish Singles Chart, “Caribbean Blue” peaked as high as number eight. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number thirteen. This song peaked as high as number three on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and at number seventy-nine on its US Billboard Hot 100. Globally, it was at least a top fifty hit among the nations of Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland. This BPI silver-certified single also won over favorable reviews from critics that found “Caribbean Blue” a refreshing approach to something they felt was dreamy and provocative. The fans seem to agree as this became a favorite to just sit and listen to its easy listening flow.
#4 – Storms in Africa
From the album, Watermark, “Storms in Africa (Part II)” was a single released in 1989 that became a number forty-one hit on the UK Singles Chart but was even more popular on the Irish Singles Chart at number twelve. It was also included in the 1990 soundtrack for Green Card, as well as a theme for Australia’s Ansett Airlines before it collapsed in 2001. The highlight of this song, aside from Enya’s incredible vocal delivery, was the drum performance by Chris Hughes. This served as the fuel behind the fire of what was a truly magnificent song.
#3 – May It Be
“May It Be” is a song about hope, which was sung during the ending credits of the 2001 cult classic, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In the music video, the footage is seen as one of the heroes of the story, Frodo Baggins, was charged with the safekeeping, delivery, and destruction of a ring that possesses incredible power. Known to change a good person into a monster, this was no task. Enya’s vocal performance of this song was absolutely stellar and even a listener that had never seen the movie knew the narrative was about embarking on a long journey.
In addition to “May It Be” sung in English, it was also performed in Quenya, a fictional Elvish language that was created by J.R.R. Tolkien. While Enya was busy writing the music for this song, Roma Ryan studied the language and wrote out the lyrics in English and Quenya. The realization of darkness falling upon Frodo as the movie’s ringbearer stressed how the shining beacon of hope stayed with him as he embarked on such a perilous journey. Again, even without any knowledge of the movie, it was easy to close your eyes and visualize a realm of darkness that it’s up to you to trek through it. In a song that emphasized faith over fear, “May It Be” was a glowing gem when it first came out and it hasn’t lost its shine since then.
Although “May It Be” didn’t score any of the wins it was nominated for during the 2002 Academy Award celebration it did win the 2002 Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Song. It also won the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award in the same category. It’s also been covered and sampled many times over by a range of performers and recording artists, including the Prague Symphony Orchestra and Celtic Woman.
#2 – Orinoco Flow
“Orinoco Flow” was a song that was last written for Enya’s 1988 album, Watermark. This unexpected international top ten hit reached the top of the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for three weeks. This was the song that propelled Enya’s career to international fame. Oddly enough, it was never meant to be released as a single. This was a musical response after Warner Music UK’s chairman, Rob Dickins jokingly suggested Nicky Ryan and Enya come up with a song designed as a single. At the time, the idea of Enya’s musical style becoming an official music chart hit seemed out of the question.
“Orinoco Flow” became far more than just a chart hit for Enya. This became one of her signature songs that became a global cult classic. It did receive a pair of Grammy Award nominations, in 1990 for Best Music Video and Best New Age Performance but not the win as those went to Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone” and Peter Gabriel’s Passion – Music For the Last Temptation of Christ, respectively.
The song was an allusion to Orinoco Studios and Orinoco Rivers. The pizzicato chords were generated by altering the Roland D-50 synthesizer’s “Pizzagogo” patch that’s highly recognized in the sound of new-age music. The song itself paid homage to Rob Dickens with the line of him being at the wheel. The lyrics behind the song served as a global geography lesson that mentioned various regions that laid out impressive dramatics, especially when “sail away’ is repeated in a manner that easily takes a listener down a flowing river of dreams.
On the Eurochart Hot 100, “Orinoco Flow” became a number one hit. It also topped the official music charts belonging to Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. At the very least, it was a top ten hit among the nations of Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden. On the US Billboard 100, it peaked as high as number twenty-four. The US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart saw “Orinoco Flow” peak as high as number seven. This single also became certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry.
#1 – Only Time
“Only Time” was first released as a single in November 2000 as the lead single from Enya’s fifth studio album, A Day Without Rain. At the time, it became a number one hit in the nations of Canada, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
“Only Time” then surged even more as a conglomerate hit after the terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001. It was frequently played on radio and television whenever there was coverage related to what happened. This has since become a post-9/11 anthem. Both the original and pop remix of “Only Time” have become massive favorites among an audience that agree this is one of Enya’s best songs ever performed. On the US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Songs chart, it climbed straight to the top. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number ten. To this day, it remains Enya’s highest charted song to date.
Enya has also donated the proceeds of “Only Time” to the International Association of Firefighters. In sales, “Only Time” there have been over a million copies of the single worldwide. Among the nations of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, it became certified gold. The British Phonographic Industry certified “Only Time” as silver.
The legacy of “Only Time” still continues as Volvo used it as part of an advertisement in 2013. The success of the ad caused the single to appear again on the US Billboard Hot 100, this time peaking at number forty-three. It also charted at number five on the UK Singles Chart. Kraft Foods has also used this song in their ads, as has Marvel for 2018’s Deadpool 2 and 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder. This song is also a favorite choice as an internet meme whenever there’s a tragic event that took place.
Feature Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Top 10 Enya Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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