St. Patrick’s Day celebrations may not be observed as widely here in Asia but once comes March 17, we can hardly keep our minds off anything Irish. From grunge to new age Celtic to bubble gum, these are the sounds from the Emerald Isle to keep you company through the night whether you’re chilling at home or out celebrating with your expat friends at a local Irish pub (in which case, request these songs!).
Van Morrison – “Domino”
You can’t go wrong kicking off the party with Van the Man. The upbeat R&B rock track with a touch of gospel off his fourth album His Band and the Street Choir was written in 1968 and released in 1970 as a homage to living R&B legend Fats Domino. The song remains Morrison’s highest charting single ever, surpassing some of the more well-known songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Moondance”.
The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”
The punk rock anthem was written by The Undertones’s principal writer John O’Neill in 1977. It was released as the Northern Irish band’s debut single in 1979 and is probably one of the most covered songs of all time – by a wide range of bands from Greenday to The Vamps – but, banal as this may sound, nothing is quite like the original. John Peel, BBC Radio’s prominent DJ, thought it’s “probably the best record ever made”. He’s said to have cried when he first heard it.
The Cranberries – “Zombie”
Although quite different from the band’s other material, we can’t not have this 1994 No. 1 on the list. Catchy in the music, heavy in the lyrics, “Zombie” stands for the music of Ireland in so many ways. Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan wrote the song after learning about the IRA’s bombings in England that killed two children, the attack that was part of the 30-year long conflict between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Boy.
U2 – “One”
If there’s anything more powerful than the universal love anthems à la John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Bob Marley’s “One Love”, it’s those songs that acknowledge all of life’s nuances despite what we share. U2’s 1992 rock ballad masterpiece was inspired by the HIV and AIDS epidemic, the band’s strained internal relationship own while going through massive success, as well as Bono’s general aversion to “hippie oneness”.
The Corrs – “Summer Sunshine”
The opening track from the band’s fourth studio album Borrowed Heaven, “Summer Sunshine” is an ultimate 2000’s pop ear candy. The lyrics may sound a little empty, if not entirely pointless (In the heat of summer sunshine/ I miss you like nobody else/ In the heat of summer sunshine/ I kiss you, and nobody needs to know) but with catchy guitar riffs and Celtic flavours, you just can’t help jamming to this song.
Hozier – “Jackie and Wilson”
Whether you first discovered Hozier’s breakout single “Take Me To Church” on the radio or during his 2014 Victoria’s Secret Show performance, we can all agree that it was almost like a religious experience. His third single off the album here doesn’t disappoint either. One of the album’s less serious songs, “Jackie And Wilson” is a playful and soulful salute to, of course, American R&B singer Jackie Wilson. It’s also romantic as hell.
Bell X1 – “Rocky Took A Lover”
Not to bum anyone out on this festive day with a Damien Rice song, we thought this equally brilliant Irish band with links to the singer might be a better choice. “Rocky Took A Lover” is a melodious single off Bell X1’s third album Flock (2005) that perfectly sums up lead singer Paul Noonan’s humorous lyrical genius (“He said ‘I wanna shine in the eye of Orion/ But I drove my soul through the Black Hole!’/ She said ‘What a wonderful way to wake me'”).
Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars”
Not only is this song Snow Patrol’s mainstream breakout song, it’s also the song that pretty much defines the past decade. We heard it so often on TV we thought it’s a soundtrack to our lives, too. And it may as well be. “It’s the purest love song that I’ve ever written,” frontman Gary Lightbody told Rolling Stone. “There’s no knife-in-the-back twist. When I read these lyrics back, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s weird.’ All the other love songs I’ve written have a dark edge.”
Kodaline – “Way Back When”
Kodaline may have risen to fame with tearjerkers like “All I Want” and “High Hopes” but it takes songs like “Way Back When” to make In A Perfect World (2013) a wholesome debut. So nostalgic, so wishful, so good. The folksy song was penned by guitarist Mark Prendergast: “The song’s about growing up together, looking back at our childhoods and the freedom we didn’t know we had,” he said in an interview. “You get a little older and you know so much more. It’s best to remember those days in a positive happy way.” Well, if that doesn’t make you raise your Guinness, we don’t know what will.
Boyzone – “Picture Of You”
Thanks to Louis Walsh, who was looking to form his native country’s version of Take That, the world got to see the dawn of Irish boyband phenomenon. “Picture Of You” is the first single released from Boyzone’s third album Where We Belong (1997), which also earned Ronan Keating his first songwriting award nomination from the Ivor Novello academy. You either remember this song by that trivia or you’re just a huge fan of Mr. Bean.
Westlife – “Amazing”
Compared to other boybands emerging from the 90’s, Westlife has the most No. 1’s but, sadly, our choice here isn’t one of them. “Amazing” is the third single off Face To Face (2005) and the band’s lowest-selling single to date. Sure lines like “And all I’ve been doing is protecting / A lie for the sake of my pride” can be terribly awkward, but with the song’s level of catchiness, we just don’t know why it’s so underrated.
One Direction (Niall Horan) – “Drag Me Down”
We hope a quarter makes the band Irish enough for you. Our opinions on One Direction may vary but we can’t deny that this first single from their fifth album Made In The AM (2015) is their most jammable pop anthem to date. The song is produced by Avicii and isn’t shy to emulate iconic artists (n.t. The Police-esque springy guitar at the pre-chorus), which is surprisingly delightful. It debuted at No. 1 and earned the band British Video Award from the 2016 BRIT Awards.