Have you ever found yourself standing at the grocery store checkout, staring in amazement at the junk being loaded by the people behind you onto the conveyor?
Oh, come on now, you know you do it! You were judging those folks for their lack of taste.
Yes, your daikon and heirloom tomatoes are far superior to…what is that? Hamburger Helper?! What kind of person eats that stuff?
The very same kind of thing happens with music. We know what kind of person listens to an Alabama or Mariah Carey CD…or George Winston. Or Elvis Costello.
Right. The problem is, we don’t really know anything about these people. Oh, but that stereotype you were running your hands over…it felt nice, didn’t it?
This is what has always bothered me about reviews that rush to employ easy categorization. The writer may think a service is being provided by steering listeners toward (or away from) a recording. What really happens is that the realm of possibilities is reduced.
Think about it. You don’t like New Age (whatever that means) music…so you can’t possibly like Enya, Ray Lynch, George Winston, Will Ackerman or Alex DeGrassi. Right? In reality, it doesn’t work that way. Most genres have quite a number of sub-genres, often enough to render the ‘main’ category meaningless – especially when the name is flung around as a pejorative.
So I’ve seen Enya referred to as New Age. The words ‘Celtic’ and ‘chanteuse’ get worked in there as well. None of this gets close to the truth, which is…well, I’m not really sure.
I do know that I’ve always liked the atmosphere on her records. The feathered layers (often composed of many repetitions of Enya’s voice) serve to support and highlight Enya’s pure voice and circuitous melodies. And though melody has (finally!) returned to pop music, none of it dares to take the route of “Sumiregusa” from Amarantine. My favorite songs on this record, like most Enya albums going all the way back to Watermark (and to be honest, that Clannad song too), are the ones where her voice is the main event: “It’s In The Rain”, “A Moment Lost” and “Amid The Falling Snow”.
Three of Amarantine‘s songs are written in lyricist Roma Ryan’s made-up language Loxian. Ryan said that she was inspired by lyric-writing in Elvish for Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings. The ‘music’ of the language, sung by Enya, sounds like Gaelic to me. From what I’ve read, Ryan used elements of Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Hindu and even Siberian Yupik. Interesting stuff. It reminds me of when I first discovered The Cocteau Twins…(“What is she singing?!”)
So can you draw any conclusions about me now that you know I’ve enjoyed an Enya record? Would you be surprised to learn that I rocked out to Motorhead’s Ace of Spades earlier in the day? That I’m a vegan? That I vote Republican, usually on a straight ticket? That I own a mini-van? That I love collecting coffee mugs from diners? That Jack Kerouac is my favorite author? That I think Bruce Springsteen is overrated? That I hate the word ‘chanteuse’?
Some of the above is true, some not. You might guess which ones are right, but what the point?
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)