In the late nineties, a girl like Caroline Polachek, the kind of girl who signs an album inspired by Magic letters, the Scottish tartan, a 17th century French printmaker, a Steven Meisel Versace campaign, and the electronics collective PC Music, I would never have done a version of The Corrs, or at most it would have approached it in an ironic way.
The Irish group was considered the whitest of the mainstream, an ultra-clean band made up of three sisters and a brother from Catholic Ireland who took the sounds folkies of his country and diluted them in a commercial pop designed to be played on radios, at weddings and in supermarkets.
Fortunately for some things, we are no longer in the late nineties. And the categories that divided commercial pop from the music that were still called “alternatives” were long ago blown up. That’s why things happen like Polachek including a version of Breathlessby The Corrs on their album remix disc Pang, without traces of irony. The singer-songwriter, who was a part before Chairlift, recently played it on the James Corden show, often sings it at his concerts, and the song is among the most listened to of all of hers on Spotify. Writer Jia Tolentino said that the version, which maintains the characteristic yodelling from the original (Sharon Corr’s Tyrolean gurgles) seemed to recall an “industrial Enya.” In reality, the original was a perfectly constructed pop artifact. It was written by singer and frontwoman Andrea with producer Matt Lange, who was then married and co-responsible for Shania Twain’s hits.
Polachek and Tolentino are not the only ones who claim this theme, which turned 20 last summer and was the only number 1 of the band in the United Kingdom and also the song that opened the Irish group the American market. Taylor Swift, who knows how to move in that terrain between root music and commercial, put that song at the top of everything in a playlist she created last year for Women’s History month and said that The Corrs were their “teachers”; the Danish Myrkur awarded the group the merit of having introduced him to the Celtic sound found on their latest album, Folk songs and, perhaps in the antipodes of these credentials more or less cool, Ed Sheeran declares himself an absolute fan and assures that they were his inspiration for his song Galway Girl, a pastiche of Irish sounds that he recorded with the traditional band Beoga and that includes a fragment of rap sung in Gaelic. Apparently, the record company did not want to include it in Sheeran’s album and he convinced them with an infallible argument: “400 million people in the world who say they are Irish and all of them are going to love it.” Similar reason why The Corrs triumphed in America in the first place.
Can you talk about revivalor rescue of The Corrs? It can be seen in the series of concerts that Sharon Corr will perform at the Clamores hall in Madrid on the next 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 21, within the Veranos de la Villa. The former violinist of the band has lived in the center of the Spanish capital since 2018, when she moved with her husband and children. Here she divorced in 2019 from lawyer Gavin Bonnar, who became a partner of Telma Ortiz, the sister of Queen Letizia. Curiously, when he gave the press conference to present these concerts, which he says will be “intimate and organic,” he said that he no longer identifies with Breathless, that song that now makes fans of Taylor Swift and Caroline Polachek fall in love. He did say that he will play other hits from the band that he shared with his brothers, such as Radio, So YoungO Runaway,of which she is a co-author.
Sergi Cuxart, music selector for Radio Primavera Sound (he is in charge of managing the weekly hit list there) and also, officially, a Young Person (he’s 27), believes that “it makes a lot of sense” that The Corrs is now vindicated. “The Corrs played a lot in my house, a lot. My father is a great fan of Celtic music and derivatives and if you wrap everything in a nice pop wrapper, then much easier to listen to. Something similar must happen to people like Taylor Swift and Caroline Polachek. It is music from his preadolescence and adolescence, although it stung me smaller. They are songs that surely they heard everywhere and that now they claim as it can also be happening with other reviled things such as Enya, Blink-182 or even music car. It was music that was frowned upon by the indie and alternative monoculture, but all those people who grew up listening to it now rescue it as their own and relevant ”.
On the other hand, Quique Ramos, who writes and talks about music in places like El Bloque TV –his Twitter bio is “against good music since 1979” – is old enough to have been a member of the indie monoculture that Cuxart talks about (no It’s serious, it passed him a long time ago) and he still blames The Corrs for not being able to appreciate British folk until well into his twenties. “Half of my hobbies have to do with some of the commercial groups of the time,” he admits. Nor does Sharon Corr forgive a version stripped of all pathos of the classic Fairytale of New Yorkwhich he found diving on YouTube.
Of course, Ramos understands that The Corrs triumphed in the United States while contemporary Britpop groups never managed to break that barrier. Breathless was the title song on the film’s soundtrack Chocolat, a Miramax bombshell with Juliette Binoche and Judi Dench, and was sung by Meadow Soprano in The Sopranos. The band played a party hosted by Ted Kennedy, opened for Celine Dion on a North American tour, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America.In 1998, Vogue America named Andrea Corr, the singer and frontwoman, “The most beautiful woman of the year.” “It makes perfect sense that they beat him there. All clean über, a kind of common root … it’s like when Cuban music triumphs in the Congo, they are back and forth rhythms. They arrive in Cuba through slaves, it is filtered with the Spanish tradition and ends up returning to the place of origin through the radio transformed into something almost exotic. Irish music is the foundation of all country, the bluegrass… Although in the case of The Corrs it is more like listening to Ketama and considering it flamenco ”, he points out.
At their peak, when they released their first album Forgiven not Forgotten (1995) and the second, with producer Alanis Morrisette, Talk in Corners (1997) it was considered that they made something like music for girls who study ADE and even participated in the image of Ireland of those years as Celtic Tiger, starring in a supposed economic miracle that later led to a very hard crisis. “His music was analogous to a rich, bright, modern Ireland surfing the capitalist boom,” popular music historian Noel McLaughlin told Laura Snapes in this Guardian report. Together with Boyzone and, of course, U2, who were friends with the Corrs brothers, they solidified the idea that Irish pop could be part of a rebrandingnational.
In reality, the four Corr brothers had a working-class background, despite the fact that an uncle of theirs went on to make it big in football and play in the English league. His father, Gerry, worked as an electrician in Dundalk, a small town along the Northern Irish border, and had a folk group with his wife, Jean. They encouraged all the children to play the piano, violin, guitar, and various Celtic folk instruments, such as the bodhran, a kind of tambourine played with a short stick, or the tin whistle, the tin flute. In 1991, the only boy, Jim (there was a fifth brother, Gerald, who was run over by a car at the age of three), convinced his sisters to audition for The Commitmentsand all four ended up in the movie in small roles. From there, they formed the band and it didn’t take long to go from playing at their aunt’s pub to accompanying Luciano Pavarotti and U2. The appearance of the three Corr sisters, who were raffled by fashion labels and women’s magazines, helped a lot, although all three have later regretted that it detracted from their credibility as songwriters and instrumentalists. “It turned out that we looked the way we did, but that wasn’t the main thing. It was tempting for people to paint us as a band but as a group of quasi-models, and that meant that our music was treated as something lighter than it actually was. It’s like putting on a cover chick litin a book that is not chick lit”Andrea Corr commented in an interview with the Daily Mailen 2019. Andrea married millionaire Brett Desmond in 2009 and lives in Dublin. Of the four, Jim is the one who has made the most controversial headlines. He began to show conspiracy when he assured that 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government and in recent times he has also made anti-vaccine statements and assuring that climate change is an invention. In 2017, the four got together to release a new album, Jupiter calling.