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Apr 15

THE CORRS – “Breathless”

Popular60 comments • 4,066 views

#865, 15th July 2000

corrs We’re halfway through 2000’s overstuffed curiosity shop of number ones, and I’ve realised something about this period’s glut of hits. The common idea is that the rapid turnover at the top is the sign of a chart that’s broken, over-responsive to release date and first-week sales manipulation. But actually writing about them has brought home how many different groups and scenelets were being served by the charts – from the Manics to Gabrielle, Britney to Eminem, Madison Avenue to Oxide & Neutrino. There’s something for anyone, but nothing for everyone. This is the music industry at its bloated commercial peak, the greatest expansion of the CD bubble – of course a sales-based chart is going to reflect that. So 2000’s number ones now feel to me not like a garden in need of weeding, but an unnaturally fecund vegetable patch, pumped full of dodgy fertiliser.

Alongside the prize-winning specimens, less remarkable growths still thrive. The audience for “Breathless” surely overlapped with Gabrielle and even Sonique, though this is more AOR than either. The Mutt Lange credit offers another clue – this is pitching to the same, vast, constituency that bought Shania’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much”. Glossy, friendly, pop-rock, vast and spotless but with a relatable folksiness brought in via the artist’s root genre. For Twain, it was country music’s down-to-earth humour providing the human touch; for the Corrs, it’s the wholesomeness of sisterly harmonising (and a dab of tin whistle, unless I’m hallucinating). Though after Simple Minds, after Celine, after B*Witched, the Corrs deserve points for using Irish folk touches as just another part of a big pop song, not as off-the-shelf Celtic flavouring. “Breathless” is never not corny, but for the most part it’s a sturdy, midwestern strain of corn.

It’s also obviously accomplished. Lange’s knowhow and production muscle make it soar and stop in the right places, and Andrea Corr’s soft voice is a sweet counterpoint to the jacked-up backing. There was a large constituency who didn’t care about either the “little girl and boy groups” or their bleach-blond nemesis, who just wanted music to be songful, well-made and direct – and the understated bliss of “Breathless” is certainly that. In a pop scene made up of so many niches, some things just pass you by entirely, and I only knew the “beautiful, beautiful Corrs” as the butt of a regular joke on kids’ variety and pop show SMTV. On this evidence, they deserved more. Not that much more, though. It’s good to hear the open, optimistic Lange sound again, but his best work – the chrome-plated rock fantasies of Def Leppard, or Shania’s winning snark – has a bite and momentum that The Corrs were never likely to hit.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Rory on 3 Apr 2015 #

    This Mike Oldfield fan spurns your spurious Corrs chart factoid! (Or, if you’d prefer them the other way round…)

  2. 52
    mapman132 on 3 Apr 2015 #

    Artists who have accomplished this in the US, according to Wiki: the Beatles, comedian Bob Newhart, Guns N Roses, and Nelly. I think Jim Croce also did it following his death in 1973, but Wiki doesn’t mention him. Bruce came close in 1992: #2 and #3 behind Def Leppard. Finally, Michael Jackson probably would have done this in 2009, but chart policy at the time excluded older albums, thus leading to the unique situation of the top selling album(s) in the US not appearing on the Billboard 200 at all.

  3. 53
    23 Daves on 3 Apr 2015 #

    #36 Blimey! The crossover effect in full, erm, effect then.

    My Mum was the same with The Corrs. She’d heard of them before I even had, raving on the phone about some group or other who’d recorded a song called, in her words “Ooh, what’s it called, um, erm, I Never… er… oh… (*To Dad: “What’s that song I like, John?”*)… ooh… Oh, you must know it! They’re Irish, and ladies! They sing! Always on the radio! You must have friends that like them! Oooh… it’s on the tip of my tongue… Oh, Never Really Think I Really Loved You Anyway, that’s it. Have you got their album?”

    So there was an assumption among the olds that The Corrs were a hip and happening new band, probably because at the time my Mum raised them I think they hadn’t actually managed a Top 40 hit here. The sound of triumph in her voice when I said I hadn’t heard anything by them yet… unless you listened to Radio Two, there was a point where they were utterly avoidable.

  4. 54
    AMZ1981 on 3 Apr 2015 #

    Sorry about the gaffe which came about from assuming that The Corrs wikipedia article was correct. I did wonder if Mike Oldfield might have done it but forgot about the two early nineties double releases.

  5. 55
    fivelongdays on 4 Apr 2015 #

    #36/38 – I’ll talk more about this at the appropriate time, but Take A Look Around was (IMHO) the high water mark not just for Limp Bizkit, but for NuMetal. Best single of 2000, and a surefire 10.

  6. 56
    Phil on 5 Apr 2015 #

    Can’t have been easy being Jim Corr. I remember an interviewer asking him what it was like for him on tour, living in close quarters with these three internationally celebrated and highly glamorous women…? To which he replied, reasonably, “well, they’re my sisters”. And that relates to the image problem the band had more generally. However glammed-up Andrea got, the Corrs always gave off an air of just wanting to get on with playing music and having fun doing it: what you saw was what you got, they were siblings who played music together and, er, that was it. The industry had other ideas for the three women (look at that video). That was bad enough for them, but it was even worse for Jim; in the New Model Corrs he would have been the Zeppo.

  7. 57
    Tommy Mack on 5 Apr 2015 #

    I remember a Q piece where they hung with The Corrs at their rehearsal studio. They claimed Caroline (?) ‘makes John Bonham sound like teletubby Po gently tapping a plastic tambourine’ which seems a bit of a stretch, I doubt even Caroline would have listed ‘meaty drum sound’ among The Corrs strengths!

  8. 58
    Kinitawowi on 25 May 2015 #

    #39 “Which one’s which in The Corrs?” – Robbie Williams, I Tried Love

  9. 59
    ciaran on 10 Jun 2015 #

    The Corrs were incredibly successful in the latter half of the 90s over in Ireland. In the pre-internet days they were on every Radio playlist, travel ad, talk show so prettyunavoidable.As un threatening as those who entered the ‘lovely girls contest’ in Father Ted.

    The success of 1995-97 looked like it would just be kept within Ireland and then lo and behold the easy celtic listening shtick has caught on across the water in 1998.

    I was intrigues by Breathless when I first heard it as it looked like a total new direction. I never copped the Shania Twain similarities at all but it doesnt work in its favour nowadays. Like a group who’ve gone to the states for 3 months and who picked up a few tunes but quickly discarded on return.They hardly look like their enjoying themselves in the video either.4

    They were still active after this but not as successful as they once were.Jim’s rantings a la David Icke all too familiar. Sharon is one of the judges on Rte show ‘The Voice’ now. I must admit I had a soft spot for Andrea’s ‘Shame on you’ from 2007.

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