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May 14

BOYZONE – “All That I Need”

FT + Popular40 comments • 3,338 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. 1
    Tom on 6 May 2014 #

    Who did the fully painted cover art? That is a bit of a surprise, at least.

  2. 2
    Mark G on 6 May 2014 #

    But Why?

    (1)

  3. 3
    James BC on 6 May 2014 #

    Even the title clunks – “All I Need” would be much neater (and was a nice song by Air the same year).

  4. 4
    mapman132 on 6 May 2014 #

    Not terrible, but forgettable. Standard boy band stuff. Not a US hit. 4/10, or maybe 3/10, actually, who cares? I’m more interested in getting to hear the upcoming double feature of familiar songs in unfamiliar form (or perhaps I should be dreading it…we’ll see).

  5. 5
    Tom on 6 May 2014 #

    Well, the 3 song a week scheduling is always going to be a bit sparse with tracks like this. Once the PWC is out of the way, and we get into 2-3 years where the number of hits gets really absurd, I’m tempted to go for a brisker schedule.

    The guys who wrote this eventually co-wrote “Pon De Replay” for Rihanna. That’s about all Wikipedia’s giving me here.

  6. 6
    Alan not logged in on 6 May 2014 #

    That is an amazing fact tho.

  7. 7
    anto on 6 May 2014 #

    My memory seems to have wiped this entirely.
    The cover draws attention to something at least – apart from the inoffensive cuteness of the late Stephen Gately, none of Boyzone were especially good-looking. I know a few women who would argue for the appeal of Ronan or even Keith Duffy (at least until he opens his mouth) but Shane or whatever his name his looks vaguely demented and the other one always looked suspiciously seasoned to be in a ‘boy’ band.
    Very petty I know, but something that struck me nonetheless.

  8. 8
    swanstep on 6 May 2014 #

    Slightly better than their first two #1s, ATIN is still pop at its wimpiest (and not in any good way). A couple of lyrical curiosities: ‘and there you are standing in front of my eyes’ what? It makes me think that the singer has detachable eyes! What an odd, alienated way of describing oneself. ‘You’re all that I needed girl….and I want to thank you lady’ – ‘girl’ and ‘lady’ belong to somewhat different registers and even ages, and I think their co-occurrence in a song is pretty rare. I can’t think of another example off-hand, although I’m sure one exists. Anyhow, ‘lady’ seems a little formal and prissy for a tween audience, or is the ‘Irish Model’ deliberately aimed at an older demographic? (As I type this I’ve got a ‘lady’-filtered selection of songs playing away in iTunes. Hmmm, Doobie Brothers’ ‘South City Midnight Lady’; not bad until the sax break hits!)

  9. 9
    Rory on 6 May 2014 #

    Radio Polyfilla. 3.

  10. 10
    Tom on 6 May 2014 #

    Older demographic – not quite as obviously as Westlife did later, I’d say, but it’s there (more on this with their next #1 I think). You’re right though – “baby” would fit just as well, so it’s a deliberate word choice. There’s a bunnied “Lady” on the way, IIRC, but in this context I wonder if the touchstone is the Isley’s “That Lady” – a vaguely more sophisticated/classier word.

  11. 11
    ciaran on 6 May 2014 #

    One you might struggle to recall now but like almost every Boyzone record had about 3/4 months radio play all to itself before the next one came along.

    This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it hardly sets the world alight. Seems to just fly by. 4.

    Doubt I will ever have to encounter it again.

  12. 12
    weej on 6 May 2014 #

    For me this marks the start of the 1998-2003 any-shit-can-get-to-number-one phenomenon. There is absolutely nothing here that marks it as anything other than background music, and there’s no need for more of that in the world. 1.

  13. 13
    Chelovek na lune on 6 May 2014 #

    I’d quite forgotten this – and it is utterly forgettable. We’ve had some good no 1s recently (All Saints, Usher) that have been flawed by lacking a proper conclusion – or end in any sense. This has that problem too, but it also lacks a beginning. Straight into a bland middle from which there is no escape nor shape nor form: a mobius strip of mediocrity. A pity, as I am minded to defend Boyzone on occasion. Although by this time it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Barely bland wallpaper, this is more wallpaper paste.

  14. 14
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 May 2014 #

    The painting that supplies that covershot is anything but bland! It is full of menace and peculiar reserve — on facebook Tom said it had a feel of Guy Peellaert, which it does, but I don’t think it is him (or rather, Google won’t confirm that it is or supply a better suggestion).

  15. 15
    Cumbrian on 6 May 2014 #

    The guitar refrain always puts me in mind of Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting”. Having finished this only a matter of moments ago, it’s about the only memory I have of it.

    There’s a struggle marking this – are the lower registers of the scheme solely for records that are actively hateful (and thus something wallpapery like this that I can’t remember much of, even though I have only just finished listening to it, shouldn’t get the lowest of marks) or is something like this actually worse than the established “1”records by virtue of not even having something memorable of their own in them? I gave ADB by Boyzone 4 and said I’d spare the rod for later. I think this probably deserves the rod, to be frank, but I can’t quite bring myself to go right to the end of the mark scheme.

  16. 16
    Cumbrian on 6 May 2014 #

    Rather than Guy Peellaert, I thought the sleeve was borrowing from “This Is Hardcore” – which came out about a month prior to this getting to #1. Certainly the way Ronan Keating and whichever of them is the one on the left (Shane?) are shot/painted would not be out of place on the inner sleeve of that record.

  17. 17
    mapman132 on 6 May 2014 #

    The UK chart of the next few years seems to have the same problem that the Billboard Hot 100 had in the mid-70’s and again in the immediate pre-Soundscan era of 1988-1991 in that one-week stays were the norm and completely forgettable records could get to #1 simply by virtue of being by an established act.

    BTW, here’s my picks for least noteworthy #1’s so far:

    UK: “I Feel You” Peter Andre. Based on user comments and my own ears, although ATIN is certainly a contender.

    US: “You’re In Love” Wilson Phillips. And I’m saying that as someone who actually LIKES “Hold On”. But the fact that a mediocrity like YIL could reach #1 could be the poster child for everything wrong with the Hot 100 circa 1991.

  18. 18
    lonepilgrim on 6 May 2014 #

    this dribbles along inoffensively and competently. There’s little to hate and little to love.
    At some point, perhaps around the time of punk, there seems to have been a crisis in how masculinity was represented in pop. Anything that might be seen as too macho or overtly sexual is suppressed in favour of a neutered, more boyish approach. I don’t have any great nostalgia for singers like Tom Jones or Rod Stewart (both of whom are a bit more complex than simple macho bluster) but I find the alternative, whether it be insipid boy bands or passive aggressive ‘indie’ outfits, particularly unengaging.

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 6 May 2014 #

    I could not call this one to mind, unsurprisingly. I checked out the video, and I could call this an average Boyzone single and leave it at that. So I will.

  20. 20
    AMZ1981 on 6 May 2014 #

    It’s hard to add to anything already said – ie that this is a pointless damp squib of a number one. The only remotely interesting thing about it concerns its context in Boyzone’s wider career; who would have thought at the time that they still had their ace to play?

    Still, it’s also correct to say that Boyzone were giving their public what they wanted – their fans wanted mumsy balladry so that’s precisely what they got. It’s also notable that since Take That had split no other boy band had got to number one (okay Peter Andre was selling to the same demographic but otherwise Hanson are the only chart toppers who could loosely be described as a boy band). However there were other boy bands in the charts and over the next couple of years we will meet some of them (and discuss some awful records). We’ll also see a pattern of boy bands trying to break the mould and coming badly unstuck.

  21. 21
    iconoclast on 6 May 2014 #

    This song does have some promise: the verse has a rather pretty melody, and the guitar touches are nice. However, these are overshadowed and ultimately rendered meaningless by monotonous, unimaginative programmed drum and bass backing, wince-inducingly trite lyrics (not to mention “girl” and “lady” – which is it?), an unspired fade, and a general air of bland pointlessness. As others have asked: why? To shift some units, of course. THREE.

  22. 22
    Brendan F on 6 May 2014 #

    I keep trying to log in but it’s not doing it. Anyone else having problems?

  23. 23
    Brendan F on 6 May 2014 #

    weird – when I sent that message I got logged in – lol

  24. 24
    Tom on 6 May 2014 #

    We’ve had a bit of weirdness at the back end today – hopefully it’ll be sorted out soon!

  25. 25
    admin on 6 May 2014 #

    The hosts have turned on some aggressive caching (because we’ve been super slow of late). Which might make it look like you are logged in when you’re not and so on. We’re trying to restore some balance asap.

    Mostly, I’m worried that this will effect the PWC voting :-(

  26. 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.

  27. 27
    tm on 7 May 2014 #

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

  28. 28
    weej on 7 May 2014 #

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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