Irish music has enriched the musical world scene for centuries. As Irish music continued to evolve, so did the traditional Irish instruments and music beats. Besides the fiddle, the bagpipe, the Celtic harp and the Irish flute, Ireland’s greatest contribution to the world of music is its unmatched singers. These singers conquered every music genre so successfully you’d think they created the genres themselves.
The world enjoyed the magnificent voices of female Irish singers for years. These talented artists showed us how one can bend their vocal cords to create the most enchanting songs. We laughed with them, we cried, fell in love, said goodbye and wished tomorrow would bring a better day. We’ve fallen head over heels and are certain you will, too.
Female Irish Singers
Our list of female Irish singers includes stars who are still with us and several who left their mark on our world before they left. Each one of them had her unique beginning, and you might’ve heard some of their tunes on the radio, watched one of their gigs or even heard them in the background of a film and wondered who that was. We put some of the names to the songs.
If you don’t think you’ve heard Celtic music before but are familiar with Enya’s mesmerising ballads, then you’ve heard Celtic music at its finest. The Donegal-born singer began her music career with her musical family as a band member of Clannad, the family’s music band. During that time, Enya went by her birth name, Eithne Ni Bhraonain, but she soon started pursuing her solo career and has been making fans happy since then. Enya became such a successful female Irish singer that she became the second-best singer in Ireland after U2.
Enya’s magical voice blurs the lines between music genres; she excelled in combining Irish folk music, Celtic, jazz, world and pop music into enjoyable masterpieces. For this reason, Enya classifies her music genre as merely Enya, a new and special genre pertaining only to her. She recorded all the vocals of her songs unless it was a collaboration with other artists, and she’s been working with the same lyricist, Roma Ryan, and producer, Nicky Ryan, since she went solo in 1982. Some of Enya’s popular tracks include Only Time, Caribbean Blue and May It Be, one of The Lord of the Rings’ original soundtracks.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Mary Black is an Irish country singing legend. She began her musical career in the 1970s as part of the folk band General Humbert. In the following decade, she recorded her first album, where she expressed her desired style of music. Her ventures with the traditionalist Irish band De Dannan introduced her to traditional Irish music and allowed her to slowly develop her own style.
Mary combined the authenticity of folk Irish music with Celtic music’s richness and country music’s lightness. After several successful albums during the 1980s, she ended the decade with a triple-platinum album, No Frontiers. The following decade saw her career thriving; she was named the Best Female Artist twice, had her first sell-out tour and concert at the Royal Albert Hall and her songs ranked high on both the Irish and Japanese charts. Black’s 2014-2015 tour was dubbed her last international tour, but she vowed to continue making music. Some of her best songs include Walking in The Air, a duet with Westlife, Babes in the Wood and No Frontiers.
Multi-talented singer and performer Andrea Corr is a successful member of The Corrs, a Celtic folk rock and pop rock Irish band. The band consisted of Andrea and her three siblings. The band’s debut album, Forgiven, Not Forgotten, scored quadruple platinum status in Ireland and remains one of the most successful debuts by an Irish band. After her debut with the band in 1990, she released 12 albums with them while pursuing her solo career as well. Her solo debut album, Ten Feet High, released in 2007, introduced a dance-pop tone that differed from her recordings with the band.
Andrea’s second solo album showed the depth and length of her voice as she covered songs by various artists, including John Lennon and the Velvet Underground, all songs that helped shape who she was when she was younger. Besides her amazing vocals, Andrea can play four instruments: the piano, the ukulele, the tin whistle and the mandolin. She also has several acting roles, such as her debut in the 1991 Alan Parker film The Commitments and The Boys from County Clare, which won her the Best Actress award at the US Comedy Arts Festival. Andrea’s Shame On You is one of her most successful songs, about people going to war and leaving their partners behind.
Irish singer Lisa Kelly is one of the unique voices forming the world-renowned band Celtic Woman. The singer and voice teacher began her artistic career with several musical leading roles, such as her roles in Chess, West Side Story and Grease. A chance performance at the Gaiety Theatre landed her the leading female vocalist role in Riverdance, The Show, in 2000. Lisa remained a stable vocalist performing with Riverdance for the following several years. After this time, she released her debut solo album, Lisa, in 2003, with several hit songs such as Carrickfergus, The Soft Goodbye and Homecoming.
Lisa joined the Celtic Woman group and show in 2004. With the group, she got to perform several original songs, such as The Blessing, Send Me A Song and Green The Whole Year Round. During her time with the group, Lisa took several breaks for her children’s birth and would return afterwards. Her last contributions to the group include Fields of Gold and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
In 2013, Lisa announced she would be leaving Celtic Woman for good to settle down and look after her four children. The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy was established afterwards, where Lisa focused on her voice teaching capabilities. The academy was such a success that a branch opened three years later. Lisa’s incredible songs include The Voice, Send Me A Song and Caledonia.
Blessed with a one-of-kind voice, Siobhan Fahey is a world-renowned Irish singer and a founder of two bestselling British/Irish bands. She originally studied fashion journalism when she met Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward, and together, they formed Fahey’s first British/Irish band, Bananarama. After the band’s demo in 1981, they recorded their first top-five hit song, Shy Boy, the following year. Together with Woodward, Fahey co-wrote many of the band’s hits, such as Cruel Summer and Love in The First Degree.
After leaving Bananarama, Fahey started Shakespeares Sister in 1988 and was later joined by Marcella Detroit, who released two successful albums. In the following years, Fahey’s musical career fluctuated, splitting Shakespeares Sister, attempting solo ventures, re-joining Bananarama to record covers of hit songs, and travelling on a live tour. She also briefly re-joined with Detroit for several scheduled performances. Some of Siobhan’s hits include Stay and When She Finds You with Shakespeares Sister.
Irish singer and songwriter Sinéad O’Connor was one of Ireland’s multi-million-selling artists. The late artist started her musical career at the age of 15 when she left school and joined Ton Ton Macoute. Sinéad released her debut album in 1987, The Lion and The Cobra, which is deemed to be her most successful album throughout her career. The following decade was full of successes, failures and controversies; Sinéad persevered and was always outspoken about her thoughts and beliefs.
Since the 1990s, Sinéad returned to the top of the charts with her songs, Fire on Babylon and Famine. A decade later, her newest album featured several successful traditional Irish songs, with several in native Irish. After she decided to retire suddenly in 2005, she decided to return to making music again. Her latest songs included collaborations with numerous superstars, such as Mary J. Blige, and her song, Lay Your Head Down, was nominated for a Golden Globe. Unfortunately, Sinéad passed away abruptly last July, but her pop rock and folk music will remain iconic in the history of Irish music. Some of her memorable songs include Nothing Compares 2 U, and Success Has Made A Failure of Our Home.
Limerick-born singer and songwriter Doloris O’Riordan was proud to bring her native accent into her singing and her yodelling. Doloris started her musical career with the band Cranberries, where they went through thick and thin to get their first album out. It’s difficult to believe that Doloris, with her mezzo-soprano voice, was so shy she sang with her back to the audience for several performances. She was grabby attention as the lead vocalist, and after the band’s first album, Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The band’s next album, No Need To Argue, also hit high on the Billboard charts in Australia.
The UK and the US charts ranked the Cranberries’ third album, To The Faithful Departed, at numbers two and four, which is another smashing success for the band. During this time, Doloris’ health suffered due to a recurring injury, which prompted her to ask for a break before the release of their fourth album. Despite the band’s success and Doloris’ world recognition, the members decided to break off and pursue individual careers in 2003. Riordan’s solo career included performing single songs at various prestigious events and locations, such as the Vatican’s Christmas Gala, and she kept releasing one single after another; her first album was a major success before its complete release.
After reuniting several times with The Cranberries, having vocal cord problems and working on her next album, Doloris’ health continued deteriorating, so she had to perform sitting on a stool. This painful life course took its toll on Doloris, and she passed away in January 2018. Her most listened-to and successful hits include Zombie and Dreams, with The Cranberries, Ordinary Day and Linger as a solo artist.
Before joining the all-female Irish music group Celtic Woman, Órla Fallon first joined Anùna and released her first album, The Water Is Wide, in 2000. When Fallon approached composer David Downes, he was impressed with her vocal range; he asked her to join Celtic Woman, making her one of the group’s founding members. After releasing several albums and embarking on numerous tours with the group, Órla left the group to rest before venturing on her solo career.
Órla’s new-age music landed her an appearance on Jim Brickman’s special PBS. This preceded her launch of the new album Distant Shore, and she included her original song Shooting Star, which she previously wrote and performed as part of Celtic Woman, in the album. The next year, Fallon starred in her own PBS special, making her the first former Celtic Woman member to have their own show. Fallon took some time after 2012 before returning with her newest album, Sweet By And By, in 2017. Some of her most recognised songs include Distant Shore, Isle of Innisfree and Siúil a Rún or Walk My Love.
Lyra, born Laura McNamara, is an electropop Irish singer and songwriter. She debuted when her song Emerald got featured in numerous hit TV shows such as Striking Out, Teen Wolf and The X-Factor, to name a few. Her songs continued to land her great performing opportunities, such as at Music Cork and the Great Escape.
Lyra released six featured albums to this day. Some of her hit songs include Mother and New Day in 2019 and 2020. She joined the judging panel of the talent show Virgin Media One in 2021. After her The Magic of Christmas 2020 album, she released one single in each year of 2022 and 2023.
County Wicklow is proud to call Róisín Murphy one of her own. The Irish singer and songwriter began her musical career in 1994 as part of the musical duo Moloko. The duo excelled in their musical genres of trip-hop, funk and electric dance with their first album, Do You Like My Tight Sweater? Moloko continued their success with their second and third albums, with numerous hits gaining international acclaim. Songs such as Sing It Back, Never Enough, and The Time Is Now are topping the charts. The duo broke off their partnership completely by 2003, but it didn’t affect Murphy’s career since she had embarked on her solo career while being in Moloko.
After a few hiccups to releasing her debut solo album, it came to light in 2005 under the title Ruby Blue, adding a hint of jazz and pop to electronic music. After her second album, Róisín mainly contributed to other artists’ albums, such as David Morales. From 2014, moving forward, Murphy got back to releasing solo albums and her latest album in 2023, Hit Parade, was positively received worldwide. Some of Róisín Murphy’s hit songs include Two Ways, Overpowered and Fader.
Ireland continues to give the world incredible female artists who keep pouring their hearts into their fantastic work.