Grading the Top 10 Songs in … WORLD MUSIC!

1. Celtic Thunder, “Turning Away”

Since I usually grade the charts in different countries and genres, “World Music” might seem redundant, but this week’s list comes from Billboard‘s “World Music” chart, which measures the international albums being bought in the highest volume by Americans. Celtic Thunder are an Irish boy band, not quite a man band. They’re a lad band, masterminded by producer Sharon Browne, whose PBS specials feature them performing a variety of Irish and non-Irish songs. “Their live shows are known for … a stage set resembling an ancient stone pathway suggestive of those referenced in Celtic lore.” Sounds pretty Spinal Tap. The “World Music” genre doesn’t only mean actual music from around the world, but also a specific sort of New Age-y folk music, as exemplified here by Celtic Thunder.

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “Incredible performance of this song. Best I’ve heard. Of course, I love Celtic Thunder.” — LornaMason


2. Bombino, “Azamane Tiliade”

Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a Tuareg guitarist from Agadez, Niger, whose biggest influences are Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler. His songs address the horrors of the Tuareg rebellions, and he has been making music while in and out of exile since he was a teenager. His album Agadez, made in conjunction with filmmaker Ron Wyman, became a breakout best seller and brought Bombino in contact with Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys, who produced Bombino’s sophomore international solo album. Bombino will tour the U.S. for the first time starting in May. I also liked the Dr. John album that Dan Auerbach produced. Auerbach has great taste!

Grade: A+

Best YouTube Comment: “I saw him live last night. No risk of him sounding like anyone else anytime soon” — Kenjh71


3. Thin Lizzy, “Whiskey in the Jar” (The Spirit of Ireland)

There are a lot of Irish songs on the chart still, as spillover from St. Patrick’s Day. (Also because Irish music RULES!) This is from a compilation called The Spirit of Ireland put out by the Starbucks label, which dominates a lot of weird corners of music. The Spirit of Ireland is not New Age-y music, but actual music from Irish musicians. Thin Lizzy is one of my favorite bands ever, and this is probably its biggest international hit that isn’t “Jailbreak” or “The Boys Are Back in Town.” It’s a cover of a traditional Irish song, which has been recorded by everyone and their mother (and Metallica) but never quite so well as it was by Thin Lizzy. I fucking love you, Phil Lynott.

Grade: A+

Best YouTube Comment: “classic classic classic” — LauraJones


4. Celtic Woman, “Awakening”

Celtic Woman is basically the female version of Celtic Thunder. I thought it was a singular, eponymous Celtic woman, based on the album cover, but I was wrong. It was originally released to promote a Japanese film called Princess Toyotomi, and then rereleased later worldwide. Watch the way this lady plays the violin. It’s so weird. Is she violin-synching? This reminds me of Disney songs and those big Celine Dion movie ballads from the ’90s. I’ll take it. This chart got me feeling so IRISH today.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “When they sing individually, I can tell who is singing just by the sound. However, when they sing together, chords or unison, I cannot pick them out. They blend their voices perfectly.” — indigothecat


5. Ozzie Kotani & Daniel Ho, “Paka Ua” (The Descendants soundtrack)

ALL SLACK-KEY GUITAR EVERYTHING. Is Hawaiian folk music trending because of Mad Men’s Season 6 opener? Or just because it’s so rad? Isn’t it weird/cool that George Clooney movies have made Hawaiian folk music and bluegrass popular? Not to mention the Batman & Robin soundtrack.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “The soundtrack to this movie is beautiful.” — MaraB


6. Freshlyground, “Take Me to the Dance”

Freshlyground is a South African group whose video “Chicken to Change” gave Robert Mugabe the “Land of Confusion” treatment. Fans of Freshlyground’s old Afro-fusion sound are not feeling this new creepy electronic direction, but I am! Why not try shit out?

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “I’m enjoying the experimentation, a velvet darkness nodding to the world’s lust for darker electronic” — WickedMike


7. Los Amigos Invisibles, “Stay”

Los Amigos Invisibles are a Venezuelan disco-funk-acid Latin jazz band who were once signed to David Byrne’s world music–centric Luaka Bop label. They eventually started their own label, Gozadera Records, and have stacked up Latin Grammys. Just in time for the latest wave of the disco revival led by Daft Punk.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “Muy sensua y potente el tema” — ivansantos


8. Celtic Thunder, “Seven Drunken Nights”

Celtic Thunder cover an Irish folk song about cuckolding from the oral tradition.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “Lovely A real Irish Song” — JohnHayes


9. Lifescapes, “Kahana Shores” (Just Relax Maui)

Learning about Lifescapes changed my lifescape.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “This is absolutely amazing — so relaxing” — MattLeonard


10. Daniel O’Donnell, “Waltz Across Texas”

Daniel O’Donnell is an Irish tenor and TV host known in his home country as “Wee Daniel,” so naturally I went straight to his version of “Danny Boy,” and honestly, it was kind of disappointing. He actually specializes in country music, specifically the countrypolitan Nashville sound. His biggest influence is Elvis. So here is an Irishman from County Donegal covering a song about Texas, and doing a bang-up job.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “This is our song. Stanley’s and mine. We are waltzing across Texas.” — patrish60

Filed Under: Grading the Charts

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert