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Why Enya Turned Down James Cameron and Titanic

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Titanic was a massive success in 1997, but Celine Dion and composer James Horner were not director James Cameron’s first choice for the film’s score.

In 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring released in theaters, and the film’s Hobbits, beautiful landscapes, and thrilling score by Howard Shore enamored audiences. At the end of the film, the credits rolled and theaters filled with the beautiful voice of Enya. Popular for her New Age sound, she lent her songwriting prowess to the soundtrack, blending beautifully with the orchestral ambiance that composer Howard Shore brought to the fantasy world. However, four years earlier, Enya had the opportunity to gift her talents to another popular film, director James Cameron’s Titanic, but she ultimately turned it down.

Enya, an Irish singer/songwriter known for her Celtic-inspired music, made a name for herself with songs like “Only Time” and “Orinoco Flow,” the latter of which many remember for its repeating lyrics “Sail away, sail away…” When James Cameron, director of the one-billion-dollar box office film Avatar: The Way of Water, asked her to collaborate on the end song of Titanic, she turned it down because collaboration was something she did not do.

RELATED: Avatar: The Way of Water Places James Cameron’s Ego Over Storytelling

Enya Chose Not to Collaborate on Titanic’s Ending Song


Writing music is a journey itself, from the composition of lyrics to the layering of instruments; a song is one’s creative work or the work of many. In this case, Enya desired to compose the song herself. She explained to Forbes, “When we were talking about the end song, it was to be a collaboration, and that’s something that I’ve actually never done. I’ve felt, I get to write the song, I sing. I’ve always written melodies so I find it kind of strange and I was working on an album, so I just said it wasn’t going to happen if it was a collaboration.”

Enya Chose Music Over Titanic’s Success

A Titanic scene showing Rose look through Jack's sketchbook

When she wrote “May It Be” for The Fellowship of the Ring, there was no collaboration between her and composer Howard Shore, which allowed her the freedom she was used to when writing. This freedom was important to her because she wanted to write music first. “To me, what was really important from the beginning was the love of music. I feel the success is kind of like a bonus really, because I just loved music from a very young age, being on stage at three and a half years [old]. I find that I’ve stayed true to that sort of feeling. I never wanted the success or the fame to lose the sense of my love to the music.”

Related: Kate Winslet Responds to Fat-Shaming Titanic Comments: ‘That’s Bullying’

According to Digitalspy, Enya was James Cameron’s first choice before she turned it down. When composer James Horner stepped in, Cameron objected to the inclusion of songs in the film, but Horner covertly helped record a demo for the end song and Cameron liked it. Enya choosing not to participate in a movie that became one of the most successful of all time gave Canadian vocalist Celine Dion the reigns to collaborate in what would become a massive hit with “My Heart Will Go On,” a song that Cheatsheet reported “reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 while Enya’s highest-charting single, “Only Time,” reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Enya is popular in the United States — just not as popular as the music from Titanic.”

Enya’s choice not to collaborate didn’t affect her career even though she could’ve experienced the success Celine Dion had if she had chosen to do so. “I love the success,” she told Forbes, “the success of the music is very important to me, but the fame side of it is something that I feel other people enjoy. They do it so well, but I like to be able to get around without being recognized too much.”

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