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And Winter Came
Despite the pressure of being a pop icon, Enya has developed a signature sound that comes through in this album but in a fresh way, sticking to her musical principles.
Greg McAteer, 20 Nov 2008
Although almost anyone you stop in the street could tell you that U2 are Ireland’s biggest selling musical act, I’d be surprised if the majority of people would put Enya directly after them. Fact is that the notoriously low ley and publicity shy singer has quietly worked her way into that position over the course of nine extraordinarily successful albums.
When you sell a lot of records, and this may be so blindingly obvious that we’re tempted to miss it, you are – whether you set out to be or not – a pop act. Of course, that kind of commercial success brings with it its own types of pressure. U2 have reacted to it by self-consciously re-inventing themselves over the course of their career while Enya, probably rather more unselfconsciously, has chosen to develop organically, with a signature sound that hasn’t fundamentally changed.
It’s only fair at this point to point out the fact that Enya – the musical act – is not co-extensive with Eithne the person. An Enya record is in truth the sum of three people’s work and input with Nicky and Roma Ryan playing a hugely significant part in its sound, texture and meaning. They work as a very tightly focussed unit, in a way operating much more to the notion of collective responsibility that is at the heart of a band enterprise, thinking and acting in tandem, rather than to the traditional notion of artist and producer as occupying two different worlds separated by an actual and metaphorical glass wall.
What they have created together is difficult to define. To paraphrase Bowie’s self-definition in the face of the onset of punk: there’s classical, there’s traditional and there’s Enya. She may have a foot in both of those camps but in the long run she plays entirely by her own rules.
This also leaves her free to bend those rules and on And Winter Came... more so than on any previous record there is a sense of her playing with her relationship with pop music. She has recorded Christmas songs before, of course – there have been mini-albums and even special expanded Christmas editions of Amarantine – but this is a fully-fledged Christmas record. Like Elvis, like Phil Spector, even like Merle Haggard, she has taken on one of the classic pop forms – and delivered.