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Apr 15

THE CORRS – “Breathless”

Popular61 comments • 6,075 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. 31
    James BC on 2 Apr 2015 #

    The best Corrs humour was Richard Herring’s shrine to the Corrs on This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Can’t find a clip just now though.

  2. 32
    wichitalineman on 2 Apr 2015 #

    I was unaware of the “beautiful Corrs” larks at the time, but was very aware of the family’s run of hits to date – sweetly sung and always melodic, Radio 2 was designed with the Corrs in mind. It was hard to see how Breathless made it to number one when What Can I Do and (especially) Runaway fell short. This certainly felt like an overly keen grab for Shania’s transatlantic market. It suits them ok – catchy, glossy, summery – but I agree with everyone who has said their core Corrs-iness is all but lost.

    Intriguingly, Breathless followed a flop, whose name I’ve forgotten, which sounded like a rickety, bawdy cross between the Watersons and B*witched (the chorus ran something like “I loves you the best”). Which presumably led them to believe they’d reached a fork in the road.

    Was it worth it, then, their Def Muttification for seven days at the top? As it killed their career here, I’d guess not.

    Good spot up-thread on Mrs Doyle.

  3. 33
    Matt DC on 2 Apr 2015 #

    Feel like, in Popular terms at least, this is the start of a type of pop music that is young, sexy, tasteful in a way that vaguely gestures in the direction of credibility, and still very very boring. All of these things had existed before but perhaps not combined together quite like this. Fast forward fifteen years and it’s virtually the default modus operandi of British and Irish pop music.

    No unconnectedly, this is the week that the first Coldplay album is released and goes straight in at number one and the fascination for all things unthreateningly nice really goes into overdrive.

  4. 34
    James BC on 2 Apr 2015 #

    Perhaps the Corrs were groundbreaking in one way: the above mentioned Talk On Corners: Special Edition was certainly the first time I’d seen a repackaged special edition album. A few years later they were everywhere, and now it’s almost expected that a big seller will be redone a few months later, with ever-diminishing additions made to justify the revamp. Great for sales, but would the ploy have been hit on if it hadn’t been for the Corrs?

  5. 35
    Andrew on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #34 James did it with Gold Mother: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Mother

    With James and the Corrs there was a sense that this was a genuine desire to update the most current album with successful singles that hadn’t yet been recorded (or hadn’t been successes; ‘Sit Down’ had been reworked and was only a hit upon re-release) or new remixes/single versions.

    The more cynical acts/record companies will nowadays hold back a big single for a pre-planned re-release. It’s only really a great sales ploy until customers catch on that a re-release is inevitable and opt to hold out for it to arrive…

    Of course nowadays iTunes means that you can usually simply buy the extra tracks – or a selection thereof – on their own if you want them (if, indeed, you’re still buying music at all).

  6. 36
    Steve Williams on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #14 Although it seems like the kind of song that would sneak in at number one in a quiet week, it wasn’t an especially quiet week at all, because there were seven new entries in the top ten, I think a record…
    http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/singles-chart/20000709/7501

    Quite big acts about, too, including Oasis, Steps and Artful Dodger, plus that Limp Bizkit song was a bit of a talking point. And the best Atomic Kitten song. So it seemed incredible that of all of them it was this that made it to number one.

    The Corrs were a proper crossover band, though, I remember coming home from university and my parents had suddenly bought all their albums.

  7. 37
    onehitwanderer on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #33 Also about this time David Gray hit big with “Babylon” and associated album

    #34 Madonna with “Like a Virgin” when re-issued to include “Into the Groove”?

    To my ears this had a whiff of Belinda Carlisle circa “Leave a Light On”.

  8. 38
    Cumbrian on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #36: I’m an Oasis fan and I’d rather listen to The Corrs than Sunday Morning Call. Dreadful.

    Other than Break Stuff, that Limp Bizkit song is probably their high water mark, imo, and telling that the hooks on it have little to nothing to do with them. Though I’ll save more on them for the relevant thread, I think, notwithstanding Tom’s remarks on one of the other threads about the limits of the spoiler bunny’s powers.

  9. 39
    JoeWiz on 2 Apr 2015 #

    I stand by the first Corrs album. Some excellent, well crafted Irish tinged pop/rock. Talk on Corners was hugely overplayed, and I remember nothing of the third album apart from this single. Which isn’t awful but, as previously mentioned, is overproduced to within an inch of it’s life, and blends into the background far too easily.
    Interesting how far they fell, was the quality just not there? They weren’t particularly interesting personalities either, which meant the red tops didn’t have much to play with to keep them in the public eye. I seem to remember one of them trying to invent a relationship between Andrea and Robbie Williams…

  10. 40
    Phil on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #32: a flop, whose name I’ve forgotten, which sounded like a rickety, bawdy cross between the Watersons and B*witched

    Sounds either brilliant or awful, or else both. Can anyone put a name to this?

    #22 a Shania track with the country instruments replaced by Celtic – ??? I can’t hear anything there that’s Celtic, or country for that matter; it’s straight-down-the-line guitar-bass-drums driving music.

    The interesting thing is that they’d already done half-Corrs-half-Fleetwood-Mac with “Dreams”, and had a massive success with it. So why they decided to go no-Corrs-all-Belinda-Carlisle with this one (and presumably the album – I’m not curious enough to investigate) is a mystery. Dull, surprisingly unsexy (however glammed-up they got the Corrs never really did ‘sexy’ – presumably because they didn’t want to – which makes this song a mis-step on another level) and just annoyingly catchy. I’ll give it 5.

  11. 41
    Kinitawowi on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #34: Gold Mother was a slightly fiddly case – the second release of Gold Mother (the one with Sit Down and Lose Control instead of Hang On and Crescendo – Hang On was no great loss, but Crescendo is awesome) was the album previously released in America as “James”. Sit Down had been kicking around in some form for a couple of years before then – the first, sprawling eight minute single (not to be confused with the earlier and irrelevant Sit Down EP) is worth a listen – but hadn’t really solidified into a decent (or, let’s face it, sellable) arrangement. The same goes for The Corrs – Radio had been around since the TOC days but wouldn’t settle down to a recordable song until they pulled it out for MTV Unplugged.

    Of course, there was a third reissue of Gold Mother in 2001 (along with the other albums from Gold Mother through Whiplash – excepting the bonkers Wah Wah, obviously) which put both missing tracks back on at the end and is probably thus the one to own.

    If we want to talk heinous Special Edition rereleases, let’s stick with In Blue – somewhere around the third single (Irresistible or Give Me A Reason – I forget which came first) it got a two-disc rerelease; a few acoustic versions, a couple of live tracks, and long-standing escaped pre-gig warm-up track Love In The Milky Way (probably the best thing on it, if the least Corrs-y). It also did away with the original cover art (the infamous one with Andrea wearing a New York Dolls t-shirt). Not that 2CD special editions are particularly new, but previously they were usually simultaneous releases with the originals…

    Toploader’s “Onka’s Big Moka” got rereleased when (a) people knew who they were after Dancing In The Moonlight got everywhere and (b) Just Hold On became a single that needed to be added in somewhere.

    #32: Is that not their Chieftains collaboration I Know My Love? They worked with them on TOC (the cover of Little Wing, which damn near ruins the album – No Good For Me would have been a perfect ending), so they returned the favour for a collaborations album which was clearly more Chieftains than Corrs (which might be why it never got much higher than about number 37).

    #36: Oh my god that chart! It’s like I’m 19 all over again. Atomic Kitten at 10 was the song that sold me their album (I regret nothing), Sandstorm is timely given Youtube’s April Fools prank yesterday, and is that Sid “RICKAAAAAY” Owen at 24…?

  12. 42
    James BC on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #35 Yes – reissuing an album to add a later single wasn’t uncommon. Chaka Demus and Pliers did it as well to add Twist and Shout to Tease Me in ’93. It’s the term ‘special edition’ and the addition of several new or remixed tracks that seem new. What I’m saying is that Talk On Corners may have been the lightbulb moment for marketers: “Hang on, this is something we could do deliberately and make a lot of money from.”

    What was the next big selling album to use the same trick?

  13. 43
    Andrew on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #42 ah yes, in terms of ‘Special Edition’ and new artwork etc., you are absolutely correct that Talk on Corners may well be the first. I certainly can’t think of an earlier album that did that.

    Could we then attribute to Talk on Corners: Special Edition the beginning of the end of *The Album* as the definitive body of work, as we’ll soon watch it become a conveniently malleable, re-releasable, bonus track shilling exercise …and eventually give way to the playlist as the primary mode of consumption?

  14. 44
    Andrew on 2 Apr 2015 #

    #42 Also, of course the blue-covered Special Edition was entirely cynical. But I can remember an earlier re-release adding the non-remixed Dreams, which was absent from the first pressings.

  15. 45
    Rory on 2 Apr 2015 #

    Having worked my way through Taylor Swift’s early catalogue a couple of months ago in the wake of bingeing on 1989 and Red over Christmas/New Year, this sounds pretty similar. If early TS represents contemporary country then yeah, add a bit of banjo or steel guitar and this could be country. An unobjectionable 5.

    I’m curious to hear what Lange has done with Muse; the first couple of teaser tracks are okay, but haven’t grabbed me by the throat yet. Loved his Def Leppard productions back in the day, but they were a long time ago.

  16. 46
    James BC on 2 Apr 2015 #

    No, I would disagree that the Talk On Corners special edition was cynical. Without it, thousands of people would have bought the normal edition and been let down that the songs they liked most weren’t in the versions they knew.

    With regard to the disappearance of *The Album*, that’s true to an extent, but then again the kind of Important Acts who make Albums don’t tend to go in for special editions much. Coldplay did it with Viva La Vida, but they made the new tracks available as a separate EP as well, nice guys that they are.

  17. 47
    AMZ1981 on 2 Apr 2015 #

    It’s ironic that Breathless marked the Corrs’ peak, having been there or thereabouts with their previous singles (6-3-6-2) the first material from a new album sent them all the way. Post Breathless they never hit big with any song again. By the time they entered hiatus in 2005 they were already one of those acts that people could scarcely believe had been so big just a few years ago (Alanis Morisette was already one example, David Gray would prove another – along with several bunnies).

    I’m a latecomer to this debate but as far as I can see nobody has mentioned their most incredible feat and why the Corrs are the answer to a good pub quiz question. The reissued Forgiven Not Forgotten rose to number two in the album chart behind Talk On Corner making them the only act besides the Beatles to manage an albums chart 1,2.

  18. 48
    speedwell54 on 2 Apr 2015 #

    re 47 ..and Adele at number 1 and 2 with ’21′ and ’19′ in 2011, just to update the question. Maybe another?

  19. 49
    Izzy on 2 Apr 2015 #

    I wouldn’t know how to check, but surely both Guns N Roses and Bruce Springsteen will also have managed it?

  20. 50
    Andrew Farrell on 2 Apr 2015 #

    Well, this’d be one place to check and this’d be another.

  21. 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…)

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 58
    Kinitawowi on 25 May 2015 #

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

  29. 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.

  30. 61
    Gareth Parker on 31 May 2021 #

    Even at 3 1/2 minutes it feels overlong and tedious to my ears. I’m going to be harsh and go for a 3/10 here.

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