New wave of Irish bands takes on America
ATLANTA, Georgia -- For years, music fans have identified Irish music with high-profile acts like U2, Sinead O'Connor, The Chieftains and The Cranberries. But a new wave of Irish bands, already hot worldwide, are taking the American music scene by storm; The Corrs, the boy band Westlife, and Ronan Keating are leading the charge.
The Corrs are keeping it all in the family: Andrea Corr sings, her sister Caroline is the drummer, other sister Sharon plays the violin and brother Jim plays guitar and keyboards. The Corrs mix a contemporary pop music sound with hints of their Irish heritage.
The band burst onto the international scene with their acclaimed debut album, "Forgiven, not Forgotten" (1996). The group went on the road with Celine Dion's tour in 1996, and eventually went on to open for The Rolling Stones and recorded with The Chieftains.
Their latest album, "In Blue," is currently number six on international music charts.
For The Corrs, making successful pop music didn't mean leaving their Irish heritage behind. On the band's debut record, traditional Irish instruments like tin whistles and the bodhran add a twist to their pop melodies.
Music veteran Sinead O'Connor remembers a time when Irish influences were shunned: "When I was growing up in Ireland, it was considered completely uncool to sing in an Irish accent. You wouldn't dare sing in an Irish accent. We did, I think, what a lot of also other acts did; we imitated American bands and we imitated American accents."
For O'Connor, singing in an Irish accent doesn't merely identify where she's from -- it carries the weight of history. "We have a tradition of passing our history orally and singing a lot of it and writing songs about it and there's kind of a calling in Irish voices when they're singing in their Irish accent."
Singer Ronan Keating is only 23 years old, but he's a veteran of the Irish music scene. He's a former member of the Irish boy band, Boyzone, which reached the top of the pop music scene in Europe in 1994, but had difficulty bringing that success to American shores.
Keating believes one of the reasons their success didn't translate in the United States then is because the band was ahead of its time.
"We were here before everyone, we were here before the Spice Girls and The Backstreet Boys, we were out seven years ago when none of these bands were even heard of. Not one label in America knew what to do with Boyzone, pop music was not heard of in America ... it was a rock scene out here."
But he's not bitter. Keating has moved on with a successful solo career. His album, "Ronan," is currently number 10 on the Global Top 30 chart.
In addition to his solo work, Keating is sharing his expertise and wisdom with another successful boy band, Westlife.
"I met the guys, and I saw in them what we were like seven years ago," he said. "You know they have this hunger and the want and they were so eager and they were nice guys and they had a fantastic talent. So, I thought the least I could do is give them a helping hand."
Apparently, it's working. The five young lads from Dublin have already made significant achievements in their short career. The band's debut album, "Westlife," spawned five consecutive number one hits on U.K. music charts, breaking the world record of four straight hits set by the Beatles and Elvis Presley.
The band releases its new album, "Coast to Coast," on Monday.
Keating is encouraged about the emergence of Irish bands, but says it's hardly a recent trend.
"U2 started it out 25 years ago and ... they're back again, thank God, with a new album. But in the last five years or six years, if you look it was Boyzone, there was Westlife, Samantha Mumba, who's starting now, there's the Corrs, there was the Cranberries. You know it's fantastic, Sinead O'Connor and all of these great artists that have come from Ireland, from such a small country 3.4 million people," he said.
O'Connor is happy with the success of the youngsters in this latest wave of Irish musicians.
"I've seen a couple of the older Irish bands doing interviews recently where they're saying how it really upsets them that 13-year-olds are running the charts, with all the young boy bands, etc. I actually am delighted by that because I think that's what 13-year-olds should be doing, they should be irritating people like us, " she said.
U2 rocks on with 'All That You Can't Leave Behind'
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