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May 14

BOYZONE – “All That I Need”

FT + Popular39 comments • 1,678 views

#788, 2nd May 1998

boyzneed This is one of the two Boyzone records I couldn’t well remember. So, it’s not the slow cover version, or the fast cover version. It’s not the one by Andrew Lloyd Webber, or the one which pretends it has something to say. It’s just Boyzone being Boyzone, a third single from a third album, the Irish Model of boybands in smooth working order. There’s exactly one attractive touch on “All That I Need” – a kick of strings on the final chorus, which puts some late vim and momentum behind the record’s shop-worn devotion. That’s not nearly enough to salvage a doughy, laborious track, though. The lyrics? Love song fridge poetry – long winding roads, castles of sand, the air that I breathe, arranged without a first thought.

I could end the review there, but this is also a good place to point out something that is unusual about Boyzone, which will only get more pronounced as it carries over into Westlife and beyond. Most boybands and heartthrobs are very much creatures of their moment – they make a particular effort (or it is made for them) to fit in with pop trends. So the Monkees make zippy beat group pop and psychedelia, the Rollers have an ersatz glam stomp to them, Bros make a warped version of late-80s funk-pop, and Peter Andre produces R&B with the good bits waxed off.

But it seems to me there’s no solid equivalent to Boyzone – no trend they’re trying to follow. Their model was Take That, a group which is now two years gone, and they’ve moved further away from that band’s experiments with disco or swingbeat. Somewhere in this song’s DNA is the Lighthouse Family’s soft-soul, or the big harmony R&B tunes of Boyz II Men, but the Irish boyband sound is becoming more and more its own thing: big, soupy choruses for full, dull voices; mid-paced tunes and well-ironed harmonies, with the arrangement as discreet a scaffold as possible. Between this Boyzone record and the last, though, Sweden’s Cheiron productions have changed the boyband game – “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” showing a new pop style, a way for the music to punch harder and add context to the choreography. It’s easy to dismiss Boyzone – let alone their successors – as generic, but even in the boyband context this wasn’t so. They weren’t simply doing a more tedious version of everyone else: their vices and choices are their own.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Ronnie on 7 May 2014 #

    Having no preconceptions of Boyzone except the previous Popular singles — holy shit this is bad. This is, by a very large margin, the worst boyband song I have ever heard.

  2. 27
    tm on 7 May 2014 #

    Sukrat @ 14: yeah, Ronan Keating looks like he’s got a flick knife in his other unseen hand!

  3. 28
    weej on 7 May 2014 #

    Ronnie @26 – I wouldn’t make that call just yet!

  4. 29
    James BC on 7 May 2014 #

    It’s fun looking at the B-sides to CD singles around this period. Buyers of All That I Need could apparently choose between CD1 with three additional songs including a cover of Working My Way Back To You, or a bangin’ CD2 remix package featuring a “Trouser Enthusiasts Darkest Day Dub No Sex Mix”.

    This must have been one of the last number 1s before the grouches at the official chart company banned four-song singles – a decision that still gets me mildly angry. As I heard it Oasis had set the bar too high with their Morning Glory-era singles, so that other acts were exhausting themselves trying to record three or more extra songs with every release. Poor poppets. I still don’t follow the logical leap from there to essentially banning the four-track EP, which had had a proud history up to that point.

  5. 30
    glue_factory on 7 May 2014 #

    @29, the Trouser Enthusiasts had their moments, mostly on the ‘banging CD2 remix package’ of Pet Shop Boys’ singles. I’ll search this mix out on Youtube although I suspect I’ll regret it.

  6. 31
    Ed on 7 May 2014 #

    @1, etc: That is a great picture. Makes me think a Boyzone biopic would really be worth watching.

    The soundtrack would be a problem, though.

  7. 32
    hardtogethits on 7 May 2014 #

    8, 10, 21, others, probably. I’m intrigued by lyrical quirks like the lady/girl issue. Interestingly (IMHO), just last year Shane Lynch of Boyzone said of Mel C* of the Spice Girls:

    “She’s such a beautiful girl too, an absolute lady. ”

    It’s not the last incongruous ad lib from a Boyzone boy we’ll see here.

    *more commonly known by her nickname “Mel C”

  8. 33
    swanstep on 8 May 2014 #

    @Hardtogethits, 32. I havefound one other Lady/Girl song – Electric Lady, a really excellent bonus track from Justin Timberlake’s latest (note to self – give that album a proper listen!) is all L in the chorus and all g in the verses. JT makes it sound very natural, which suggests that there may be many other examples in the southern RnB, courtly loverman tradition.

  9. 34
    James BC on 8 May 2014 #

    I wondered if ‘lady’ was an Irishism. Might it be used more over there?

  10. 35
    wichitalineman on 8 May 2014 #

    Finally took the plunge, gave this a listen… and, oh, it’s this one. All over the radio for a while, though I’d completely forgotten it in the 16 years since. As Cumbrian said, the hook is a wholesale lift from Richard Marx’s Right Here Waiting. The artwork, however, is more reminiscent of RM’s Hazard. It’s incredible. I want it.

  11. 36
    Steve Mannion on 9 May 2014 #

    I’m intrigued by where the lads are in the painting far more than anything else about this entry. That’s some grand tilin for sure.

  12. 37
    Ed on 9 May 2014 #

    It reminds me of Livebait, the now-defunct fish restaurant in The Cut, which in its day – the late 90s – was a very fine place, where Britain’s top pop stars might very well have eaten.

    IIRC, that had a rather more greenish tinge to it, but maybe there’s some artistic licence at work here.

  13. 38
    Alex on 9 May 2014 #

    Forgettable and indeed forgotten.

  14. 39
    Rory on 9 May 2014 #

    I don’t see the painting that most of you seem to; viewed at the highest resolution Google Images can find, the cover looks like a photo put through a Photoshop filter (of a similar kind to the one used on This is Hardcore, as Cumbrian says). If it were a painting you’d expect to see online discussions of the original by the band’s fans, at the very least, or maybe a news story about it being sold for charity at auction, or about what the artist has done since. Occam’s razor suggests Photoshop.

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