Review of Chilly Gonzales’ essay “Enya”

For anyone who has any idea who Chilly Gonzales is, it’s a shock at first. Has the cleverest showman in indie pop, the man who always sits at the piano in a bathrobe and slippers, even if he appears with a string quartet, has Daft punk and Drake recorded hits and once managed to fit the word “inferiority complex” into a rap song – did this man really write a book about Enya? The queen of new age bombast kitsch pop? Expert for lullabies with an overdose of pathos, to which second-rate German middleweight boxers ran in in their last fight in the nineties, which they then lost without singing? Yes, that’s exactly what he did.

And he is also serious: “When I hear Enya, I think everything will be fine. I then imagine I’m a baby and am sung to sleep by an Irish fairytale princess.” But one by one.

Chilly Gonzalez on ENYA

Chilly Gonzales: Enya. Translated from the English by Sophie Passmann. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2020. 96 pages, 10 euros.

(Photo: KiWi)

The young Chilly Gonzales, who became known in Berlin in the nineties as an accomplice of indie pop top hipsters like Feist, Peaches, Mocky and Jamie Lidell, was a gifted ironic swindler and player: “You snooze, you lose” https: // www .sueddeutsche.de / culture /. “Enya” is something like the letter about the transformation of the Canadian musician, born in 1972 as Jason Charles Beck in Montreal. Strictly speaking, he hasn’t been performing super-smart pop travesties for at least ten years, but rather delicately elegiac, satie-like minimalist piano indulgence. Most recently even on a Christmas album with cover versions of “Silent Night”, “Jingle Bells” and “O Tannenbaum”. Elevator music with taste for a culturally affine, middle-aged, urban audience who loved him even when he was still rapping sweating, but who are happy that Gonzales concerts are now taking place in well-tempered Philharmonic halls. Klimper, Klimper, hach, nice, oh, 10 p.m., then let’s go to sleep, right.

When he started doing it in 2004 on his most successful album “Solo Piano” to date, it still seemed to be meant as a casual joke. According to the motto: “Listen, if you have to, I’ll even get you to think that shallow piano clinkers are super cool.” And that’s how it was. In “Enya”, which is basically also a great autobiography en miniature, the trained jazz pianist now pleads, touchingly contrite, guilty of having denied his own “uncool” taste in music early on and misusing music “in order to impress people instead of with to contact them “. Which is where Enya comes into play.

The trick is that Gonzales isn’t just an Enya fan, he’s a passionate pop music analyst. Just look at his brilliant “Pop Music Masterclass” videos, in which he has been entertaining and illuminating the magic of super hits like Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” or Taylor Swifts at irregular intervals for some time now “Shake It Off” decoded. The book is about in this sense, with dangling to Nina Simone and the opera singers of the 18th and 19th centuries, about the curse and blessing of vibrato in singing. Or about the courage to invent songs with simple melodies “without ego” – and about the art of using chord accompaniment to transform such songs into other versions of themselves without actually changing them.

And so “Enya”, even if you still can’t stand Enya’s music afterwards, is above all the best essay on pop as music, art and commodity that has appeared in the recent past. In other words, the younger, cool Chilly Gonzales hasn’t entirely disappeared from the older one. When it had to be, he managed to make a book about Enya by him good.

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