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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 1 September, 2014

Top 20: The best-selling singles in Irish history

Featuring novelty tunes, X Factor winners, and TWO songs by someone you probably thought was a one-hit wonder…

Image: Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

THEY MAY SEEM like they mean less these days – with illegal downloads becoming an increasingly commonplace fixture of the music collection – but ask most professional musicians whether they’d like a number one hit to their names and they’d be quick to say yes.

Ireland’s chart history, like most, is littered with novelty songs, holiday hits, charity ditties and other simply classic tunes – but did you know, for example, that there’s only two artists in the top 20 to have more than one entry – and you certainly aren’t likely to get them both.

So, here it is: according to the Irish Recorded Music Association, the top 20 biggest selling singles in Irish history.

20. Shaggy (ft Rayvon) – ‘Angel’ (2001)

A song that almost certainly made it into the charts because of the success of the Shaggy song that preceded it. Turgid. Also, almost certainly the only song in the chart in the musically horrendous key of F# major. (YouTube credit: )


19. The Goo Goo Dolls – ‘Iris’ (1998)

Did someone say ‘Top 30 hits’? Suffice to say, it’s aged better than Shaggy. (YouTube credit: )


18. Las Ketchup – ‘Asereje – The Ketchup Song’ (2002)

There’s always a risk when going on a sun holiday that you’ll come back with sunburn, bankruptcy, food poisoning… perhaps an ill-advised tattoo. In 2002, most people came back with a stupid, bilingual hands-over-hands dance that has now left itself firmly engrained in our national musical heritage. We hope you’re proud of yourself. (YouTube credit: )


17. Band Aid 20 – ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ (2004)

It seemed like a good idea at the time: reprise the famous song from 20 years previously, complete with the new millennium’s top musical talent. Except then we decided we’d invite Keane, and let Dizzee Rascal have a go at rapping in the middle. Oh dear, oh dear. (YouTube credit: )


16. Eminem – ‘Stan’ (2000)

They say a good song is one that anyone can sing or do a cover version of (and that a great song is one that can’t be covered by anyone). If that’s the case, then this falls somewhere between the two – even Gift Grub’s Mario Rosenstock was able to manage a joke about it seven years later. Either way, a song that cemented Eminem’s status as a worldwide megastar, and made a star out of Dido. (YouTube: )


15. Richie Kavanagh – ‘Aon Focal Eile’ (1996)

Finally! An excuse for children of the mid-1990s to pretend they’re swearing! A simple novelty that propelled Carlow’s finest troubador to the top of the Irish charts for seven weeks (eventually knocked off by the perpetually genius ‘Man United Man’). (YouTube: )


14. Alexandra Burke – ‘Hallelujah’ (2008)

The first reality TV entry in our Top 20 of top selling singles of all-time. The fact that there are plenty more reality TV products higher up in the list perhaps indicates the fatigue that viewers had for TV-stars-cum-singers, though it still managed four weeks at the top and took the Christmas slot for 2008. (YouTube: )


13. Celine Dion – ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (1998)

One enormous voice, two prime-of-their-lives film stars, one enormously successful director, one huge box office film, and one hundred billion karaoke slaughters. Listening back to the original, though, it was probably worth it. (YouTube: )


12. Shaggy – ‘It Wasn’t Me’ (2001)

One of the two artists to feature twice in the list – and you almost certainly didn’t see them coming. Our considered thoughts is that the easy-to-mumble catchiness of this song was enough to propel ‘Angel’ into the charts later that year. Still, though, valuable advice if you’re ever literally caught red handed cheating on your better half: deny all responsibility and hope it works. (YouTube credit: )


11. Eminem – ‘Lose Yourself’ (2002)

…and the second act to feature twice, featuring with the song that puts him up there only alongside Celine Dion as an Oscar-winner. This song took the Academy Award for Best Original Song for featuring in 8 Mile, thanks in no small part to a packed production that crams the song with momentum and urgency that carries it to the last. (YouTube: )


10. Westlife – ‘Uptown Girl’ (2001)

Comic Relief is rarely as much fun as this – but it’s perhaps surprising that of all of Westlife’s major hits, this Billy Joel cover was the one that made the list. Five Irish fellas for the women to watch, and a cameo from Claudia Schiffer to keep the men interested. Also, to be fair, a cracking song. (YouTube: )


9. Black Eyed Peas – ‘I’ve Gotta Feeling’ (2009)

A song that, for most people, evokes feelings of looking forward to a highly-anticipated night out. For those who can only remember it from the Stade de France in November 2009, the soundtrack to Thierry Henry’s national mugging that left a country outraged and distraught for days. (YouTube: )


8. Sharon Shannon & Mundy – ‘Galway Girl’ (2006)

Yes, 2006. It’s been that many years. 2006? Really? Those Bulmers ads can’t be that old. Nonetheless, a tune that’ll cheer up any room, irrespective of how many of them can actually sing. (YouTube: )


7. Enrique Iglesias – ‘Hero’ (2002)

Back after Bailamos garned worldwide attention, and before he got rid of the mole, Enrique Iglesias became an enormo-megastar with this hit, which tapped into the US’ need for self-assurance after the devastation of September 11. Released in the US eight days before the attacks, the song was one of the few which DJs would use as a backing track for the comments of cops and firefighters. When released worldwide the following year, it went enormous. (YouTube: EnriqueIglesiasVEVO)


6. Eiffel 65 – ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ (1999)

If nothing else, we’re pretty sure that this song was responsible for hundreds of schoolyard rows with people arguing about the actual meaning of the lyrics. Quoth one classmate: “It’s ‘Blue, I’m in need of a dye, I’m in need of a dye’.” Eh, not quite. (YouTube: )


5. Mark McCabe – ‘Maniac 2000’ (2000)

Guaranteed to get any party, wedding, shindig, box social, soiree or get-together on its feet and roaring in bizarre unison, in ways you just don’t get anywhere else. Number one for ten weeks in the spring of 2000, eventually replaced by the Bloodhound Gang’s ‘Bad Touch.’ In four words: “Yeah yeah, funky yeah.” (YouTube: )


4. Matt Cardle – ‘When We Collide’ (2010)

If you check Wikipedia’s list of the highest-selling singles ever, worldwide, you’ll notice a relatively high proportion of modern songs – testament to the fact that the era of the download makes it very easy to get hold of music, whether on your computer or mobile. This is the highest-selling song of the download era in Ireland – the X Factor winner of 2010. Cardle missed out on the UK number one that Christmas, but had to console himself with topping the Irish festive charts. (YouTube: )


3. Six – ‘There’s A Whole Lot Of Loving Going On’ (2002)

Going through this list, it becomes quite evident that many of the biggest-selling songs are ones with a relatively short shelf-life. Nowhere is this better illustrated than here: the debut single from Six, the product of RTÉ’s Popstars series, was number one for four weeks in 2002, and is the best-selling song by an Irish band. The band had split up within a year of the song going top, after their album failed to perform as well as their singles did. (YouTube: )


2. Bill Whelan – ‘Riverdance’ (1994)

Up there with Abba as the biggest Eurovision hit in history – and Riverdance wasn’t even an entry, but rather an interval amusement act. Not only did Ireland complete an unprecented Eurovision hat-trick on home turf with Rock & Roll Kids, but the sight of seven minutes’ intense dancing – followed by Michael Flatley’s shirt grabbing the light as he caught his breath afterwards – captured international imaginations in ways that little else managed either before or since. (YouTube: )


1. Elton John – ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle In The Wind ’97′ (1997)

Up there with the world’s biggest-selling songs, ever - a testament to how Diana, Princess of Wales managed to endear herself to people of all nationalities. The Royal family were thought to be aghast when it was suggested that an openly gay pop star perform at a royal funeral in Westminster Abbey;’ surely they, as everyone else, were won over by the performance. (YouTube: )


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