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.



  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 #


    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 #

    – 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.

  31. 31
    katstevens on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #30: You’re right, watching it back they are much more cheerful than I remembered.

  32. 32
    Rory on 13 Oct 2014 #

    I don’t know any of the Westlife number ones apart from their 2005 paean to yeast, so this was novel, at least. But I’d rather listen to at least two of Boyzone’s number ones than this (which is to say: hardly at all). And you all reckon they get worse?

    It isn’t the smooth production or the homogenized harmonies that annoy me most here, it’s that I still can’t remember the tune after listening to it twice. Swanstep’s Air Supply comparison is apt, but at least I can hum a few bars of their big hits without a quick refresher at YouTube.


    (Great review though, Tom. Seconding the motion to make some of the later reviews one or two words long, if only to spare your sanity. Haiku, perhaps?)

  33. 33
    Tom on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #30 it isn’t even that Bryan is in the top half, it’s that he was SPECIALLY RECRUITED as a handsome replacement for the two who got the shove. Igor and Otto Sump, on this reckoning.

    (I have consulted ACTUAL MULTIPLE SOURCES, not just Wikipedia, on the Night Of The West Knives and there are ambiguous areas – supposedly Simon’s main concern was Shane, but he kept him in and fired Graham instead – who was kept on as road manager for a bit, another piece of 60s-esque cruelty)

    #32 I dare say I’ll be applying a number of reviewing strategies to the Westlife canon.

  34. 34
    punctum on 13 Oct 2014 #

    When in Glasgow recently, I witnessed a small slice of the horrors that constitute daytime TV, and Mr McFadden is currently hosting something called Who’s Doing The Dishes? The premise? A “celebrity” cooks a meal for a panel of contestants and they have to guess – with the help of some blindingly obvious clues – who cooked it. If their guess is right, the celebrity has to wash up after them, but if it is wrong, they have to do their own washing up. Of the two episodes which I partly watched, they guessed Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker but not former England rugby international Martin Offiah. McFadden looked glassily as though of hemlock he wished he had drunk.

  35. 35
    stpw on 13 Oct 2014 #

    Always taken the ‘West’ element to be the West of Ireland – the Sligo/Mayo roots (particularly vs the Dublin Boyzone).

  36. 36
    punctum on 13 Oct 2014 #

    Did I say eight number one albums? I double checked and actually they’ve only had seven #1 albums in the UK. Savour the painful irony of that “only.”

  37. 37
    swanstep on 13 Oct 2014 #

    @rory, 32. I agree that Air Supply’s big hits were and are serious earworms in a way that SIA isn’t. Checking youtube I found that Westlife together w/ Aussie sweetheart Delta Goodrem did a pretty solid Air Supply cover on X-factor (of course they did!). I guess it’ll be interesting to hear through Popular whether W can originate a track that hooky and that shows off their voices (& Ms Goodrem’s) that well.

  38. 38
    iconoclast on 13 Oct 2014 #

    There’s plenty to say, virtually all of which has already been said, about this record as a pop-cultural signifier/phenomenon/whatever. As an actual piece of music, by contrast there’s very little to say: it’s a formulaic ballad, formulaically (*) written and produced, passionately sung, which does its job efficiently and makes no pretentions to anything else. That doesn’t actually make it *good*, mind, and I wouldn’t want to listen to it again, but it’s not an out-and-out trainwreck either. I agree with Tom here, for once: FOUR.

    (*) Is this an actual word?

  39. 39
    enitharmon on 13 Oct 2014 #

    @35 For some reason I’ve always referred to them as Pondlife. Well they (or Mr Cowell) walked into that one.

  40. 40
    Andrew Farrell on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #23 a) careful with the bunny! b) but these aren’t the bunnies you’re looking for…

    #25 I think it’s always possible to be offensively non-corrupting – even a straight forward harking-back band can have a different cultural charge than what they’re harking back to (are they even attempting the edge of the Rat Pack?), because it’s in a different context. I can imagine getting offended at a wildly popular group of Boyz regurgitating 50s attitudes in the modern world…

    … er, if I actually knew what any of the songs were about, which I don’t. There could be a cover of Under My Thumb, or The Boiler for that matter, as far as I know. I suspect that there is yet to be published a feminist appraisal of Westlife’s #1 singles, just because you’d have to listen to 14 of the bloody things.

    #27: Think how Tom felt, at about the same time.

    #33: Expecting one of the later reviews to be a Vine of yourself, a crossbow, and some paint-filled balloons with the lad’s faces on.

  41. 41
    katstevens on 13 Oct 2014 #

    And you all reckon they get worse?

    Not at all! However some of their best singles didn’t actually get to #1 so you lot will NEVER KNOW.

  42. 42
    punctum on 13 Oct 2014 #

    They don’t get worse.

    However, they don’t get better either.

    I know everything, me.

  43. 43
    Izzy on 13 Oct 2014 #

    Well here’s a surprise – this is a pretty good record. Which is largely down to the songwriting I feel – I’m highly sceptical of the claims not to be able to remember this once it’s stopped playing, as there are plenty of hooks here. The messing with tempo-via-metre around “I’m glad we’re on this one-way-street … just you & I” (0:45) is very pleasing, but there are others.

    The lift into the chorus is nice; the key change at 3:04 not so much. It’s good that they put something startling in there, I just wish it had been through making the instrumentation less safe. It’s not lazy as such, because it sounds properly lush rather than pro-forma, it’s just a bit pedestrian.

    Overall it leaves the vocals slightly too much to do. As others have noted, they’re fine, but they lack that bit of character or sass that’d push this into the higher marks. The production does do a very good job on them though, with odd lines and emphases jumping out here & there – the ‘denied’ at 2:14 – but ultimately it’s not because of great singing, which is what you’d be hearing if this were, say, Boyz II Men getting their hands on it.

    Whether that’d necessarily have made for a better record I’m not sure. But this is fine – good, getting towards very good. (7)

  44. 44
    Tom on 13 Oct 2014 #

    My actual least favourite – from imperfect memory – Westlife single didn’t get to #1, but I think I will be mentioning it in an effort to pad out an entry that did (also very bad), so I will leave you in a state of ‘suspense’.

    This is at the high end of Westlife quality, I’m pretty sure. I dunno if “got worse” is exactly the problem – in some ways they widened their range and got a bit more ambitious, but they just were never very good at doing things other than ‘being Westlife’. But at the same time the songs on which they were just ‘being Westlife’ got rapidly familiar. There is more variation in Westlife material than they are given credit for, but not as much as you’d hope for if you were to do something idiotic like write about them 14 times.

  45. 45
    chelovek na lune on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #41 Hmm, I don’t claim to recall all of their singles, but just looking through the list I see that two that I dismissed as being, even for Westlife, particularly unpleasant “only” got to nos 5 and 4, respectively. I fear we may still be getting the cream of the crap here….

  46. 46
    flahr on 13 Oct 2014 #

    For some reason I listened to and wrote about the album this is from, way back when (but not quite as way back when as 1999) – I reproduce the interesting parts in confidence that no-one will think Punctum’s future take on same is rendered superfluous by it:

    “my favourite aspect of this album was the drums. I assume they were using a drum machine with three buttons on it: ON/OFF, PLAY, and BIG DRAMATIC THUDTHUDTHUD A LA “I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU”, an effect I always descend into giggles at… The only thing after [track 11] I can remember is that one song forwent conventional music in favour of a noise like a herd of wildebeest in C major sweeping past the microphone at more or less random intervals… The perfect Christmas gift for someone you don’t like much.”

    I don’t think I specifically mentioned “Swear It Again”, unless that was either track 11 or sounded like wildebeest. Given my past reaction to their music, though, I think it would be politic not to listen again and find out.

  47. 47
    JLucas on 13 Oct 2014 #

    I prefer early Westlife to mid-late Westlife (anything after the second album essentially) just because like Boyzone, once they’d established a formula that worked they essentially became a covers act – at least in terms of their singles.

    There’s decent pop songcraft to this early stuff even if it does become very samey very quickly. That said, one of their early cover hits is my favourite Westlife song just because it’s so bizarre. But we’ll come to that…

  48. 48
    Nixon on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #42 Chin up, Marcello, at least you don’t have to navigate the (apparently Robbie Williams-inspired) Sinatra tribute LP, “Allow Us To Be Frank”, whose title is either groansomely awful or genius, I can’t decide.

  49. 49
    JoeWiz on 13 Oct 2014 #

    This all seemed rather sweet at the time didn’t it? Pleasant song, friendly lads with Ronan as ‘manager’ a quick fire number one easily achieved. There’s NOTHING on this song or video which suggesta the all conquering behemoth which Westlife would pretty easily become.
    My main problem was that it lacked even the mildest of thrils, there was never even a suggestion or a twitch of innovation. Many of their songs were good in their own way, many were also heart breakingly poor but literally none of them made you question what you were hearing.
    Why did no one stop them? TT were gone, as were Boyzone pretty much by now – where was the polar opposite competition? An East 17 bad boy type thing? It takes us another 2 years to get to a bunnied colour based boyband and by that point, Westlife were long gone into the distance…
    3. Just.

  50. 50
    Tom on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #49 competition to Westlife – well, my theory is that the specific audience for Westlife (call it soft rock, schlager, mum-pop, whatever) is buying them because they’re dependable – this is why they had to be launched as Boyzone 2.0 rather than as a totally new thing – which meant that the standard “good boy/bad boy” balancing act wouldn’t work. In marketing, when you’re selling on safety and reliability, excitement and unreliability don’t really work to win people over: the main competitive strategy would be to get people to take reliability for granted and sell them in on other neighbouring attributes – premium-ness, engagement, personalisation, authenticity, etc. So ultimately their competition are things like reality TV stars (more of a personal stake), Il Divo (a bit more premium), Michael Buble (a bit less manufactured) etc. Boybands don’t get a look in.

  51. 51
    punctum on 13 Oct 2014 #

    #48: Probably not as good as Nik Kershaw’s 2001 album To Be Frank (which isn’t that good).

  52. 52
    Rory on 13 Oct 2014 #

    Izzy @43: Highly skeptical? Well, I genuinely have listened to this only twice (once on Friday, and once today), and several hours after the second listen I really am struggling to remember the tune. I remember they sing “swear it all over again” rather than the song’s actual title, and there’s a lurch into a higher register towards the end, and that’s about it. Any attempt to bring more to mind gets sidetracked by the chorus of their 2005 bunny. I’m not about to listen to it a third time to search for those elusive hooks.

    Meanwhile, Boyzone’s “A Different Beat” and “No Matter What” spring to mind unbidden, damn them.

  53. 53
    chelovek na lune on 13 Oct 2014 #

    @52 I find (and have always found) this eminently forgettable, for what it’s worth, which maybe contributes to my sense that it lacks unpleasantness, compared with several bunnies yet to come

  54. 54
    AMZ1981 on 14 Oct 2014 #

    #49 I’d quibble that slightly – Boyzone were putting on a unified front at the time, they have got a bunny in the bag and it wasn’t until the next year they quietly slipped into hiatus. Obviously (bunnying again) Ronan Keating had one eye on the solo career and at the time he would have been the cash cow rather than Westlife.

    Speaking of Keating, for all that he was supposedly their co manager I’d be surprised if he really had any real imput. He may have thrown in the odd idea but I always saw it as a publicity stunt – Smash Hits got a good photo shoot of them doing a teacher/ class act.

  55. 55
    Mark G on 14 Oct 2014 #

    It wasn’t until Peter Cushing named them as his favourite musical group that the penny dropped: Boyband be blowed, this is the new MOR!

  56. 56
    Matthew K on 14 Oct 2014 #

    LOVED this entry, a prime piece of analysis which reminds me why I keep coming back to Popular (I think I’ve been reading at least 8 years).
    Dispiriting stuff in discussion, although a brief moment of joy when I mentally substituted the other meaning of “stool” for no good reason.

  57. 57
    James Silkstone on 14 Oct 2014 #

    And enter, the worst part of my childhood existence. Still, I do remember the fuss there was around Westlife in my primary school for about three or four years and they were truly, annoyingly omnipresent if you were a child during this time – I actually had a conversation with my elder cousin about this once, he was a teenager in ’99 and managed to avoid Westlife as well as he could and from all accounts he did a decent job of it not hearing one of their songs until “Uptown Girl” in 2001. I had no such look, being hooked on Saturday morning television probably meant I was going to be fighting a losing battle from the start because even 5-year old James already despised this band. I just didn’t get them. I didn’t get why my sister and female cousins were so bothered, nor the girls at school when that came around, I just didn’t get it. They were so boring.

    I don’t even hate boybands, I actually quite like some. Backstreet Boys & NSYNC released some very good pop around this era, and after a shaky start A1 managed to push out some decent tunes as well. Blue were a favourite of mine for a while, and I wasn’t opposed to Busted or McFly either. I even quite like One Direction nowadays.

    Over the years, loathed as I am to admit it, I’ve warmed to them. When they turned up the tempo a little bit, they could be surprisingly un-shit (I’d actually highly recommend 2006’s “Amazing” – unfortunately not one of their three bearable songs actually reached the number one spit) but those instances were few and far between and if there’s one thing I can say about early Westlife; it’s that at least they were releasing mostly original songs which they seemed to stop producing around the time of Brian McFadden’s departure (that day was like a damn greek tragedy at my school). As an individual record, ‘Swear It Again’ in hindsight isn’t too bad. I mean, there’s something in it pushing it. There’s a driving force present unlike in a lot of their other ballads but it’s in no way great. Just eh. 1999 needs to pick its socks up a little


  58. 58
    James BC on 14 Oct 2014 #

    The olestra of pop – yuck!

    I never understood. I get that they sold to romantic-minded, pleasant people who probably don’t buy much music – the Daniel O’Donnell market. But how do you get that fanbase to (1) buy singles and (2) all buy them in the same week? Did a bat signal go out through some communication channel unmonitored by me (daytime TV? local radio? posters??) or was it simply by putting them next to the supermarket checkout? Was there a corresponding drop in sales of Galaxy Minstrels in the weeks when Westlife had a single out?

    I do think Westlife should have been reprimanded for breaking one of the cardinal rules of boybands (and soaps) and having a member with the same name as another member of an existing boyband. I’m pretty sure there was no precedent for that nefarious move.

    As for the song, well it’s not my thing.

  59. 59
    Cumbrian on 14 Oct 2014 #

    Mundane Pointless Thing I Must Share: It has just struck me Brian McFadden looks an awful lot like a male version of Kerry Katona on the sleeve of this – or at least to my eyes he does anyway.

  60. 60
    Mark G on 14 Oct 2014 #

    #58 I think that rule is that you’re not allowed to have the same name as someone else in the same boyband.

  61. 61
    sukrat does standup on 14 Oct 2014 #

    I wanted to make a joke about a boy band called RoyZone (who were all called Roy, it’s very hilarious) but I googled to check if anyone had had this amazing joke already and there is actually a ceilidh band called RoyZone except (very unhilariously) only one of them is called Roy.

  62. 62
    James BC on 14 Oct 2014 #

    I don’t think that is the rule – didn’t East 17 have two members called “bloke at the back”.

  63. 63
    iconoclast on 14 Oct 2014 #

    And isn’t the “fat one who writes the songs” mandatory, too?

  64. 64
    Mark G on 15 Oct 2014 #

    Yes, but there is definitely only one of those per.

    You could say that the Spice girls break all those rules (two Mel’s, more than one songwriter, etc). You’d be right, that’s because they are girls.

  65. 65
    James BC on 15 Oct 2014 #

    Yes, the rules are clearly different for girl bands. All Saints had a Mel as well and no one batted an eyelid.

  66. 66
    ace inhibitor on 15 Oct 2014 #

    … or blatted an eyelid?

    I’ll get my coat.

    (favourite moment from a diana-funeral-day documentary at around this time – drunk man in Bristol pub explaining how nothing compared to her: “if that prince charles walked in here right now, I wouldn’t batter an eyelid.”)

  67. 67
    Tommy Mack on 15 Oct 2014 #

    Two things I know about Westlife:

    1. On a Radio 4 doc about boybands, one of them said ‘this is just a job, it’s the best job in the world but at the end of the day, it’s still just a job’. Interviewer should have replied ‘yeah, I get that from your music, mate’. I can’t imagine any other major pop act being so nakedly cynical in the public arena, not even Boyzone.

    2. Westlife are huge in China, among men as well as women. The lyrics are easy for EAL speakers to follow and the band are seen as the epitome of ruggedly handsome western men. Loads of chinese lads asked if I liked Westlife and were surprised when I said it was only really women who liked them in the UK.

    Cowell really is a depressing man. You get the impression he could do a lot better but is deliberately aiming for just good enough without stretching himself or his acts too much. (Yes, I realise he doesn’t write or produce the songs but he must call some of the creative shots)

  68. 68
    AMZ1981 on 15 Oct 2014 #

    #67 I was going to save this point for one of the later Westlife entries but I think your paragraph sums up Westlife – but to be fair also their audience. Westlife were a capable enough act vocally and I often thought they could try something a lot more complex such as a song with multiple vocal parts and stun us all. I actually noted this when we discussed A Different Beat by Boyzone; that song was an attempt to do something a bit different and the feedback from the fans seemed to be `stick with the Bee Gees covers`.

    The public gets what the public wants. But given that Take That (only three years defunct at this point) owed a lot of their appeal to the fact they tried something new each time, even if it didn’t always work, you have to wonder what changed.

  69. 69
    Mark G on 16 Oct 2014 #

    I think what was different was the audience’s expectation: Take That entertained by changing, Westlife kept their audience by giving them more of the same. In fact, if the ‘life had changed more, they’d have had as much success as the TT singles (not guaranteed pole position, but always top ten, ref: the ‘different’ westlife singles that didn’t make number one)

    Even here: it’s going to be tough coming up with something different, comment-wise, for each of these Popular Westlife entries (not just Tom’s review but the rest of us too) and yeah, I was going to keep my comment #55 for later in the series but hey.

    I’m somewhat gratified that the individual WLifers were all “it’s a job”, because it is, and at least they don’t have to feel that they have ‘sold their musical souls’ for this level of achievement, because at the end of the day they’re not invested particularly heavily, emotionalwise…

    Put it this way: If the “Westlife Musical” ever goes ahead onto the West End stage, it’d better have one hell of a good story….

  70. 70
    Tom on 16 Oct 2014 #

    My argument is simply that Take That and Westlife were doing different things for different people. It’s easy to look at 5 attractive young men (OK, 5 young men some of whom are attractive) and think all such iterations must basically appeal to the same people, but I don’t think it’s true: even if you say “OK, it’s young girls”, there are a lot of young girls! And they are not all the same! It’s like saying “look at Ocean Colour Scene, who always did the same thing, then look at Radiohead, who always did different things – EXPLAIN THAT HUH?”

  71. 71
    punctum on 16 Oct 2014 #

    Except OCS only always did the same thing from their second album onward. Few remember their shoegazing/baggy debut.

  72. 72
    Mark G on 16 Oct 2014 #

    #70, my original version of #69 had it “what was different was the audience”, I should have made it “and their expectations”

    Yes, as I say that’s when the penny dropped was when Peter Cushing expressed a liking. It doesn’t explain why the singles went immediately to the top then disappeared, unless that audience were more used to doing that than the Peters and Lee (or, indeed, The Batchelors) ‘s fans were.

    (Can you leave a hanging apostrophed “‘s” open as long as that? Anyway..)

    I suspect that had the main product supply been downloads, there might have been a longer uptake time. Then again, everyone has a computer and knows how to use it, nowadays…

  73. 73
    AMZ1981 on 16 Oct 2014 #

    Westlife were largely seen as direct descendants of Take That although I appreciate there was a stylistic change as well as a shift in the market – Boyzone were obviously the link between the two. It will be interesting to see what kind of pattern develops when we look at the competition for each Westlife number one as even their detractors have to agree they had an astonishing strike rate for the time.

    Am I being thick here or is there another Peter Cushing – the only one I can think of is the horror actor who died in 1994.

  74. 74
    glue_factory on 16 Oct 2014 #

    The grave cannot keep Peter Cushing…

  75. 75
    PurpleKylie on 16 Oct 2014 #

    Ugh, the utter bane of my tween life. I honestly felt like the only female in the British Isles to think these berks were awful even back then, it seemed like all the other girls were fawning over them and thinking they were awesome.

    FOURTEEN TIMES?! Jesus H Christ, I’m going to have to think of 13 other original ways of saying how crap they were and still are!

  76. 76
    Mark G on 16 Oct 2014 #

    ah, damn this ‘not researching thanks to not being a proper journalist’ business.

    Right, not Peter Cushing. So, if its not Vincent Price, and the person I’m thinking of is still alive, who is left?

  77. 77
    Nixon on 16 Oct 2014 #

    Christopher Lee? Christopher Plummer? Lee the Plumber?

  78. 78
    Mark G on 17 Oct 2014 #

    Christopher Lee! That’s the trousers!

  79. 79
    Weej on 17 Oct 2014 #

    #78 – Fairly unlikely to be Christopher Lee

  80. 80
    swanstep on 17 Oct 2014 #

    @78, Mark G. All of Lee’s Desert Island Discs were classical (with Handel’s Rinaldo #1) so, again, no encouragement for a Lee-Westlife connection. (Note that Sir Christopher will be back on screen this Xmas in the final Hobbit blowout; still badass at 92!)

  81. 81
    Mark G on 17 Oct 2014 #

    Well, it was a small piece in the Metro as far as I recall. Any road up, I’d say Chris Lee’s the most likely one but whatever. I tried googling “Old actor who likes Westlife” and found out all the names of the band members! Who Knew?!?

    Wlife were going to be called Westside, but there was already one of those. Stunning fact #6! The other five were their individual names…

  82. 82
    Tommy Mack on 22 Oct 2014 #

    Mark G @ 69: my complaint isn’t really that Westlife should view their roles as ‘just a job’, more that their music doesn’t suggest that anyone involved in the creative process either viewed it as more than ‘just a job’ or had the skill (or cared enough) to conceal their indifference.

  83. 83
    iconoclast on 23 Oct 2014 #

    @82: In a nutshell, it’s not Art, it’s Product.

  84. 84
    Tommy Mack on 23 Oct 2014 #

    But between Art and Product, lies a big blurry area called Craft* where technical skills are used to reconcile artistic and commercial ambitions and – my initial complaint – I don’t hear much of that going on (DISCLOSURE: I do not go out of my way to listen to Westlife…) although I imagine many of the people involved are capable. Or maybe there is a sort of craft there. I’m assuming Westlife’s fans would chose a better version of the same music if it were offered to them but I think I’m probably wrong in that: plenty people like Walls Ice Cream/Quality Street/Nescafe and not just because they’re cheap and readily available. What’s the secret then? Comfortably familiar? No jarring elements? Comfortingly bland, I guess. I’m not trying to be patronising here but it’s hard when it’s something I really can’t find the appeal in.

    *Actually, I think Art, Commerce and Craft are more like three Cartesian axes (x,y,z) – Motown for example sits in the top, right, back corner, a bunch of mates sloppily jamming in a garage in the bottom, front left.

  85. 85
    ciaran on 25 Nov 2014 #

    So then one time Frankenstein’s bunny have now become Frankenstein’s Monster. Louis Walsh’s ultimate project made flesh.

    Thought I’d be here to stick the boot in but SIA wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Boyzone comparisons are a given especially with the panoramic widescreen image both had and the Irishness but this is going more down the ‘Back for Good’ route in craft and video.As a first hit its a reasonable effort even if its a rater ominous sign of things to come.

    It was touched on before with Boyzone and the Irish Model idea but I would describe Westlife as the archetypal Celtic Tiger band. Where once you would have had 3 lads from Sligo(the 5th/6th smallest population in Ireland with the province of Connaught a fair amount of emigration historically) maybe going to London for summer work or more now the breakthrough sensation in the uk and ireland, all led by their contractor like boss from County Mayo.Fitting that the decline began aroound the same time as the Tiger to boot.

    I more or less expected them to be around for quite a while and so it proved.Competition was all but fading with Take That/East 17 all but nostalgia by Spring 99 and the Uk rivals a bit too boisterous for the public.This might be boyband heresy to Tom but I would have preferred Boyzone overall as they didnt have it as easy getting to Number 1 and they were more likeable or interesting individually.

    The first year of Westlife contains the ‘best’ stuff but by the time of Comic Bunny it was time to shout enough already.

    Anways back to SIA. 4

  86. 86
    MUSICALITY on 24 Apr 2017 #

    Great post review and my views exactly however taking this on face value and trying to block out Westlife’s future and awful long existence, it’s a good strong pop ballad.

    It’s also ORIGINAL how that would soon change.

  87. 87
    Gareth Parker on 28 May 2021 #

    Not too much to say here, 3/10 from me.

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