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Best Enya Songs: 20 Classic Tracks From Ireland’s Queen Of Ambient Pop
List & Guides

Best Enya Songs: 20 Classic Tracks From Ireland’s Queen Of Ambient Pop

From ethereal ballads to soul-soothing chants, the best Enya songs have harnessed the heavens and brought New Age music to the pop charts.

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Few pop stars have cultivated their own niche more successfully than Enya. Hailing from Ireland, the Donegal-born singer’s exquisite voice and elegant pop songwriting have elevated her to immortality as a New Age icon, inspiring a fiercely loyal fanbase in thrall to her heavenly voice and deeply spiritual lyrics. Across Enya’s decades-spanning career, her music has been a balm for the soul, and the best Enya songs possess a curative power few of her contemporaries can match.

After beginning her solo career following a stint with Irish folk group Clannad, Enya teamed up with lyricist Roma Ryan and producer Nicky Ryan to forge her own unique sound. Layering sublime vocals with Beach Boys-inspired production, Enya’s music is poetic, ruminative and ethereal, possessing an ambient quality that invokes the divine. Timeless and transformative, these are the 20 best Enya songs…

Listen to the best of Enya here, and check out our best Enya songs, below.

20: It’s In The Rain (from ‘Amarantine’, 2005)

Slowly building like mist after a morning downpour, It’s In The Rain is a meditative marvel and was the second single to be released from Enya’s sixth album, Amarantine. “The sound of the rain can soothe the mood,” lyricist Roma Ryan wrote in the album’s liner notes. Punctuated with staccato notes of strings to illustrate what Ryan calls “quiet moments of reflection and imagination”, the song’s earthy melody beautifully evokes Enya’s musing on how rainfall can allow us to find faith and ponder deeper philosophical truths (“In the way the day will flow/All things come, all things go”).

19: Trains And Winter Rains (from ‘And Winter Came…’ 2008)

With layers of interlocking a cappella vocals mimicking the sounds of a locomotive, the rolling rhythm of Trains And Winter Rains finds Enya staring out of a carriage window in reverie. “The rhythm of a train journey is particularly soothing,” Enya said. “It allows you to listen to your thoughts, even plan the future, and daydream especially.” Released in October 2008 as the lead single from Enya’s Christmas album, And Winter Came…, Trains And Winter Rains’ decidedly unique approach to percussion easily marks it out as one of the best Enya songs, and it remains a testament to the singer’s originality as a vocalist.

18: Exile (from ‘Watermark’, 1991)

Sparse and ethereal, Enya’s 1991 single Exile was inspired by the poetry of Wilfred Owen and lyrically explores the loneliness of a First World War soldier missing a loved one. An all-pervasive work of melancholy, the song is made all the more affecting thanks to its majestic use of a Japanese shakuhachi flute, perfectly expressing the solitude of a dejected soul in the trenches. A poignant highlight among the best Enya songs, Exile featured in Steve Martin’s 1991 romantic comedy movie LA Story, and clips from the film were featured throughout the music video.

17: I Want Tomorrow (from ‘Enya’, 1987)

Released as Enya’s debut single, in March 1987, I Want Tomorrow was a tantalising prelude to Enya’s rise as a New Age pop starlet. Making an immediate impact, the song went to No.1 in Ireland and made Enya a star in her homeland, no doubt thanks in part to its music video, in which the singer’s eyes glowed as she exploded a car with the point of a finger. Melodic and graceful as Enya’s vocal certainly was, it’s guitarist Arty McGlynn who steals the show here, with a reverb-laced twang of a guitar solo that feels like it belongs in an art-house Western film.

16: On My Way Home (from ‘The Memory Of Trees’, 1995)

Enya’s angelic voice sent On My Way Home flying into the UK singles chart, peaking at No.26 in November 1996. Mixing a church-like sensibility during its verses with a pizzicato-led chorus, the song is like an age-old hymn that evokes the feeling of reuniting with friends and family (“On my way home/I remember/Only good days”). “We’re trying to get across that very positive feeling,” Enya said, stating that the song is about “those wonderful memories and fond moments”. Remaining unique to Enya’s own particular style of New Age pop, it quickly became her eighth Top 40 single in the UK.

15: Evening Falls… (from ‘Watermark’, 1988)

There’s an Emily Brontë-esque gothic tinge to Evening Falls…, so it’s hardly surprising that the song possesses a similarly supernatural aura to Brontë’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. “Evening Falls… is, believe it or not, a ghost story,” Enya said, explaining that it was inspired by the story of a lady who kept dreaming about a house, only to discover she was the spirit haunting it. Released as the second single from Enya’s second album, Watermark, in December 1988, the song’s spooky lyrics and gloomy vibe helped it reach No.20 in the UK, further continuing Enya’s mystical presence on the pop charts. Like Cathy at the window, she wasn’t going anywhere…

14: Echoes In Rain (from ‘Dark Sky Island’, 2015)

Released after a seven-year hiatus, Enya’s 2015 comeback single, Echoes In Rain, was described at the time as a “sequel” to Orinoco Flow. It’s easy to see why. From its bouncy rhythm to its airy backing vocals, the song is a nostalgic re-exploration of Enya’s plucky pop formula, all executed with typical panache. “This is the journey home,” Enya said of how Echoes In Rain differed from Orinoco Flow. “It’s the excitement of that journey.” Released as the lead single from her eighth album, Dark Sky Island, Echoes In Rain earns its place among the best Enya songs for the way in which it showcases her exceptional knack for catchy vocal melodies.

13: Only If… (from ‘Paint The Sky With Stars’, 1997)

Released as part of her 1997 greatest-hits collection, Paint The Sky With Stars, Only If… found Enya at her most upbeat and optimistic. Peaking at No.43 in the UK, the song’s lively beat and its memorable vocal hook amount to an uplifting and inspirational ode to encouragement. With lyrics inspired by the French poet Apollinaire, the song speaks of seizing the moment. “The message was to take that step,” Enya said, “do what you want to do now, even if it involves a risk factor.” The risks Enya took clearly paid off, as the song went on to become her third US hit, reaching No.88 on the Billboard Hot 100.

12: Storms In Africa (Part II) (from ‘Watermark’, 1988)

Tinkering around with a JUNO-60 synthesiser, producer Nicky Ryan came up with the melody for Storms In Africa (Part II), coining the title due to its tribal drumming sounds. Originally sung by Enya in Gaelic, the single version featured English lyrics and made it to No.42 in the UK upon its release in June 1989. Once again focusing on the elemental themes of weather, and bringing the African continent to life with Enya’s New Age chanting, Storms In Africa (Part II) sits among the best Enya songs for its ability to conjure the sweeping savannah thanks to Nicky Ryan’s bold production.

11: The Celts (from ‘Enya’, 1987)

Originally recorded for BBC Two’s 1987 TV documentary of the same name, The Celts was a mostly instrumental track containing a spellbinding synth hook, mystical chanting and a marching beat. “For the signature tune,” Enya explained, “I was looking for something that was both catchy and original.” Despite being recorded many years earlier, The Celts was eventually released as a single in November 1992, when her self-titled debut album was reissued as The Celts, and reached No.29 in the UK. Famously, the medieval-inspired music video, directed by Michael Geoghegan, was filmed at Bodiam Castle, in East Sussex, and featured Enya riding on horseback with a flowing red cape.

10: Amarantine (from ‘Amarantine’, 2005)

Named after a Greek flower symbolising immortality, Amarantine was the lead single from Enya’s album of the same name, and peaked at No.53 in the UK, in December 2005. With typically cinematic flair, Amarantine’s surrealistic music video, directed by Tim Royes, saw Enya amble through a forest illustrated by the talents of Charles Darby, the visual-effects artist who worked on films such as Titanic, The Matrix and The Fifth Element. Dreamy and gentle, the song muses on love and fatalism, and was described as the singer’s favourite song from the album at the time of its release, certifying its position as one of the best Enya songs of all time.

9: Boadicea (from ‘Enya’, 1987)

What’s most remarkable about Boadicea is that, despite easily standing among the best Enya songs, it was never actually released as a single. Hidden away on Enya’s self-titled debut album, Boadicea re-emerged in 1996 after being sampled by hip-hop group The Fugees for their UK No.1 hit Ready Or Not. Since then, the singer’s iconic humming has become a go-to sample, later topping the charts once more as part of Mario Winans’ 2004 single I Don’t Wanna Know. “I’m not closed about people sampling the music, far from it,” Enya said in a Forbes interview in 2016. “I feel that to me, personally, that’s a great compliment.”

8: Wild Child (from ‘A Day Without Rain’, 2000)

Used as the main theme for the Japanese movie Calmi Cuori Appassionati in 2001, Wild Child is arguably the purest distillation of Enya’s ambient-pop genius. As soothing as a lullaby, it melds the Irish singer’s inimitable vocal style with buoyant strings and Roma Ryan’s philosophical lyrics. “The day is a wild child,” Roma Ryan explained in the A Day Without Rain album’s liner notes. “It is unpredictable, it is reckless, it offers you no security, it promises nothing.” By matching the song’s fatalistic refrain with such a perky melody, it was hardly a surprise when Wild Child reached No.72 in the UK, gifting Enya yet another hit.

7: Watermark (from ‘Watermark’, 1988)

If there’s any song that proves Enya’s songwriting crosses over with classical music, it’s Watermark. Though never released as a single, the 1988 instrumental sees Enya channel her piano-based inspirations – Claude Debussy and Erik Satie – to create a sweeping panoramic piece fit for any historical-epic soundtrack. The song started life as a poem written by Roma Ryan, but the lyrics went unused, as Enya and her team felt the music had a power beyond words. They weren’t wrong. Deeply evocative and emotional, Watermark was later included on a tribute album for Princess Diana after her death, in 1997, with all proceeds going to her memorial fund.

6: Anywhere Is (from ‘The Memory Of Trees’, 1995)

As one of the best Enya songs, Anywhere Is peaked at No.7 in the UK and bewitched 90s audiences with its earworm of a melody and its sprightly pace. “It was a very enjoyable song to work on,” Enya said. “It was just wonderful, and Roma wrote just lovely lyrics.” Ostensibly a song about belonging, Anywhere Is is rooted in Enya’s love of Donegal and explores the importance of home – wherever the singer’s listeners hail from. Chosen as the lead single from Enya’s 1995 album, The Memory Of Trees, Anywhere Is was only selected for release upon the urging of the UK’s then chairman of Warner Bros, Rob Dickins, who spotted its hit potential, saying it was “absolutely to die for”. It’s hard to argue with that.

5: Book Of Days (from ‘Shepherd Moons’, 1991)

Book Of Days first began life as an instrumental that was used in Ron Howard’s 1992 film, Far And Away, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Deciding to include the song on her third album, Shepherd Moons, Enya and her lyricist, Roma Ryan, came up with lyrics inspired by historical diary entries. “I experience a mixture of sadness and exuberance when I think of lives laid out on a page or in a book,” Roma Ryan wrote in the album’s liner notes. Striking and dramatic, Book Of Days reached No.10 in the UK and contains some of Nicky Ryan’s finest production flourishes, making it one of the best Enya songs.

4: May It Be (from the ‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring’ soundtrack, 2001)

There was no one better suited than Enya to record a song for the soundtrack of Peter Jackson’s 2001 movie, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. Enya’s otherworldly allure lent itself beautifully to JRR Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth, and she recorded May It Be containing a mix of English and a fictional Elvish language (Quenya). As the song plays over the film’s end credits, the listener is instantly transported to a fantastical world that few pop singers could ever reach. A towering achievement for Enya, May It Be gave many cinemagoers a fitting introduction to the singer’s transcendental breed of New Age pop.

3: Caribbean Blue (from ‘Shepherd Moons’, 1991)

The dreamy swirl of Caribbean Blue glides along like a waltz through another realm, gliding into the charts at No.13 in the UK. “It’s like Orinoco, where you are taken through a dreamlike fantasy trip,” Enya said of the song. Chosen as the lead single from her 1991 album, Shepherd Moons, Caribbean Blue boasted an artful music video directed by Michael Geoghegan and styled like a Maxwell Parrish pastel painting brought to life. According to Enya, Roma Ryan “based the lyrics on this trip through this beautiful fantasy world”. With the video combining her distinct visual aesthetic with her New Age musical leanings, the success of Caribbean Blue continued Enya’s reign as an unassailable pop maverick.

2: Orinoco Flow (from ‘Watermark’, 1988)

Enya’s breakout single, Orinoco Flow, was the last song to be written for her second album, Watermark. A delectable serving of pizzicato pop, it was released in October 1988 and became a bona fide international hit, scoring Enya a No.1 in the UK and reaching No.24 In the US. “As singles go, it’s very different,” Enya admitted, somewhat surprised that her captivating celebration of wanderlust had struck a chord with late-80s audiences. Satiating their appetites for New Age ethereality thanks to Nicky Ryan’s bombastic Beach Boys-inspired production, Orinoco Flow still holds up as one of the best Enya songs. It’s a timeless adventure in sound that instantly crowned Enya the queen of ambient pop.

1: Only Time (from ‘A Day Without Rain’, 2000)

A tear-inducing reflection on love and Loss, Enya’s first single of the 2000s, Only Time, provided a meditative high point to her A Day Without Rain album. “Only Time talks about the fact that time will heal,” Enya later said of the song, adding, “It won’t get rid of the wound, but time will bring back a sense of normality that is important to your life.” Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Only Time was used in a CNN new montage, and its sentiments immediately took on a new meaning for many people. After being invited to perform the song on Larry King Live, Enya reissued the single in November 2001, and donated her royalties to the Uniformed Firefighters Association’s Widows’ And Children’s Fund. Likely to be remembered as Enya’s masterpiece for many years to come, Only Time deservedly tops our list of the best Enya songs.

Check out the full story behind Enya’s ‘A Day Without Rain’ album.

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