12
Oct 14

WESTLIFE – “Swear It Again”

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#822, 1st May 1999

westlife swear Westlife have always been this blog’s nemesis, the doom encoded in its premise: however entertaining the song or era I’m writing about is, at some point I will have to deal with fourteen Westlife number ones. There have been times when I’ve wondered myself what on earth I would say, given that from a standing start I could barely remember two of them. But here we are.

Implicit in the jokes is a feeling that Westlife are different. Look at the list of the most successful Number One acts – Elvis, the Beatles, Westlife. One of these things is not like the others, apparently. The scale of Westlife’s success, more than almost any other factor, was enough to convince even sympathisers that the charts were broken, that pop was broken, a damaged transmitter no longer capable of processing the cultural signals around it.

This idea – Westlife as a sign of pop catastrophe – is a mix of the true and the false and the condescending. Westlife are a group like any other, with fans they speak to and mean a lot to, and deserve to be considered as more than just a statistical anomaly. Even so, the degree of success says very little good about how the charts were working by 1999, as a finely staged ballet of release date scheduling and fanbase priming. Westlife are the ultimate fanbase band: almost every one of their many, many hits is a one-week wonder and gets out of the Top 10 sharpish. There’s barely a sign of crossover to a wider singles-buying audience. But there’s a corollary to this: if Westlife come and go so quickly, it’s a stretch to suggest that they themselves were a ruinous force in pop music. They had very little impact on the rest of it. They were the Olestra of pop, slipping through its body undigested to leave an oily mess.

Westlife aren’t the only fanbase band: in chart terms, Blur or the Manic Street Preachers perform similar disappearing acts. But Westlife manage this again and again and again for years. To game the charts this efficiently you need two things. You need a loyal audience, which probably means one that isn’t being well served by the rest of pop music (so won’t switch to rival bands or sounds in a hurry). And you need a very good game-player. Enter Simon Cowell.

Cowell’s part in Westlife’s origins is a preview of his later household-name role: a murderer of youthful dreams. Take five lads from Sligo, schoolfriends. They can sing a bit, they’ve seen Boyzone doing well, so they get a group together. There’s Shane, Graham, Mark, Kian, Michael. Two of these men are now a hairdresser and a garda. The other three have sold forty million records. The difference is Cowell, then at record label BMG, who pronounced IOYOU – as they were – the ugliest band he’d seen in his life, and got his scalpel out. Pete Bestlife. (A sixth schoolfriend, with the rather un-boybandly name of Derek, had already been given the push by Louis Walsh. He ended up a barman, if you’re keeping score.)

Despite the personnel upheavals, there’s no great sign of creative tension in the early Westlife story. IOYOU knew what they wanted to sound line – their demo, “Together Girl Forever”, a Shane and Mark co-write, is a well-churned slow jam from the limper end of R&B. The tempo, the harmonies, the pledges of devotion: even in the Sligo classroom, the lads knew the moves well enough. It sounds like – well, it sounds like the kind of performance that gets you through Judges’ Houses on the X-Factor, and with hindsight that’s precisely what it was: you can see Simon’s appreciative half-grin as the boys’ voices combine, and his slight eyebrow-raise at a couple of the more puppyish ad libs. If Westlife knew their moves 17 years ago, the whole country knows his now.

But the transition from IOYOU to Westlife hides another shift. Boyzone’s Ronan Keating – stepping, like a midfielder nearing retirement, into a coaching role – apparently recommended the name change on the grounds that “IOYOU” sounded “too boyband”. But IOYOU were a boyband. Which suggests that Cowell, Walsh and Keating had other ideas for Westlife. And so we’re back to the question of Westlife’s audience – the other factor, apart from Cowell’s remarkable skill as a pop fixer, in their dominance. Who were they? What did they want to hear?

The signature sound of Westlife arrives fully-formed on “Swear It Again” – five voices, moving as one. That kind of ultra-close harmony is a powerful emotional tool for the group, giving everything they sing a kind of polyvocal guarantee, four or five layers of underlined sincerity. The chorus of “Swear It Again” is a blanket of it: a mantle of reassurance, piling steadily up every beat of the bar: I’M – NEVER – TREAT – BAD / I – NEVER – SEE – SAD. Any hint of sex is left for the videos: this is the ballad as an endless hug.

Nothing too novel about that, perhaps. But the framing of this devotion is quite interesting – on the verses, Shane dismisses the idea that “everything must have its place in time”, and laments how “all of the people that we used to know” are giving up on love. And the chorus ends “I swore to share your joy and your pain, and I’ll swear it all over again”. Sure, this could be the hyperbolic language of teenage infatuation, and it’s been carefully crafted to speak to a young audience too, but its aim is wider. “Swore to share your joy and your pain” feels more like a marriage vow, and the rest of the lyric also seems to have the longer term in mind. This is a pop song not about falling in love, not even about marriage, but primarily about renewal of vows – an answer record, three decades on but in the same style and with the same appeal, to Englebert Humperdinck’s divorce ballad “Release Me”.

Kat Stevens, in her very entertaining Westlife tumblr Blogging Without Wings, calls the band “mum-pop”, which implies an equivalent force to the ossified poses and throwback grunts of Dadrock. Both Dadrock and Mumpop are intentionally crass, stereotyping names, because both describe music that was marketed in a crude and populist way, dog-whistle appeals to a mistily conservative idea of what rock or pop might be. If critics nod approvingly when rock appeals to the nostalgic instincts of middle-aged blokes, and recoil when pop does the same thing to middle-aged women – well, that’s a symptom of a wider problem, but it doesn’t mean there’s a fundamental difference between this record and Lenny Kravitz.

Of course younger women bought masses of Westlife CDs (and I’m sure a good few men did) – but Keating’s instincts were right: this is no boyband. This is a group designed to build a pan-generation romantic coalition, and tap an audience lost to pop, but opened up again by the widening of record distribution. It’s no coincidence that Westlife’s reign aligns with the peak of CD sales in supermarkets and Woolworths. And if Westlife are essentially a ‘boyband for grownups’, it explains their most distinctive feature – their infuriating dependability: the suits, the stools, the rivers of mid-tempo treacle. (“Swear It Again” is one of the finer examples, though – Mark’s yearning middle eight is a decent piece of work that resolves the song’s emotional struggle and earns the inevitable key shift. This is a lot better, for me, than any of the Boyzone records we’ve seen, and its weightiness is part of the reason.)

Cowell had gone this route before, with Robson And Jerome, but there are obvious limitations to using actors: they have other commitments, and they’re harder to control. Cowell, you feel, was happy enough to be parasitic on a successful show in his early career, but needed to own more and more of the process. A band that mixed Robson And Jerome and Boyzone was a logical step.

Still, there was something about TV and the eyeballs it brought in. You don’t need to rely on lyrical analysis to suggest Westlife had a distinctive fanbase: you could also point to their dominant showing at ITV’s Record Of The Year awards. This show – brainchild of another proud pop game-player, Jonathan King – had a simple format: a tinselly celebration of the year’s big singles, with the winner crowned by a Eurovision-style phone vote. In sales terms, Westlife barely figured on the end-of-year charts. At Record Of The Year, in the phone vote, they cleaned up. It seemed the singles-buying tip of Westlife fans concealed a larger iceberg: a family TV audience who really glommed onto them but had zero interest in the rest of music. Further evidence, though, that Westlife’s fanbase was something unusual.

So let’s go back to that initial, absurd, comparison: Elvis, The Beatles, and Westlife. It turns out they do have something in common: all three of them succeeded by creating a new audience. The difference is that the new audiences of Elvis and the Beatles woke hungry for new records, more records that could keep tapping the feelings those artists did. So their energies fed back into pop. But Westlife inspired few imitators: even other boybands mostly stayed away from the wholesale commitment to steadiness Westlife’s music implied. But that didn’t mean there weren’t ways of tapping – and broadening – Westlife’s newly potent audience. There’s a sense with hindsight of a jigsaw here whose pieces aren’t quite fitting. Simon Cowell. A bunch of singers. A family audience. A national phone vote. Just as Boyzone were the caterpillar for Westlife, so Westlife themselves look like a chrysalis stage for something yet vaster.

4

Comments

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  1. 1
    punctum on 12 Oct 2014 #

    Well, that’ll teach me; a long, agreeably venomous comment about the Westlife phenomenon before I realised: oh no, this (and pretty well of their other number one singles) is on a number one album! So whatever I have to say about this and them will have to wait until/if TPL gets to them, or this.

  2. 2
    Cumbrian on 12 Oct 2014 #

    Well done Tom – enjoyed reading this even though I am no fan of WL, nor of this song. I can only wonder what you’re going to have to say about them in the next 13 entries of theirs though. It must have been tempting to hold some of this back to pad out some of the stuff you’re going to be writing on them from here on out.

  3. 3
    Tom on 12 Oct 2014 #

    The next three are fairly easy. Beyond that… yes, I might come to regret this.

  4. 4
    Tom on 12 Oct 2014 #

    (One of the things I obviously could have mentioned is the very clear comparison point of the next number one!)

  5. 5
    lmm on 12 Oct 2014 #

    And there I was thinking you’d favour Westlife, the ultimate triumph of pop over rock. Their records may not be terribly inventive, but they always felt very well-crafted; I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan, but I felt they’d earned their success, more than most of the boy/girl bands of this era.

  6. 6
    katstevens on 12 Oct 2014 #

    IT BEGINS.

    Cheers for the plug Tom! My main discovery from BWW so far (I’m only 7 songs in) is one you’ve touched on above – the Wezzas are a really strong vocal unit when they all sing the same note. The effect is very soothing and reassuring, evenly delivering the hook with maximum impact. Boyzone never managed this solid a performance, IMHO.

  7. 7
    Kinitawowi on 12 Oct 2014 #

    “WHO THE FUCK ARE WESTLIFE?!?!?!”
    – me, c. 6:56pm, 02/05/99

    No redeeming features; hell, no features of any kind. It should have been Fatboy Slim, whose massive Right Here Right Now was stranded at #2 by this pap, leaving him with the wholly unworthy Praise You as his sole visit to the top spot under his most famous moniker. It should have been the #5 of that first week, the still extraordinary siren call of Basement Jaxx’s Red Alert. It could even have been the #2 of the second week, Why Don’t You Get A Job being far superior to Pretty Fly For A White Guy.

    It should have been anything other than this.

    2. Only evades being a 1 by the knowledge that it will still get lower – I’m not entirely sure Tom’s 4 isn’t for similar reasons.

  8. 8
    Jonathan Bogart on 12 Oct 2014 #

    From my perspective, the other main difference between mum-pop and dadrock is that in the US we don’t call our mothers Mum, and of course Westlife is completely unknown here. Other mum-pop stars, like Susan Boyle, and if you squint a bit Adele (obviously she’s more than mum-pop, though she’s that too) have crossed over, but boybands would not be marketed to grown women here until the current New Backstreet Boys on the Block reunion tours, which have troubled the charts not at all.

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 12 Oct 2014 #

    This is a daunting prospect. I can only tip me titfer to Kat and Tom for finding the intestinal fortitude to be able to write about Westlife and make it interesting. Best of luck to both!

    “Swear It Again” doesn’t seem like the opening salvo of a protracted siege upon the top of the charts. I must have imagined at the time, the song was sung by a more youthful Boyzone 2.0, but didn’t really make a lasting impression on me. Listening to this for the first time in about 15 years, I must admit the quality of this outshines Boyzone, but I think that’s half the problem. More on that later, and later, and later…

    For now, it’s all very safe and reassuring. The producer seems to be providing all the interesting bits here. The boys sing and that’s that. Robson & Jerome must feel gutted more money wasn’t spent on them. I guess their successes helped pay for this. (3)

  10. 10
    AMZ1981 on 12 Oct 2014 #

    I revisited Swear It Again a few nights ago and in isolation it’s not a bad record; it outstays its welcome by a minute and sounds a bit false coming from a pack of teenagers but it’s better than Perfect Moment. It’s worth noting that at the time nobody knew it would be the first of a seemingly endless strong of Westlife chart toppers.

    Obviously we’ll be considering each record in turn and it will be interesting to judge whether their amazing strike rate was down to savvy timing or just good luck. Their first week sales were not always high and a strong selling new release could easily have caught them off guard.

    It is perhaps a bit mean to criticise Westlife for having so many short lived number ones as that was the trend at the time. Given that they rank third in all time list behind Elvis and the Beatles it might be better to compare them to the act in fourth place – Cliff Richard was probably selling and kept on selling to the equivalent audience from forty years ago and much of his output is little remembered now.

  11. 11
    chelovek na lune on 12 Oct 2014 #

    Tom’s review is better than the entire catalogue of this band…and seems to cover all the main points in some detail….

    That said – I think SIA was more as about as good as it got for them. It’s a decent enough song – – indeed immeasurably better than some of Boyzone’s offerings (and, you know, better sang than them, too), and no more than ordinarily bland as such things go. And of course we had no idea then how long the reign of terror was going to last…

    4 sounds about right.

  12. 12
    leveret on 12 Oct 2014 #

    I always thought that Westlife’s managers must have been paying close attention to the success of Daniel O’Donnell, the squeaky-clean Irish crooner who sold millions of records to grannies everywhere with his unthreatening, sexless easy listening pap. The idea of DO’D and Westlife selling records makes little sense on musical merit, but perfect sense commercially.

    If I’m right with this theory, it has interesting implications re: the question of who Westlife’s audience were and what they wanted to hear. It would surely be one of the few cases of a formula used to sell music to an age group ‘too old’ for pop then being successfully adopted in relation to a younger age group. On the face of it, it makes more sense to create pop music which allows a ‘mumsy’ audience to feel younger than they are, but Westlife seem to subvert this as their music always seemed to me to have a definite whiff of the geriatric about it.

  13. 13
    katstevens on 12 Oct 2014 #

    There are two videos for this song: a sunny Californian car wash setting with backing dancers, and a theatre scene with lots of hanging around & looking moody. The former is almost going for a Backstreet Boys vibe while the latter is more like srs bsns late-doors Take That – whose core fans were heading into their early twenties by 1999. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Westlife picked one of these paths and stuck to it, but it wasn’t all stools-and-suits from the word go.

  14. 14
    !!! on 12 Oct 2014 #

    I seem to remember they were pretty fortunate with a couple of their Number Ones. A rival single have stock shortages on one occasion and another time they moved the release date to avoid several big hits coming out the following week. I think Steps mentioned this once as they seemed to resent how Westlife were getting more attention.

    Swear it Again isn’t that bad on it’s own and most Westlife songs are competently put together. It was the whole package that was such a pain.

  15. 15
    swanstep on 12 Oct 2014 #

    I’ve never knowingly heard a Westlife song until this track just now, and yet this feels very familiar. At the height of disco Air Supply had a brace of massive, nearly identical cheeseball hits (All Out Of Love, Lost In Love, Even the Nights Are Better, Every Woman In The World, Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, etc.) and, according to Wiki, somehow conspired to sell 100 million albums. By 1998, Air Supply had something like ironic hipster cred. with their tracks used on South Park and for one of the climaxes of Todd Solondz’s shocker Happiness (1998) (it’s the soundtrack to a certain sort of Philip Seymour Hoffman misery).

    SIA lacks some of Air Supply’s Spectorian/Righteous Brother vocal and arrangement jet-fuel but otherwise seems to me the same sort of thing, like a new generation’s middle-of-the-road guilty pleasure-in-waiting. Do we really need ‘Mum-rock’ to designate this sort of thing? ‘Soft rock’ always seemed to work fine for Air Supply, Manilow (a cover of whom I see Westlife will later trouble Popular with), Bread, and the like. Anyhow, SIA strikes me as pretty polished and an intelligible deserving #1. It’s not my sort of thing, and objectively seems a little too lifeless to make it into the soft rock/guilty pleasure Hall of Fame, but, oh yes, there’s an audience for this sort of stuff, one that buys albums by the truckload. What are the odds that SIA will be used as ironic counterpoint in a scene of horrific (emotional) violence in some edgy indie film along the lines of ‘The War Zone meets Nil By Mouth’ by say 2022? For me this is a:
    5 (could be a 6 in the right mood)

  16. 16
    DanH on 12 Oct 2014 #

    I was aware of this at the time…it did decent in America, the only Westlife song to do so. I heard this quite a bit in retail, and remembered one view of the aforementioned carwashing video (the U.S. version?) and thought, ‘of course the other side of the pond has their own Backstreet Boys.’ Of course I was proven wrong, when finding out later bunny cover versions as well as #2 cover versions…theirs was a different demographic, as pointed out by Tom and others. I’m telling you, I was aghast at learning what songs they had covered for hits…

  17. 17
    wichitalineman on 12 Oct 2014 #

    Tremendous dissection, Tom. This has felt like a boil waiting to be lanced for some time.

    So it’s something of a surprise to me that Swear It Again isn’t bad at all. OK, I can hear Everything I Do in there, as well as the unfriendly forebear Give A Little Love in its pace and mood. Then there’s the forced slow down ahead of the key change, which it really doesn’t need, but the bridge is strong, the (underplayed) string line too, and the vocals don’t ingratiate or whine as i feared they might. I haven’t heard it in 15 years which may say a lot about its longevity, but SIA is notably better than any of Boyzone’s Popular entries (to date? I daren’t look). Another less direct comparison – super-lightweight R&B it may be, yet it’s a better song and performance than Boyz II Men’s overdone End Of The Road.

    Unexpected plus points aside, are we giving Cowell and Walsh too much credit for their scientific breakdown of the needs of the pop market? I remember the band were called Westside until the last minute – I can’t recall why the (enforced, I think) name change happened, but Westlife? As opposed to Eastlife? Wossat?

  18. 18
    Nixon on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #17 The completely meaningless name (they’re just putting random syllables together!) was something that annoyed me at the time. In hindsight, its very meaninglessness has been an advantage, seemingly less age-stamped than something more obviously teen-oriented.

    The Boyzone/Ronan connection was at its strongest here : purely anecdotally, 3 (three!) of my friends bought this solely out of goodwill to Keating and Brand Boyzone. Honestly though this is (a) not that bad, and (b) one of only 2 of their records I can remember. 4 seems fair enough.

  19. 19
    Nixon on 13 Oct 2014 #

    (Additional theory : Westlife’s target/core audience in the first instance was twentysomething women who’d *been*Boyzone/TT fans? The Daniel O’Donnell comparison is excellent but the marketing of this stuff (oddly sexless sex symbols, churning out geriatric music aimed at people who wouldn’t ever think of themselves that way regardless of actual age and who’d never be caught dead buying Daniel O’Donnell) found even greater fulfilment in Michael Bublé. Is he bunnied? I can’t be arsed to check. But anyway.)

  20. 20
    weej on 13 Oct 2014 #

    And so it begins… best of luck with this, and I’ll try to space out my thoughts on the group so I don’t run out of things to say as we get into the teens.

    Here’s a starting point – while Westlife’s star may have (finally) faded in the 2010s, the group are still massive here in China – not only that, they seem to actually fit the model for the majority of other pop music. So while you could call these fanbase hits in the UK, this is absolutely not the case over here – this is the definition of mainstream pop music in 2014, and mainstream pop music is not in any way the sullied phrase it is in the UK. I was once invited to a karaoke party for a translation company I was working at in Beijing. It was at 10am, and when I arrived I found I was one of only three people who had turned up – one of whom was the 45-year-old-businessman boss, who announced that he’d queued up five Westlife songs for me to sing because I am from the UK, like Westlife, his favourite band. I made my excuses and left. At least it wasn’t the other famous western group, Michael Learns To Rock, who are objectively worse.

    This song – yup, not their worst, though a 4 is stretching it a bit for me, professionalism isn’t a cause for celebration as it just reminds me of the unstoppability of this mechanical juggenaut of pop music stripped of anything weird or interesting. The production is, I dunno, fine in its way, but Lead Westlife’s voice with its phoney-mid-atlantic-melisma-but-with-the-occasional-Irish-twang is already grating. Perhaps if I hadn’t been exposed to this stuff for a decade it would be possible to judge it on different terms, but for me this is still the zeitgeist. Can’t go higher than a 2.

  21. 21
    mapman132 on 13 Oct 2014 #

    I know of Westlife only through (poor) reputation. Despite SIA’s status as their one and only US hit (peaked at #20), I had never heard it before the other night. Or maybe I had and simply forgotten it – it’s the type of song that makes that little impression. And to think we have 13 more to go with worse to come if I’m reading things right. Ugh.

    Tom’s analysis was a good read though. It seems as if Westlife’s chart performance is what results when timing, fanbase, and marketing strategy happens to correspond perfectly with what’s required to rack up number one hits. An interesting parallel we have in the US would have to be Mariah Carey – she of the 18 number ones, more than anyone except the Beatles. The analogy isn’t perfect because Mariah’s a much more credible performer(*) with pretty decent overall record sales over the past 25 years, and some of her stuff is actually quite good if you’re into that sort of thing. But a non-trivial number of her #1’s were unremarkable and probably wouldn’t have gotten there if not for the record company gaming the system to get her yet another #1. This was in marked contrast to the marketing of most artists in the 90’s for whom Hot 100 performance was relatively low priority as evidenced by the number of big hits that weren’t even released as singles. It was just happenstance that Mariah had a bunch of #1’s early in her career(**), and the powers that be apparently figured that it was a good story, so why not keep a good thing going? Thus, 18 number ones, more than were probably “deserved”, even for such a well-known artist.

    (*) based on Westlife’s reputation, since I’ve heard almost none of their output

    (**) worth noting that the first 5 were under pre-Soundscan rules when hitting #1 was much easier. I don’t think the likes of “I Don’t Wanna Cry” would’ve hit #1 under Soundscan no matter how much gaming was done.

    (***) Tom, if you get to a Westlife #1 for which you can’t think of anything to say, just write a single sentence, or better yet, a single word. Because it would be funny if for no other reason ;)

  22. 22
    Mark G on 13 Oct 2014 #

    As long as the word is “Custard”

  23. 23
    James Masterton on 13 Oct 2014 #

    All I can do here is note what I observed at the time. Westlife on a basic level actually just sing the one song over and over again. What mattered though is that in small measures it is actually a very good song which meant they could milk it for all it was worth until they became self-parodies.

    Those who (with due cause) have studiously avoided deep critical analysis of their work until now will be in a small revelation. The next two work big time. Flying Without Wings is a standard and My Love is the most effective pressing of every emotional button imaginable since Mull Of Kintyre. After that it does indeed all go to shit.

  24. 24
    punctum on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #1 self-correction: the parenthesis should read “and pretty well ALL of their other number one singles.”

    Eight number one albums by Westlife await. I may have taken up pottery or birdwatching by then.

  25. 25
    JLucas on 13 Oct 2014 #

    As #20 intimates, simply looking at Westlife through the prism of their accumulation of UK #1s only tells half the story. They were very popular in Europe and Asia too.

    Would it be a stretch to describe them as sort of ‘Irish Schlager’? Schlager music being a broad term for a kind of trend-defying, highly melodic easy-listening pop form that seems to take more specific identities in different countries – in Sweden the term is often used to describe typically Scandinavian power-pop (verse-chorus, verse-chorus, middle eight, KEY CHANGE! chorus), while in Germany and the lowlands it’s more of a mix of europop and country/folk. Wherever you find it, the emphasis is on simple melodies and sing-a-long-ability. It’s almost always anathema to prevailing trends, but often hugely commercially successful.

    If the Irish iteration of this is the inoffensively* middle of the road ballad, perhaps Westlife can be judged as the defining proponents of a genre that takes in the likes of Boyzone, Daniel O’Donnell and all those 90s Eurovision winners.

    * I say inoffensive, clearly many people find Westlife’s output *highly* offensive, but it seems to me that it’s more a reaction to their success than anything inherently rotten at the heart of their music. They certainly can’t be accused of having a corrupting influence on the youth with their sexless image and lyrics about love, commitment etc.

    Personally I hated them at the time because they were always number one and it did feel unfair – but only because the pop acts I liked didn’t get such an easy ride…

  26. 26
    lonepilgrim on 13 Oct 2014 #

    Westlife’s chart topping ubiquity didn’t bother me as as I had become detached from the charts by this point – no doubt my tolerance will be tested as we work our way through their oeuvre.
    This is well arranged, well produced and competently sung. Lyrically I find it characterless and unmemorable.

  27. 27
    Chris Retro on 13 Oct 2014 #

    The kindest thing I can say about Westlife is out of their string of Top Five hits & chart-toppers, the only ones I have any vague recall of are the abysmal covers & the bland uptempo ones (World Of Our Own, Bop Bop Baby).
    The rest just blend into a heap of cliches & mush.
    I am no musical snob & like so many different styles of music, from hip-hop & drum’n’bass to easy listening muzak – but we are reaching a point in time when I neither cared for nor could understand the appeal of this “phenomenon” musically whatsoever (and it would get much much worse).
    I can’t remember Swear It Again (and I can remember other syrup of the time such as Perfect Moment) – in fact I remember around 9/10 years ago looking at the list of their Number One singles then and finding it quite alarming I couldn’t then either.
    Bland and calculated. 1.

  28. 28
    will on 13 Oct 2014 #

    I always felt sorry for Mytown, the other Irish vocal group that were launched around this time.

  29. 29
    Nixon on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #28 You were actually IN Mytown and I claim my £5

  30. 30
    Andrew Farrell on 13 Oct 2014 #

    The mind boggles at the idea of a six-boy band where Bryan McFadden is in the upper half of the draw lookswise. Though I’m sure that Simon Cowell has seen uglier bands since.

    #12: Wee Daniel also has a blistering workrate – he recently celebrated being the first artist to have a different album in the UK charts every year for 25 consecutive years.

    #13: Either there’s a third video, or I don’t think the srs one is unremittingly so: there’s shots of the lads self-consciously ‘prepping’ for their career, sorting through music sheets and joking around, including making each other laugh during the srs bits. Hedging their already-hedged bets a bit, indeed.

    #15: No, we don’t need to call it mum-rock, as a) no-one else but you is and b) it doesn’t remotely rock.

    #17: Westside was apparently (IE according to Wikipedia*) already taken by another band, who have presumably sunk back into the long grass (unless – but no, it’s too much to hope?)

    *which also reveals that Brian-as-was was happy to change the spelling of his name in order to make signing autographs easier – perhaps it’s this pliability rather than his chiselled** features that recommended him to Simon?

    *chiselled ham, where the chisels are also made of ham.

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