2001's Quietest Blockbuster Album
Paul Cantin, Jam! Showbiz Senior Reporter
Jam! Showbiz (Canada) 2 October 2001
The quietest blockbuster album of the year belongs to a 40-year-old female Irish singer who doesn't do many interviews, is nowhere near the music-video buzz bin, and has never toured Canada.
Without much fanfare, the new-age artist Enya has, with her album "A Day Without Rain," become one of the biggest selling artists this year in Canada.
As of the week ending Sept. 23, SoundScan Canada reported "A Day Without Rain" had sold 329,974 copies in this country. The record has never been in the Canadian top five (it peaked at #6 twice, on May 13, 2001 and Sept. 9, 2001), but during its 44 week run on the charts, "A Day Without Rain" has never been out of the Canadian top 30 (its lowest point was #27 during the week of Dec. 31, 2000).
And while artists such as Destiny's Child, Jennifer Lopez, Staind, Tool, O-Town, Matchbox Twenty and Madonna hog the spotlight, Enya has quietly outsold them all (Destiny's Child has so far managed to move 310,051 copies of "Survivor," while Madonna's "Music" has garnered Canadian sales of 290,823).
It's all the more remarkable when you consider that Enya has achieved those sales without the benefit of high-profile video airplay, touring or publicity on a grand scale.
"It has been unbelievable ... it truly is word-of-mouth with her," said Kim Cooke, senior vice president and managing director of Enya's Canadian label, Warner Music Canada.
"It really is one of those get-out-of-the-way-or-she'll-bowl-you-over things."
The singer's high sales and low profile are just as impressive to retailers.
"It is pretty staggering," said Darryl Weeks, marketing supervisor for the HMV Superstore on Yonge St. in Toronto.
"She isn't on the cover magazines. She's not a pop star, but she is definitely the most popular new age artist. I would call it word-of-mouth or word-of-ear. A friend buys it and you hear it, and then you go buy it. The cycle continues.
Added Weeks: "It is not a press thing or a touring thing. It is the quality of her music."
It's hardly the first time Enya has made an impression on the charts, however. Cooke points out that the singer had a substantial hit with her 1988 album "Watermark," which included the single "Orinoco Flow."
"She has always sold huge quantities of records in this country ... they all continue to do great catalogue business. They sell year-in, year-out, and they spike at Christmas. Enya is a phenomenon," Cooke said.
But "A Day Without Rain" came out on the heels of a five year drought of new music from the singer in North America. In that time, the changes in the record business have been seismic, and the market has been especially ungenerous to adult-oriented artists such as Enya, in favor of youth-oriented pop, hip-hop and R&B acts.
"There is always the question mark, with the pop world changing as fast as it does: Is she still relevant," Cooke said of Enya's status prior to the release of "A Day Without Rain."
"We thought it was a strong Enya record, but she doesn't change stylistically to any great degree, and the market has. So there is always this question mark surrounding how she is going to do."
To add to the uncertainty, she has not had a song on the radio or a video on TV since "Orinoco Flow" more than a decade ago.
To the label's delight, "Only Time," the single pulled from "A Day Without Rain," proved to be a hit. Shortly after the album's release, the track got a "toehold" at adult contemporary (AC) radio and, over the course of the year, proved to be a substantial hit. Cooke said the song is currently #6 at AC stations, despite having been on the chart for 38 weeks.
"It's still getting played 350 times a week after 38 weeks."
The shock came eight months later, though, when contemporary hit radio (CHR) latched onto the song and turned it into a hit, where she currently sits in the format's top 20. Cooke says Enya's ability to leap from format-to-format with "Only Time" was aided by a remixed version of the song.
Cooke said her audience skews to women from their early 20s to as high as the 60s. It's not a market that is served by much of modern music. But Enya's success -- like that of her Canadian labelmate Loreena McKennitt -- has shown that the audience is there for the taking.
"It is a huge market and a market with a lot of money. When you do hit it ... they tend to be extremely loyal. They don't buy a lot of records, but they stay with their artists," Cooke said.
Further bolstering her fortunes is the fact that "Only Time" appeared in the soundtrack to the Keanu Reeves film "Sweet November." The romance recently was released on video -- a development that could explain "A Day Without Rain's" recent resurgence on the U.S. charts, where the disc vaulted from #19 to #7 in a single week.
Proportionately, Enya has sold substantially better in Canada compared to the U.S., although that has begun to change.
"The thing has just ignited down there. Now they are emulating our numbers," Cooke said.
And the triumphs may not be over.
Warner is planning a major Canadian TV campaign for "A Day Without Rain" to air in November and December, "and we haven't even gotten to the second single," Cooke said, adding a follow-up track hasn't been picked yet.
Enya will have two brand new tracks included in the soundtrack to the first installment of the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy, which is as close to a guaranteed blockbuster as you can get. And the young audience targeted by the movie could turn a new, younger audience on to her music.
"That is shaping up to be a significant movie," Cooke concurred.
"It's like all-Enya, all the time."