Few types of music get less critical respect than the romantic ballad, and sometimes I wonder why. A tin ear for the form, an impatience with its slow unwinding of feeling? Or perhaps it’s just spite. After all, what good is the armoury of scorn against the direct emotional link ballads can forge with their audience? “Goodnight Girl”, however, raises exactly none of these difficult questions: it’s the kind of glossy mulch that gives balladry a bad name. Wet Wet Wet’s notion of soul was always underinspired and overdelivered. So it’s a toss-up as to whether you want to hear them mawk a strong song to pieces or, as here, wade through something more glutinous and self-penned.
There’s an annoyingly strong hook in here – which made this a constant radio torment at the time – with the “caught up in your wishing well” chorus. But is it going anywhere? There’s a jeweller’s craft to soul music – taking a lump of situation and emotion and cutting and setting it perfectly: it’s the most precise kind of pop. That’s what made the late 80s soul revival so obnoxious – instead of starting from situations and feelings bands like Wet Wet Wet started from a style of expression and seemed to assume that using the style dignified whatever you used it on. I can’t find any precision in “Goodnight Girl” at all, no particular situation or emotion I can retrieve from the slosh – it’s all vagueness, and oily vagueness at that.