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Enya Expands Lyrical Language

Source: Billboard (USA) (November 26, 2005)
By: Jill Kipnis and Emmanuel Legrand

Enya's forthcoming Reprise/Warner Bros. album, "Amarantine," reaches a new level of ethereality.

Though the Irish chanteuse has a proven track record - she has sold an astounding 65 million albums worldwide, according to her label - she is not afraid to take risks on her first new studio release in five years.

The 12-track set is filled with Enya's signature celestial vocals and haunting arrangements. Linguistically, however, the project - due Nov. 22 in the United States and a day earlier internationally - showcases her voice like never before.

Past albums have featured Enya singing in English and Gaelic, and occasionally in Latin, Welsh or Spanish. On "Amarantine," she performs three tracks in Loxian, a language created by her longtime lyricist, Roma Ryan.

The new project also includes one track in Japanese, with the remaining songs in English.

"When you are in the studio, your past success doesn't help you," Enya says. "I leave that outside the door so I can capture 12 diverse little stories. I don't focus on being commercial."

Diarmuid Quinn, executive VP at Warner Bros., in the United States, says that though Enya's singular sound is even more pronounced with this album, it may be the biggest U.S. seller in her almost 20-year career.

"This record may have a much broader palette, "Quinn says. "The language element will resonate with her fans, but anytime you have someone who can sell 7 million records just in the U.S. [for 2000's "A Day Without Rain"], there is no way that is a niche market. Almost anybody could surprise you and be into Enya."

Expectations are also high because her projects sell well for months after release around the world.

John Reid, executive VP of international marketing for Warner Music International in London, says her key global markets are the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.

"Her albums always sell over a long period of time," Reid says. "She has a solid fan base, but she does not play the pop game and record an album every two years."

Her last album, "A Day Without Rain," sold 13 million copies worldwide to become her best seller, according to Reprise/Warner Bros.

That album was the fourth-biggest seller in the United States in 2001, peaking at No. 2 on The Billboard 200, where it spent 103 weeks. The project earned Enya her third Grammy Award for best new age album.

It also featured the single, "Only Time," which became a post-Sept. 11 anthem (although it was recorded prior to the tragedy) and a No. 1 AC and adult top 40 hit.

Enya's second-best-selling project is 1991's "Shepherd Moons" (Reprise/Warner Bros.), which has sold 10 million units worldwide. Her breakthrough was her 1988 debut on Warner Bros., "Watermark," which sold 8 million copies worldwide and featured her first hit, "Orinoco Flow."

Enya says the recording of "Amarantine" proceeded the same way as her previous studio albums, taking nearly two years to complete.

For each track, Enya writes a melody and then brings it to producer/arranger Nicky Ryan and his lyricist wife.

The Ryans have worked with the artist since her 1987 self-titled Atlantic debut. Previously, Nicky Ryan managed the band Clannad, featuring Enya and members of her family.

"The melody comes first," Enya says. "Nicky will create an arrangement, and Roma will write lyrics. We always felt, why not sing in other languages if it suited the song?"

The impetus for the Loxian language was Enya's presentation of the new melodies and influences from her work on the soundtrack to 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

"When I came in with a song, I would sing sounds along with it to capture its feeling," Enya recalls. "Roma used some of these sounds to create this language. We had used the fictional language Elvish on 'Lord of the Rings,' and it was very lovely."

Enya says that as she collaborated with Roma Ryan on the new album track "Water Shows the Hidden Heart," they realized the lyric was not working in English, Gaelic or Latin.

"Roma suggested a fictional language for singing and tried to create a culture and history behind it," Enya says. "the Loxians live on another plant and are looking out, wondering, 'Are we the only ones who exist?' It's a beautiful idea."

Ultimately, two additional tracks - "Less than a Pearl" and "The River Sings" - were also performed in Loxian.

The title track, which is in English, is the first single.

U.S. AC stations are latching onto the song, which is about everlasting love. Jim Ryan, senior VP of adult contemporary programming at Clear Channel and music director at WLTW New York, says it "has the feel of a classic Enya song, but it also has a hook that you can hum in your sleep."

Similarly, Stella Schwartz, PD at KOST Los Angeles, says, " 'Amarantine' will be right behind 'Only Time' for listeners."

After the Oct. 10 single release in the United States, the album received a high-profile premiere Oct 27 at the Vaux le Vicomte castle in France. WMI flew in hundreds of label executives and media for the event.

The single will be released Dec. 5 internationally.

Reid says WMI plans to work at least three singles from the album, although he admits that Enya is not necessarily a singles act. "We focused first on online marketing, and we'll go for TV and radio advertising."

In Japan, Enya's music will be heard in a Panasonic commercial that will run leading up to Christmas.

In the United States, TV ads pushing the album will appear on "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "The View" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," among others.

Natalie Waleik, music buyer for the Brighton, Mass.-based Newbury Comics chain, says the album is posed to be a big holiday purchase.

"She has a huge gift market," Waleik says. "We've seen her get most of her sales in the fourth quarter."

Online sales will also be important, Reid predicts, as the label will offer bundled and unbundled versions, as well as digital premiums.

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