26
Jan 14

BOYZONE – “A Different Beat”

Popular33 comments • 2,483 views

#753, 14th December 1996

ADB One of the charges you might level at Irish Model boybands is a lack of ambition. Once Louis Walsh and crew found a style that worked, they generally stuck to it – and the evidence is they were right to. But “A Different Beat” is ambitious. It’s Boyzone taking to the pulpit, standing up in front of their new, wider audience and preaching. What they’re preaching is harder to work out.

“A Different Beat” fits into a tradition of windswept, empty pop songs where an act feels licensed by success to ruminate on the state of mankind: “All You Need Is Love”, “Heal The World”, “I Have A Dream”. It rarely makes for a career high, but it can work. There’s certainly no inherent problem with pop as a vehicle for saucer-eyed one-love platitudes – acid house lived off them, and the sentiments of “A Different Beat”, turned into a clumsy rap and set atop a bed of tablas and house piano, would have made a grand Trans-Global Underground song.

But still there’s something absurd about “A Different Beat”. Its problem is that Boyzone are terribly out of their depth: the song where they try to be most universal is the one where they end up seeming most callow. They write a verse about how their travels round the world have opened their eyes about our common humanity, and the only “African” thing anyone can think of is an old Toto lyric.

At least “I’ve seen the rains fall in Africa” makes sense, whether or not it’s true. The rest of the song is stupefying: “Humanity’s lost face / Let’s understand its grace”. Unfair to pick on lyrics? Not when they’re arranged so portentiously, trying to goad you into a sing-song. “Let’s take a stand and look around us now – PEOPLE!” sing Boyzone, rousing their audience for some inexplicable struggle. Down with This Sort Of Thing!

The pity of it is that Boyzone’s arrangers do their best to make this sound enormous – the track is far less smothered than “Words”, and if the snatch of African voice that opens the record is a corny Benetton touch too far, at least everyone is trying to produce something with more imagination and gravitas than the average ballad. But the song at the heart of all that effort is so risible it’s hard to even class “A Different Beat” as a noble failure.

2

Comments

  1. 1
    To Mewing! (@tomewing) on 26 Jan 2014 #

    While you were having wild Saturday night hijinks I was writing about another Boyzone single. http://t.co/aA9LTnXH3G

  2. 2
    thefatgit on 26 Jan 2014 #

    Father Ted: What was that sermon about?
    Father Dougal: Sorry Ted, I was concentrating too hard on looking holy.

  3. 3
    andrewzig@hotmail.com on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I said in a comment a few number ones back that there was a record I was looking forward to defending – and here it is. I quite like it.

    Prior to the song’s release I remember an interview where a member of the band – I just have this nagging feeling it was Gately but I might be wrong – said, `This is going to do for us what Back For Good did for Take That`. He was wrong of course but that statement throws up some interesting observations.

    At the point this single was released the parent album was already available; which makes you wonder why, if they had such high hopes for this song, they chose to release a generic cover as the first single. One answer could be that they wanted to keep this back for the Christmas market where the band had done well the previous two years, albeit with a cover both times.

    At this time Spicemania was growing but hadn’t quite exploded. Take That were still very much the standard and Boyzone were supposedly carrying on the flame. It’s too easily forgotten now that Take That owed a lot of their appeal to their musical ambition; they tried to do something different with each single even if it didn’t always work. Here Boyzone tried the same ethic and you got the impression it wasn’t what their fans wanted – and they never tried anything as ambitious again. The public gets what the public wants – and Boyzone’s public wanted gloopy cover versions. By the time W***L*** picked up the boy band standard there was no point in even trying – a shame because I’ve always felt W***L*** had the vocal power to stun us all if they wished.

  4. 4
    JLucas on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I hate to speak ill of the dead, but poor old Stephen really ruins what is already a very poor record here. His voice is employed reasonably well on some of Boyzone’s other hits, but he sounds horribly thin and nasal here – to the point that Ronan’s bits actually come as a blessed relief.

    A really feeble song, not much else to say about it really. It feels like it was only a number one because it succeeded an equally feeble chart topper in I Feel You – it fell out of the charts almost as quickly. Toni Braxton was creeping up, but Unbreak My Heart was too much of a slow burner to get past the consecutive blasts of teen girl buying power.

  5. 5
    AMZ1981 on 26 Jan 2014 #

    It’s often forgotten that when Boyzone were constituted Stephen Gately was intended to be both pin up and lead vocalist – late 96 marked the point where Ronan Keating came to the fore instead.

  6. 6
    mapman132 on 26 Jan 2014 #

    Having no foreknowledge of this before the other night, I was expecting more of the same, and not a “serious topic” song. Not great, but not terrible either. 5/10.

  7. 7
    Auntie Beryl on 26 Jan 2014 #

    The deployment of the choir was indebted to “Never Forget” and the attempt to introduce an African flavour more Lion King than Ladysmith.

    There’s a stagey, musical theatre feel to this that they would revisit, with greater success, later on.

    Shades of brown, but I think this is one of Boyzone’s better singles. 4.

  8. 8
    James BC on 26 Jan 2014 #

    This is completely awful, almost parodic. I wonder if they still do it live.

  9. 9
    andrewzig@hotmail.com on 26 Jan 2014 #

    #8 Due to the wonders of Wikipedia I’ve just checked. The setlist for their recent tours are there and A Different Beat was last performed as the closer on the Back Again/ No Matter What tour (the last with Gately).

  10. 10
    ciaran on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I must admit that I don’t mind this at all.A 2 seems very unfair to me.

    There’s at least erm…2 upcoming bouncing Boyzone bunnies that deserve this far more.

    Played it for the first time since about 1997 just now and can’t object to it all that much.5

    #5 Interesting the comments about Stephen Gately being groomed as the lead originally as its hard to imagine Boyzone with Ronan in the background. Gately never really had a lead in the Boyzone before ADB if I recall.

  11. 11
    Chelovek na lune on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I don’t mind this, either.

    With the two non-bunnies “Father & Son” and the follow up “Isn’t It A Wonder”, this is pretty much Boyzone at their best. Yes, its flaws are obvious: the lyrics, uttered with a tone of sententiousness, are vague in the extreme, without coming close to approaching the mystical (I suppose “rain does not fall on one roof alone” has a nice Irish touch, though) : the African musical references are obvious in the extreme, and send me away to Julia Fordham’s “Happy Ever After” for a far better integration of African and European themes.

    But, still, it is a blessed relief from the drippy love songs that became the hallmark of the Irish Model. Can one attempt to try and attach some blame for the overall faux-serious of this on the influence of Bono, I wonder?

  12. 12
    Cumbrian on 26 Jan 2014 #

    Auntie Beryl absolutely otm with the comparison to The Lion King. The chorus in particular has my mind playing pictures of a lion cub being raised like the World Cup over the head of a monkey/baboon.

    Negative points – Stephen Gately doesn’t get this off to a great start, as pointed out at 4. It takes too long to get to the chorus. The video is hilariously bad – all the reaching out of the hands and pulling back in meaningfully, the arms wide, the looking around in wonder at the green screen that they’re obviously walking on a treadmill in front of. Boy band tropes 101.

    Still, the chorus, once they get to it, is decent enough and Ronan does alright with some pretty ropey lyrics. Daytime radio fodder for Heart FM and not much more. As with others, I think I will spare the rod here and take it out later when I might feel I really need to give something a kicking. 3 or 4. I’m feeling charitable. 4.

  13. 13
    wichitalineman on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I like the picking up of the pace on the verse when Keating comes in, and the spoken “world is turning” part of the chorus. And hats off for not sticking a key change in the obvious place. Beyond that, it’s a laff riot:

    1. It has a different beat to previous Boyzone singles, so they called it A Different Beat.
    2. The deployment of the 90s Dolby cinema ad drums at various dramatic points.
    3. “Ni-a-gah-rah”

    Is the “ee-yay-o” chorus an actual language, or just generic “African” facenoise?

  14. 14
    Andy M on 26 Jan 2014 #

    > “fits into a tradition of windswept, empty pop songs where an act feels licensed by success to ruminate on the state of mankind”

    But doesn’t it feel a bit early in their career for This Sort Of Thing? It’s the title track of the 2nd album, so it must have been recorded and earmarked for singledom long before Words got them their 1st UK #1. Take That largely avoided this degree of earnestness until the 3rd album when they had a run of massive hits under their belt, from now on it seems to become part of The Model.

  15. 15
    lonepilgrim on 26 Jan 2014 #

    it sounds like they were angling for a spot on a Comic Relief type charidee event but missed the deadline. It’s well arranged but Stephen Gateley’s voice sounds like a continuation of Peter Andre’s cartoon squeal. The lyrics sound like a Go0gle translation of a foreign text. Points for ambition, points deducted for content

  16. 16
    swanstep on 26 Jan 2014 #

    Not sure if there’s any real local influence, but the overblown backing track reminds me a little of Enya’s Storms in Africa. An inauspicious start to the lyrics – the first couplet seems to be talking about local particulars (‘place’, ‘race’) whereas in the second it’s all ‘unity’ and one-world-ism, then we’re mixing metaphors, taking the hands of grains of sand, ugh. It’s almost a relief when we get to the rhyme of Africa/Alaska/Niagara (the last twisted to get an extra syllable). Almost. Alas this sort of pompous pop just isn’t for me, but there’s enough melody here for me to stretch to a:
    3

  17. 17
    Brendan F on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I think you’re being a little hard on Boyzone in tarring them with the Irish Model brush. Looking at their list of singles, it seems that it was only their early hits including the 2 previous #1s which set the template whereas they did move away from that choral ballad approach which their forebear would adhere to far more rigidly throughout their career. This is yet another one that somehow passed me by at the time. You’re right about Stephen Gateley’s vocal turn but otherwise it’s quite pleasant and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

  18. 18
    Will on 26 Jan 2014 #

    God, I hate bands who feel they have to remind their fans they’ve been to soooo many exotic faraway places since their first album.

  19. 19
    Tom on 26 Jan 2014 #

    #17 I can actually only remember 2 of their remaining number ones – one is pure IM, the other seems not to be but (I’ll argue) is a permitted variant. But I may be too harsh.

    I agree the successor band have a, ahem, purity of aesthetic vision Boyzone can’t quite match.

  20. 20
    Brendan F on 26 Jan 2014 #

    I wasn’t sure which ones of their subsequent hits got to #1, but of all of those I remembered they did at least seem quite varied albeit within the established formulae of the boybands

  21. 21
    Andy M on 27 Jan 2014 #

    If you mean “within the set of all boybands ever” then maybe, but the fresh hell to come owes no small debt to Boyzone. If you mean the boybands we’d been exposed to by this point in the nineties when the frontrunners are Take That & E17, then I’m not sure I agree at all.

  22. 22
    Brendan F on 27 Jan 2014 #

    But that kind of sound dates back to The Osmonds and there were others along the way who adopted it. So, in the grand scheme of things Boyzone are no worse than any of them in cynically aiming at the teenage girls market. You could say that coming from the same stable as Westlife makes them more of a scapegoat than others but at least they still showed they were capable of doing something different occasionally.

  23. 23
    Ed on 27 Jan 2014 #

    @11 Not influence, maybe, so much as parallel evolution.

    I am struck by the fact that rock’s two biggest philanthropist / activist superstars – Bono and Bob Geldof – went to school within about five miles of each other, in different suburbs of Dublin.

    Irish FT-ers will know this much better than me, but I have always thought there must be something distinctive about Irish education that tends to foster a sense of moral responsibility towards the world.

    And where did Ronan Keating grow up? In the suburbs of Dublin, again only a few miles from where Bono lived.

    So although their tastes, affiliations and careers have been very different, I don’t think it’s a wild guess to think that maybe they share an ethos.

    And when I think of what’s distinctively Irish about Boyzone, I think of this song. Can you imagine Take That singing ‘A Different Beat’. I certainly can’t.

  24. 24
    Rory on 27 Jan 2014 #

    I want to be a bit more charitable towards this than I’m feeling, because Gately seemed like a nice guy and the boys were clearly enjoying their time in the spotlight, but this is really irritating. Between the song and the video, it’s just a cheap ripoff of a bunch of well-worn (by 1996) tropes intended to suggest a Big Statement About the World – a touch of Band Aid, a touch of Enya, a touch of “Earth Song”, a touch of Ladysmith Black Mambozo – with no evidence that the band themselves had any basis to make such a statement beyond Feeling Stuff. It’s not as if anyone demands wisdom for the ages from 20-year-olds, so why not wait a few years? Unless you figure the gig could be up at any moment, and that you’d better rush out your observations about global precipitation a.s.a.p.

    I visited Niagara Falls once,* and don’t remember getting close enough to feel any mist. This must be the sound of Boyzone going over the edge in a barrel. 2.

    *I’ve also seen the rain fall in Africa, and have observed the snow of Alaska from the outdoor deck at Anchorage airport while transiting from Tokyo to London. Let me take your hand.

  25. 25
    Izzy on 27 Jan 2014 #

    What’s this nonsense up thread about Niagara getting an extra syllable?! It looks like a round four from here. If they’d been boasting about taking Viagara I might see your point.

  26. 26
    Rory on 27 Jan 2014 #

    Just watched some Niagara videos to see how Americans pronounce it – there’s a trace of “guh” in the middle, but it does get swallowed a bit.

    There was plenty of mist drifting over observers, too, so my memory was faulty there.

  27. 27
    swanstep on 27 Jan 2014 #

    @rory, 26. Look, there may be some regional variation in how it’s pronounced but the standard way really is just phonetically /-ɡrə/ for the third and final syllable. Anyhow, it’s not as though this sort of infelicity ever got in the way of my liking something that was otherwise good, e.g., Weezer’s charming ‘In The Garage’ turned ‘Garage’ into a mono-syllable!

  28. 28
    Weej on 27 Jan 2014 #

    Not sure why everyone is hesitant to criticize Gately when much more talented singers who died young are fair game, perhaps (as with me) it’s residual guilt from despising him (as I genuinely did) while he was alive. In the cold light of day he did nothing much of note to either offend or enrapture, and maybe that’s the point; he was never really *an artist* in the first place and therefore he’s free from criticism. Not saying this is a truth, just an underlying feeling I (we?) might want to examine.

    Anyway, A Different Beat = Benetton-generation ‘Belfast Child’, minus the misplaced sincerity, without which it is all signifier without signified and therefore worthless. Are we glad that Louie Walsh gave up trying to make big statements after this? It would have made for a bit more variety if he’d kept it up. So for that reason a 2 is fair enough.

  29. 29
    Rory on 27 Jan 2014 #

    Swanstep @27, reminds me of the first time I heard the (or is it just a?) NZ pronunciation of “garage” on TV in Christchurch, as a rhyme for “marriage”. Sounded very odd to an Aussie used to “GA-raazh” (with the A as in cat) – which would sound odd to an American used to guh-RAAZH. Yeah, I could see that turning into GRAAZH easily enough.

    (Garage! Graazh! Graaah! Rage Against the Garage!)

    I think we can all agree that the mists of Niagara have no place in a video (if not song) primarily about Africa. Why didn’t they just sing about Victoria Falls instead? It has the requisite four syllables and everything. Hmm, except “the mists of Victoria” makes me think of Mildura gumtrees at dawn. Okay, maybe not.

  30. 30
    Rory on 27 Jan 2014 #

    Weej @28: Speaking for myself, it’s because I remember the Jan Moir furore all too well, which inclines me to give Gately more than the usual benefit of the doubt. But you’re right, there’s nothing either offensive or impressive about his performance here (although his singing of the title in the chorus is the only hook in the whole song for me). It just underlines the entirely arbitrary composition of the band, as revealed in the Late Late Show video we saw in the last Boyzone thread. Get the look right first, and figure out who can sing (and dance) later.

  31. 31
    MBI on 30 Jan 2014 #

    This song is absolutely fucking hilarious in its badness.

  32. 32
    Andrew Farrell on 30 Jan 2014 #

    Also of note – episode aired April 1996!

  33. 33
    Ciaran (the other one) on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Say “eee-yay-oh” into a mirror three times at midnight and Sting appears behind you. It’s true!

    3 for ‘A Different Beat’.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page