15 Top Irish Pop Artists of All Time

01
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The Boomtown Rats

The Boomtown Rats
The Boomtown Rats. Photo by Fin Costello / Redferns

The Boomtown Rats were one of the top early New Wave bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. They had their first UK chart success with the single "Lookin' After No. 1" in 1977. International success and notoriety came with "I Don't Like Mondays" in 1979. The song was based on an elementary school shooting in San Diego, California in which a 16-year-old killed two adults and injured eight children. The shooter explained her actions by saying, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." The song went to #1 in the UK and broke into the Billboard Hot 100.

The Boomtown Rats went on to have two more top 10 pop hits in the UK. In 1984, the group's leader Bob Geldof, along with Midge Ure of Ultravox, put together the celebrity charity record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" under the name Band Aid. In 1985 the pair put together the international Live Aid concerts to raise money to fight famine in Africa. 20 years later these were followed by Live 8.

Watch "I Don't Like Mondays"

02
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Boyzone

Boyzone
Boyzone. Photo by Tim Roney / Hulton Archive

The boy band Boyzone came together in 1993 when Louis Walsh called for auditions to create an Irish Take That. In the first months the membership of the group shifted around until the best-known lineup of Shane Lynch, Ronan Keating, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham, and Keith Duffy was settled upon. The group's first single, a cover of the Four Seasons' "Working My Way Back To You," reached #3 in the Irish pop charts. It was followed by "Love Me For a Reason" which topped the Irish charts and went to #2 in the UK on its way to gold certification. The group followed with 15 consecutive top 10 hits in the UK.

In 1999, the group decided to go on hiatus. After final live performances in early 2000, the members headed into their own separate projects. The members faced mixed success on their own, and in late 2007 announced their return for a concert tour. The group returned with the top 10 hit "Love You Anyway" and the platinum certified compilation album Back Again...No Matter What. However, in late 2009 tragedy struck with the sudden death of group member Stephen Gately. The remaining four members of Boyzone have continued on since but with reduced commercial success. 

Watch "No Matter What"

03
of 15

The Corrs

The Corrs
The Corrs. Photo by Hayley Madden / Redferns

The Corrs are an Irish family group of four siblings. They first gained fame when they auditioned for the international hit film The Commitments and gained parts in the movie. In the mid-1990s they signed a recording contract in the US with Atlantic Records and recorded with producer David Foster. However, it was not until their 1998 cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" that they found major success in the UK. It was the first of six top 10 pop hit singles there. The group's 2000 single "Breathless" broke into the pop top 40 in the US as well. The Corrs have officially been on hiatus since 2006 while group members raise their families and take part in individual projects.

Watch "Breathless"

04
of 15

The Cranberries

The Cranberries
The Cranberries. Photo by Catherine McGann / Hulton Archive

The Irish rock band The Cranberries was formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1990. They are led by vocalist Dolores O'Riordan. The group's debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? took some time to gain traction. However, MTV discovered the single "Linger" and with strong play of the music video, it became a top 10 pop hit in the US in 1993. The Cranberries followed the success with the album No Need To Argue and its single "Zombie" which topped the US modern rock charts. The group released five more top 40 hits on the US modern rock chart through the rest of the decade.

The Cranberries went on hiatus in 2003 while group members pursued their own individual projects. In 2009 the group came back together and released the studio album Roses in 2012. 

Watch "Linger"

05
of 15

Enya

Enya
Enya. Photo by Tod Pitt / Hulton Archive

Enya started out in music in 1980 as a member of her family's group Clannad. However, she soon began performing solo. Her second solo album, 1988's Watermark, brought her international success. The single "Orinoco Flow" was a #1 hit in multiple countries around the world and broke into the pop top 40 in the US. The album ultimately sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Enya became a leader of the new age genre. Her 1991 album Shepherd Moons spent more than 200 weeks on the US album chart.

In 2000 Enya released her album A Day Without Rain. The single "Only Time" was used in efforts to soothe frayed nerves following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The song peaked at #10 on the US pop singles chart. Enya continues to occupy a unique niche worldwide in pop and new age music. Her most recent studio album was 2008's And Winter Came... 

Watch "Only Time"

06
of 15

Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard
Glen Hansard. Photo by Brad Barket / Getty Images

Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard first gained notice as leader of the rock band The Frames. He appeared in the 1991 film The Commitments and gained international attention. After six studio albums with The Frames, he released The Swell Season with Marketa Irglova in 2006. The pair began dating and he appeared in the film Once. The song "Falling Slowly" from the movie's soundtrack recorded by the pair won an Academy Award for Best Song. In 2012 Glen Hansard released his first solo album Rhythm and Repose. It was a top 10 rock and alternative album success in the US. The song "Come Away To the Water" was covered by Maroon 5 and Rozzi Crane for the soundtrack to the film The Hunger Games.

Watch "Falling Slowly"

07
of 15

Hozier

Hozier
Hozier. Photo by Chris McKay / Getty Images

Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne records under the name Hozier. He was a member of the Irish choral group Anuna from 2008 through 2012. In 2013 he released his debut solo EP and it included the international pop success "Take Me To Church." The song ultimately hit the top 10 in most countries around the world. It peaked at #2 in the US and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year. Hozier's self-titled debut album also hit #2 and has been certified gold for sales. 

Watch "Take Me To Church"

08
of 15

Van Morrison

Van Morrison
Van Morrison. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Northern Ireland native Van Morrison is one of the most celebrated rock vocalists of all time. He first gained fame as leader of the garage rock band Them. Their single "Gloria" broke into the Billboard Hot 100 and has become a rock classic. When the group broke up in 1966, Van Morrison embarked on a solo career. He had a top 10 pop hit with the song "Brown Eyed Girl" and later with "Domino" in 1970. However, it was Van Morrison's adventurous albums that made him a legend. His 1968 album Astral Weeks was a commercial flop but is now hailed as a classic. It was followed by another classic, the multi-platinum Moondance

Van Morrison has released 34 studio albums, and he continues to perform live and record new material. He released a duets album in 2015 that featured reworked versions of many of his classic songs.

Watch "Moondance"

09
of 15

Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O'Connor. Photo by Jesse Grant / WireImage

Sinead O'Connor released her first album The Lion and the Cobra at the age of 20 in 1987, and she quickly became a rising star in rock and alternative circles. It earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. In 1990 the second album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got included the cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" which became a #1 smash hit single around the world. It was nominated for Record of the Year by the Grammy Awards. In 1992 Sinead O'Connor appeared as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live. After singing an a capella version of Bob Marley's "War," she presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera, tore it into pieces and said, "Fight the real enemy." Controversy over Sinead O'Connor's political views irreversibly damaged her commercial appeal.

Sinead O'Connor released her 10th studio album I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss. It met with positive critical responses and broke into the upper half of the US album chart, her biggest chart success since 2000's Faith and Courage.

Watch "Nothing Compares 2 U"

10
of 15

Gilbert O'Sullivan

Gilbert O'Sullivan
Gilbert O'Sullivan. Photo by Keystone / Hulton Archive

Gilbert O'Sullivan was born with the first name Raymond, but he adopted the new first name at the suggestion of his manager giving a word play on Gilbert and Sullivan. His first songs were avant garde in nature, but by 1970 he settled into his own pop style with the single "Nothing Rhymed." It climbed into the top 10 in the UK, but it was his 1972 smash "Alone Again (Naturally)" that made Gilbert O'Sullivan a pop superstar. The song topped the US pop charts for six weeks becoming one of the biggest hits of the 1970s. He followed the success with the additional top 10 hits "Clair" and "Get Down."

Gilbert O'Sullivan played a key role in securing the rights of artists to compensation when their songs are sampled in other recordings. In 1991 he sued rapper Biz Markie over a sample of "Alone Again (Naturally)." He performed live at the Glastonbury Music Festival in 2008.

Watch "Alone Again (Naturally)" 

11
of 15

Damien Rice

Damien Rice
Damien Rice. Photo by Patrick Ford / Redferns

Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice began his career as a member of the 1990s rock band Juniper. Frustrated with requests of the group's record label, he left in 1998 for a solo career. His debut album O was released in 2002 and reached the top 10 on the UK album chart. It included the top 10 UK pop hit single "Cannonball." His second album 9 was released in 2006 and topped the UK album chart while reaching #22 in the US.

In 2011 the girl group Little Mix recorded Damien Rice's "Cannonball" as their X Factor "coronation single." It topped the UK pop singles chart. Damien Rice released his third studio album My Favourite Faded Fantasy in 2014 to positive critical reviews. It became his first to land inside the top 20 of the US album chart.

Watch "Cannonball" 

12
of 15

The Script

The Script
The Script. Photo by Larry Marano / Getty Images

Danny O'Donoghue and Mark Sheehan were part of the Irish boy band Mytown as teenagers. They broke into the UK pop top 40 in 1999 with the single "Party All Night." The group broke up in 2001 and the pair returned to Dublin, Ireland to put together The Script. The new group broke into the top 10 on the UK pop singles chart with the 2008 single "The Man Who Can't Be Moved." It was followed by the self-titled debut album which went to #1. The follow-up single "Breakeven" became a major hit in the US peaking at #12.

The Script have enjoyed continued success with three more top 40 pop hit singles in the US and two top 10 hit albums. Their most recent album is 2014's No Sound Without Silence.

Watch "Breakeven" 

13
of 15

Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol
Snow Patrol. Photo by Rob Verhorst / Redferns

Northern Ireland's Snow Patrol released "Chasing Cars," one of the biggest pop hit singles ever in the UK, in 2006. It only peaked at #6 but to date has spent 111 weeks in the UK top 75 placing second on the all-time longevity list. In the US the song went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 after being featured on the TV hit Grey's Anatomy. It has sold more than three million copies in the US and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Song. Snow Patrol's two most recent studio albums have both hit the top 10 in the US. They are credited with worldwide album sales in excess of 10 million.

Watch "Chasing Cars"

14
of 15

U2

U2
U2. Photo by David Corlo / Michael Ochs Archives

U2 are the bestselling Irish pop artists of all time. They have sold more than 150 million records worldwide and are considered one of the world's greatest rock bands. The group was formed in Dublin in 1976 when the members were still teenagers. The 1987 album The Joshua Tree is one of the bestselling albums of all time with worldwide sales over 25 million. U2 have reached the top 10 on the US pop singles chart six times. Their thirteenth studio album Songs of Innocence was released in the fall of 2014. It was the subject of controversy after iTunes gave the album away to all customers by instantly placing it in their iTunes inventory.

Watch "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

15
of 15

Westlife

Westlife
Westlife. Photo by Dave Hogan / Hulton Archive

Irish boy band Westlife first came together in 1998. Louis Walsh, manager of Boyzone, became interested in three group members when they were performing as part of Six As One. At the request of Simon Cowell, three members were fired, and two new members recruited. He then signed the newly named Westlife to a recording contract. The boy band opened in concert for Boyzone and the Backstreet Boys which led to the debut single "Swear It Again" topping the UK and Irish pop singles charts and reaching #20 in the UK. However, the group then focused on other markets and never reached the US pop charts again. By the time Westlife announced their breakup in 2011, they had reached the UK pop top 10 a phenomenal 24 times with 13 singles going all the way to #1.

Watch "Mandy"

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Your Citation
Lamb, Bill. "15 Top Irish Pop Artists of All Time." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/all-time-top-irish-pop-artists-3248137. Lamb, Bill. (2016, August 22). 15 Top Irish Pop Artists of All Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/all-time-top-irish-pop-artists-3248137 Lamb, Bill. "15 Top Irish Pop Artists of All Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/all-time-top-irish-pop-artists-3248137 (accessed November 21, 2017).