MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 29: THE CORRS

What determines if something is successful or dare I say, even influential? Can an artist be as influential as they can be, even if no one really notices? I say this because there has been a few artists on my list thus far that people can deem to be ‘controversial’- not in a sense that their lyrics and message can be questionable- far from it. But rather, artists like CCM/folk singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson, CCM band Tenth Avenue North, even the Aussie Country-trio The McClymonts, aren’t that well known outside of their particular niche, and yet, I’ve been impacted and touched by each of their careers in music thus far. They are influential, but in the grand scheme of things as to whether they are influential according to sales and people noticing these artists…well, they’re not. And maybe that’s ok. Criteria for influential artists can vary from artist to artist, and as I’ve gone through these weeks of delving into an artist each week, I’ve known and understood that I indeed don’t know that much, and it is in my honesty in admitting that the pool of music and artists are too big for even me to delve into fully, that I can truly appreciate the vast musical and sonic landscape for what it is- music artists who impact and affect different time periods and different genres. What I like may be different from what you like, and that’s ok. What I’ve grown up to label as influential to me may be totally different to you- and this is why I have my 20 artists that I’ve set aside that I will discuss later on, that I’m sure anyone who is anyone who loves music, can agree that these artists inside the 20 are indeed influential, without question!

For this next artist that I’m delving into is very much well known and influential…in probably every other country, except for America. Yes, if you’ve figured out my cryptic sentences already, then you’d already know- this week is all about The Corrs, an Irish group of 4 siblings- Andrea, Jim, Caroline and Sharon Corr, all who have banded together to form The Corrs that have impacted the world from the mid-1990s onward. Well, almost every country in the world. And so here begs the question- if an artist is not successful in the U S of A, but so everywhere else, does that immediately disqualify them to be any sort of influential? If they’re not well known in the 50 states of America, are they influential, period? Not sure if I know the answer fully to that question, but what I will say is this- The Corrs have made me appreciate the Irish music genre (if ever there was a genre called ‘Irish’…maybe Celtic is more like it!) and understand that such a style of music is very much underrated. In the state of music today, The Corrs are hardly a blip on the screen of current music, but rewind back to the 1990s and early 2000s, and their influence and hand over anthems and music at that time was very much seen and experienced. And since I myself came very late to the ‘mainstream music’ party- just these last few years, I’ve come to respect and understand that while I wouldn’t traditionally have sought after Celtic music prior to The Corrs, I’m glad I have listened to them. Caroline, Andrea, Jim and Sharon have all utilised their harmonies to create a group that has redefined what it means to walk the line of giving something traditionally Irish and holding onto roots, while still giving something relevant and in times with the current fashionable music trends.

Much of their discography has been spiritually and emotionally charged, and while it’s a far cry from what is being played on the radio today, I am grateful and thankful that I can relate to music that is not from the era I am in right now. I did grow up in the 1990s and early 2000s, and while I didn’t latch onto the artists of that time period (Britney Spears, Madonna, Savage Garden, Vanessa Carlton, Kylie, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC to name a few)- because at that time I was only listening to Carman (which I’m to expound upon in another post altogether); I am nevertheless understanding that music back then was a lot less produced than what it is now. They relied more on their actual talent, singing for real and using very different instrumental techniques- more natural ones. And that’s ok. Sure I could go on and on in a rant about how I don’t connect that much with mainstream music at the moment (aside from artists like Sara Bareilles, OneRepublic, Ed Sheeran and Josh Groban to name a few!), but I won’t. Instead I’ll say this- The Corrs have been added to an ever growing plethora of artists that wrote and recorded music in the 1990s and 2000s, and still have their place in society today, as much or maybe even more, than the time period it was released in. It is ok to listen to music from decades ago, there is no shame in that. To search for the influential and timeless, you do need to travel back years. And The Corrs was a welcomed surprise, and a reminder that music from Ireland that the U.K. has a sense of awe and wonder attached to it. And that even if music like The Corrs is not popular in the U.S., their lyrics from a fair amount of songs still hit home for me, and for that, their influence still stands!

Hailing from the small town of Dundalk, Ireland- lying to the north of Dublin and near to the border with Northern Island; The Corrs were exposed to music at a very young age, with much of the articles online and even Wikipedia citing that their influences upon them spread far and wide, from artists like The Eagles, The Police and The Carpenters, to Fleetwood Mac and Simon and Garfunkel. It is in the light of reading who influenced The Corrs in their own career that I can state the question- why am I hearing about this group now in 2019, a whopping 24 years after the band released their first album Forgiven, Not Forgotten? Was I too much in my ‘Christian music’ bubble for me not to notice good music when it was released? Listening to The Corrs, and much of the artists that I unveiled in my blog posts previously that did have their impact during the 1990s and 2000s (Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Evanescence, Train, Kelly Clarkson), and I sit and wonder- I ponder as to how I can be such a person to assume that every style of music that is not having a stamp of ‘CCM’ is bad, not worthy of being listened, or just wrong in some kind of way? Maybe that’s not what was said to me audibly, but throughout my growing up years, maybe that’s how I felt. Nevertheless, I am still grateful for Carman and Delirious? and every other Christian music artist that formed my view of the world during my primary and high school days, but here I am nearing 30 and having undergone such a unique realisation over the last few months, I can say this. That such a band like The Corrs are unique- they blend together pop and rock, with Irish traditional folk-sy atmosphere to create a female fronted group with the singing harmonies of that of maybe a band like Point of Grace, Wilson Phillips or even CCM short-lived band ZoeGirl. Nevertheless of who we as listeners compare this unique and impressive band to whenever we do hear them, their music and the messages within the chart-topping hits cannot be denied. They have impacted people far and wide throughout the years, and that’s including me, their influence on my life as late as last week!

1995 was a very important year for the world. India renamed the city of Bombay, calling it Mumbai from that point onward. Robbie Williams announces that he is quitting Take That. DC Talk releases their fourth studio album Jesus Freak which then becomes arguably one of Christian music’s most important and influential albums, ever. Movies like Toy Story, Apollo 13, Jumanji and Braveheart all graced our screens at one point or another during that particular year. And then The Corrs released their debut album, Forgiven Not Forgotten– an album that even now in 2019, has traction, influence and impact. The sound of 1995 is different but still similar to the sound of music we have now- just less electronics. And maybe that’s a good thing. We’re always led to believe, maybe intentionally or not, or maybe it’s because of the media, but whatever the case, we’re bought into the notion that newer is always better, especially when it comes to music. But what I’ve learnt from hearing The Corrs is that assumption is not always true. In fact, it never is. The Corrs is an example of this- that an band/artist in the 1990s and their music has a much more universal appeal and interdecadal value moving forward compared to an artist who is starting up now. There is a much more adaptability when artists from the 1990s evolve and alter their sound, than someone who indeed started today, who could find it hard trying to tweak their sound to fit the 1990s period- most likely because of heavy reliance on electronics ahead of everything else.

The first radio single of their whole career, ‘Runaway’ from Forgiven Not Forgotten still stands the test of time, even now. The song itself is a powerful love song sung to the persona’s significant other, reminding us all that a love so central, core and true allows the persona to forsake everything that they have ever known to follow the other, to ‘runaway’ if you will. A reminder for myself of the unending and undying love that I know I have from my family and even from the Lord God Himself, ‘Runaway’ is for anyone who longs to express their love to another person, not in some over-the-top stalker-ish way (you would have ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police for that expression of ‘love’), but rather, ‘Runaway’, simplistic in words, makes up for it with Andrea’s soaring vocals and emotion that has travelled along the track through her voice. The title track ‘Forgiven Not Forgotten’ speaks of a woman left behind after their significant other commits suicide- hence the slogan ‘forgiven not forgotten’- the man I’m sure was forgiven for the cowardly act, but never forgotten- life cut short by a final act that reminds us all that mental health issues are real. Whether the song itself was based on personal experience, I don’t know, but nevertheless, ‘Forgiven Not Forgotten’ has still an application here in 2019.

Both ‘Closer’ and ‘Love to Love You’ were heavily played on my own local radio station Hope 103.2 and both songs I had no clue that it was The Corrs– maybe I thought it was Christian powerhouse vocal group Point of Grace or even fellow Irish group The Cranberries. Nevertheless, I was indeed familiar with both these songs on the album, and both are great for a timely message today- ‘Closer’ reminds us all to look deeper into people and to never judge someone from a first glance, that often people who we assume to have a fault in a certain aspect of their character are misunderstood; while ‘Love to Love You’ portrays a struggle that the persona has about wanting to love someone but can’t because of assumptions and insecurities that can get in the way. Many times, love can be unreciprocated, and such a song like this is an example. It is a cruel and heartbreaking reality, and ‘Love to Love You’ shows us the honesty from someone who wants to love without judgement or condemnation; but realises that something is in their way. Again, a song that’s relevant for our times, both ‘Closer’ and ‘Love to Love You’, alongside ‘Forgiven Not Forgotten’ and ‘Runaway’, all anchor the first album musically and thematically. Coupled with the fun and whimsical ‘Right Time’, alongside a lot of their instrumental traditional Irish recordings (‘Toss The Feathers’, ‘Erin Shore’, ‘The Minstrel Boy’ and ‘Carraroe Jig’), then you get Forgiven Not Forgotten, an album that I truly believe solidifies the 1990s decade amongst any artist, and reminds us all that the traditional American pop sound that was starting to become of prominence during such a time period, need not to be adhered, to create albums that are influential- The Corrs are a definite example of this.

Following up from their debut album was Talk on Corners in 1997 where chart-topping songs like ‘Only When I Sleep’, ‘What Can I Do’, ‘So Young’, ‘I Never Loved You Anyway’, ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ and even a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ were standouts amongst the 14 track album. With lead singer Andrea Corr channelling a lot of Point of Grace in how she sings on these songs, we are blessed and reminded that such an album released pre-2000 can still have such impact and relevance years later. ‘Only When I Sleep’ is a sad song whose persona is infatuated with a person who may or may not know they exist, and thus, the only way to be with such a person is in the fantasies that lie deep within when sleep occurs, and though in some ways a little creepy, nevertheless tells of a condition of loneliness and lack of connection we as humans feel. ‘What Can I Do’ is initiated through a mesmerising acapella undertone as The Corrs showcase a message that is nevertheless a sad one- wanting to ask the person that the persona is in love with ‘what can I do to make you love me’, as if there is something we can do to make the situation better. ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ is a telling track about only wanting to say the words ‘I love you’ only if the words really mean something, rather than the flippant use of the phrase that people so candidly blurt out, even if what they’re feeling isn’t love but rather lust or infatuation. ‘So Young’ describes the feeling that we can have when we’re in high school or even during our 20s, when we believe that we can do everything in our path and then some, when we explore and want to stay up late and enjoy life just because- it’s a fun song and is a different good compared to all the other heavy emotive songs from the band’s earlier projects. ‘I Never Loved You Anyway’ is an admission after a break-up that the relationship wasn’t true because it wasn’t love, and thus, it is a thank-you for the person who came after the breakup to pick up the pieces and heal, not the persona, but the other. It is a thanks for the other person, realising that you who thought you loved, didn’t, and that whoever loved the other person, who is not you, hopefully can love better than you did, for that period of time. ‘Dreams’, a cover from Fleetwood Mac, encourages us to dream and to live life, but realise that often when living your life, it comes with loneliness, because people aren’t always going to agree with choices that you’ve made. It is a trade-off to live this life honestly and humbly, but rather than retreating and not living at all, a song like this should enough us to live knowing full well that the people that will love and respect us as we chase our dreams may not always be who we expect…and that’s ok.

Songs like ‘Queen of Hollywood’ and ‘Hopelessly Addicted’, though not that standout in terms of other songs on the band’s second album, nevertheless stood out for me when both were recorded acoustically for the band’s 1999 acoustic album (featuring a lot of their hits from their 1st and 2nd albums)- with ‘Queen of Hollywood’ telling us a story about a small-town aspiring actress becomes a success in Hollywood and how she’s always going to remember where she came from in spite of all the doubters and uncertain people back home wondering, and ‘Hopelessly Addicted’ reminding us that often the truest love stories and ones that are the most inspirational happen between friends, as shown in the song. The rest of The Corrs Unplugged consist of standouts songs across both their first and second albums, with a few surprises. ‘Little Wing’ and ‘No Frontiers’ by Jimi Hendrix and Irish singer James McCarthy are the original artists of the two songs, respectively, and both appear on the unplugged album, while the classic song by REM, ‘Everybody Hurts’, is given The Corrs’ treatment, in what I reckon is one of the most heartfelt performances I’ve heard of the song ever. ‘Radio’ and ‘At Your Side’, at the time of the release of the 1999 acoustic album, were new, and both were included in the band’s 2000 pop-inspired In Blue.

While both the acoustic arrangements sound much more raw and enjoyable acoustically than studio recorded, both these songs are still nevertheless standouts on In Blue– ‘Radio’ speaks of how the actual radio and songs can in fact help someone get over a breakup, while ‘At Your Side’ is arguably the band at their motivational best- about the perks and responsibility of being a friend to someone, as well as the deep love you can have for your friend that we can push aside what we’re feeling to be there for our friend when they need our presence the most. ‘Irresistible’, ‘All The Love in the World’, ‘Give Me A Reason’ and ‘Breathless’ are the other standouts on In Blue, making this 2000 album arguably the most well known album the band has done. It is the most ‘mainstream’ and fit for radio- an album that will certainly have done well in America during that time. Which means that this album is perhaps one of the most un-Corr-like, and maybe that was ok at that moment. Lyrically…let’s just say that songs in the band’s first two albums had more meaning- and maybe that’s ok. In Blue was obviously an experiment when the band wanted to see if they could ‘fit in’ in the Hollywood music picture that has been painted for so long with artists gone by. Some songs on the album were great- ‘At Your Side’, ‘Radio’, even ‘Breathless’ with its instruments, and the harmonies and the slower arrangement of ‘All the Love in the World’, but as a whole, this album feels a little too unlike the band- as if they were trying to fit into a mould they knew they couldn’t fit in. Nevertheless, it has been a journey for the quartet, and In Blue is an album that is going to cause a lot of stir, even 19 years later!

Because In Blue was the first The Corrs album to impact not only Ireland and Australia and Europe, but America too, I guess every other subsequent album afterward was compared to In Blue musically and lyrically. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but what I will say is this- aside from standout songs like ‘At Your Side’ and ‘Radio’, and even ‘All the Love in the World’ that has a few elements of ‘boy-band’ (or shall I say ‘girl-band’?), the album as a whole was a little underwhelming. Nevertheless, a best-of project album released in 2001, featuring single ‘Would You Be Happier’, asking the question of all of us, whether we would all be happier with our lives if we put less pressure on ourselves, if we were real and not so ‘all-together’. Live projects also followed over the years- in addition to the highly popular The Corrs Unplugged in 1999, the band also unveiled VH1 Presents The Corrs (Live In Dublin) in 2002, which features a rare but welcoming track where lead singer Andrea Corr has a duet with U2 frontman Bono in their own rendition of ‘When the Stars Go Blue’, originally by country artist Ryan Adams. In 2004, the band gave to us Borrowed Heaven, and to me, is perhaps one of my favourite albums by the band- having a lot of heartfelt, emotive and spiritual themes attached to much of the songs. ‘Summer Sunshine’, ‘Angel’, ‘Hideaway’, ‘Long Night’ and ‘Goodbye’ are all the standouts on the album, and ironically, are the first five songs on Borrowed Heaven. The band when back to their folk/rock/Celtic roots and seemingly stripped away the pop sheen that was over In Blue. Catchy and enjoyable, much of their 2004 album comprises a lot of their most meaningful songs they’ve created thus far, even though it was not reflective in their sales for the album.

‘Summer Sunshine’ is a good summer song for long drives, and shows us the tension that someone has in terms of having feelings for someone but in two minds of telling them, having a secret that seems hard to keep up with, while ‘Angel’, quite possibly one of their most rousing and declaratory songs, is actually one of their most poignant- written about their mother who had passed away, and that the song was from the perspective of the siblings’ mother up in heaven looking down on them. ‘Hideaway’, though not a radio single, still spoke to me today, and reminded me that we often hideaway from things because of the shame and guilt, the condemnation and insult-hurling, that comes with exposing things to the light. The song is a reminder for us to not hideaway because of the love that we feel from our family and friends, even from God Himself, should and does cancel out everything else we’re feeling. ‘Goodbye’, remixed for another best-of project in 2006 (Dreams: The Ultimate Collection), is a song personal for the band- written about their mother who sadly passed in 1999, and the raw emotions that come from saying goodbye to someone you know is not coming back, while ‘Long Night’ is a realisation that a failed relationship is in fact failed- that the person you have been with is not coming back and that the nights that have been special with this someone is going to be in fact long for the foreseeable future. While such a song like ‘Long Night’ is sad and in a sense hopeless, ‘Long Night’ is a song that is as much needed right now more than ever- for people to honestly express their feelings post-breakup, and a reminder that yes, everything will be ok in time, but everything doesn’t have to be fine right now.

Maybe for me the forgotten album by the band has been their 2005 Irish album Home– featuring both English songs and Gaelic songs about the Irish hometown and traditions. While much of that album didn’t really connect with me, it’s nevertheless good for the quartet to still hold onto their heritage and a reminder to never lose sight of where you have come from- home-wise, along this journey of life. Songs like traditional Irish tracks ‘Brid Og Ni Mhaille’ and ‘Buachaill On Eirne’ are given The Corrs’ treatment, as the quartet rounded out their ’10 years in the business’ with a 2006 compilation, complete with original songs, remixes and live tracks, alongside a couple of their traditional Irish songs, to deliver a 20 song album that is by far one of the most comprehensive best-of project I’ve seen and heard from an artist in recent memory.

And so now we fast-forward to 2019. 13 years after 2006 that featured a best-of album. Since then there’s been an hiatus, a comeback by the band with 2 more further albums, in White Light and Jupiter Calling (personally, I haven’t listened to much of Jupiter Calling, but I have listened to White Light extensively which I have found to have impacted myself on a spiritual level!). Radio singles followed also, with ‘I Do What I Like’ and ‘Bring on the Night’ from White Light, and ‘Son of Solomon’ from Jupiter Calling. And while the band’s last two albums weren’t nearly as successful as their previous releases, the band still delivers poignant and heartfelt songs that tug at the soul level- ‘SOS’ from Jupiter Calling sees the horrors of what is happening in Syria and sings about wanting someone to stand up and do something. While the song doesn’t provide the answers, it does allow us to ponder about the things outside our four walls, and that in and of itself is a feat and a job well done by the band.

‘Catch Me When I Fall’ from White Light sings of a longing for someone to catch us if we fall- and be it asking our friends, family or even at the end of our rope asking the Lord God Himself, the vulnerability that comes from asking for help should be what is needed in a society like this, while ‘Strange Romance’ speaks of second chances, and tackles to the heart of what grace without exception looks like- before we even ask for the second or the third chance, God freely gives it without performance or earning such forgiveness in the first place. ‘Unconditional’, the most ‘Christian’ song the band has done, can be seen as a song sung from God’s POV as He’s reminding us that the love He gives us is indeed unconditional, that ‘…you can scream, fight, keep, try to push me away, everyone else let you down but I’ll keep you safe, oh don’t you know my love is unconditional? Oh I’m here to stay, I will never change…’ while the title track encapsulates the theme of not only the album, but where the band are at the moment in terms of their own individual and group journeys. As violinist and backing singer Sharon Corr states, about the song and their 2015 album, ‘…in many ways it represented so many different feelings on the album. Andrea wrote the lyrics after watching the Amy Winehouse documentary. There’s a great line from Tony Bennett, ‘You have got to live long enough to learn how to live.’ It’s such a good line because there have been so many artists under that White Light who just couldn’t cope with it and couldn’t handle it. I think as you get a little bit older; the things that once seemed so stressful, you come to realize that they weren’t worth worrying about. Sometimes you just need a little bit more time and a little bit more living to be able to live better. White Light refers to being on stage and being at the center of something and having that White Light and having to perform. Then there is a White Light in the sense of an afterlife and the White Light that people speak about. It encapsulated the album in so many ways in what we do for a living. You are constantly exposed under the White Light. Some of us survive it, some of us live it and love it and how some of us don’t survive it…’

And so here were are. In 2019. The Corrs have released 7 albums, and while their ‘better’ material will still be their first few albums in the 1990s, the band nevertheless still has what it takes to give to us powerful and emotive songs once more. And yet, the band still isn’t as popular as they should be considering the start to their music career they had. Maybe it was because of the 10 year break. Maybe it’s because mostly in America, they weren’t that known. Regardless, compared to the artists upon artists that have flooded the airwaves over the last 20 – 30 years, The Corrs aren’t that big, popular or even timeless. But maybe they don’t have to be in order for their music to affect someone’s life. And this is why I’ve written my own personal list of artists. Yes, some selections may be controversial, like the addition of artists like Tenth Avenue North and Andrew Peterson. But as with every decision, there’s always a reason for it. With The Corrs, I was initially blown away at how relevant the lyrics were about these songs that can still challenge people even now. And if anyone has known me by know, I am a lyrics man. Sure, if the song has a good beat I will check it out, but if the lyrics are not challenging in some way, or just plain offensive for whatever reason, then that’s it. Thankfully, within my list of 30 or so artists I’ve written about, there hasn’t been any that is foul-mouthed…yet. And even though we as listeners of this Irish quartet may not hear another new album again (or maybe for a very long time), the fact remains. The Corrs and their music have challenged my own preconceptions of what 1990s music (aside from 1990s country) should sound like. And if the band has managed to challenge my own assumptions about mainstream music as a whole over the last week or so, then the purpose of the band has been served. God is good, and has shown me a band like The Corrs to speak to me even the things that are sobering- understanding my own mortality through ‘Angel’ and being reminded of Him always being by our sides and looking after us (‘Unconditional’, ‘By Your Side’), even the notion of never hiding away who we are because of shame or guilt (‘Hideaway), are all concepts that I’ve been grasping in a new light, of late. And with their philanthropy attitudes- being ambassadors of the Nelson Mandela 46664 campaign, and being made Honorary members of the British Empire in 2005, what’s not to love about this sibling quartet? And so now it’s over to you all. What have you all thought about The Corrs? Does this band make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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