Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Nicky's Post-Tour Interview

As with all the others, Nicky has done a tour interview.

So how was the tour for you?
It went really well actually. We’ve had the best reports back from everybody; family, friends, critics. This year we really sat down before we even planned this tour and made sure we were streets ahead of last year. We really stepped up our game and it’s worked really well.

Which were your favourite dates?
It would be hard to pick. In Belfast they’re really crazy, but Dublin is my hometown and the gig is only 15-20 minutes away from my house, and that’s always really cool. Glasgow was always amazing and Manchester was cool too, but they’ve all been brilliant.

What was your favourite song to perform?
The medley section was my favourite part by far. There were a couple of songs in there that we completely stripped down and changed and the choreography was quite raunchy. The crowd seemed to love the choice of songs this year and the feedback is absolutely incredible.

Have you seen any good banners?
There seem to have been a lot less banners this year, but there have been a lot of really young kids who wouldn’t have even been alive when Westlife started. They’re probably a bit young to be making banners, but the older people have swung bras and knickers at us. Kian tries them on at the end of every night.

How do you unwind?
I’ll just go home and take a bath and go to bed, or sometimes we have a few beers in the bar, nothing too mad. But if we’re all around in Dublin, for example, then we have a big party with our friends and family. Ireland is always about trying to catch up with people because you spend so much time out of the country, and over in the UK, we all had our own thing going on with our families.

What have you got planned now the arena shows have finished?
We’ve got a lot of outdoor gigs to do and we’re obviously trying to plan a holiday as well. I’m in current talks with an Irish movie director to shoot a movie this summer. It won’t take up any Westlife time because I’m going to do it over the holidays. I’m not going to give too much away as it’s not 100% happening, but if I can squeeze it in I’ll do it. But I’ll try and have a decent holiday abroad, definitely, and we’ve got to record the new album. The new songs are coming in thick and fast at the moment.

What have been your highlights over the last few months?
Really just the success of the album. I mean, ‘You raise Me Up’ has turned into an anthem amongst our fans, it gets such an emotional response at our shows. It broke new markets for us, it was number one in Australia for four weeks, which is fantastic. We’re just happy boys. The relationship between us and our label is good so we’re buzzing!

+ We acknowledge that last year's tour was a bit crap, but don't worry cos we've redeemed ourselves this year.
+ Every town was fun to perform in because we love all our fans equally!
+ The tour is really good, especially the medley. Even though we've finished the indoor shows, there are still outdoor shows and our Asian tour. Go see it.
+ Kian is a cross-dresser, and I can laugh about it because we're all such good mates.
+ We love our families and friends, and even though we drink with them we're very careful about not getting too drunk. We wouldn't get drunk! Honestly!
+ The new album will be great! Start saving!
+ You Raise Me Up is still out! Buy it!
+ Relationship between us and our label is good. Of course we would never think badly of them.

Because it was such a big surprise, I've got to add... what's with this movie thing? I can't claim I didn't see it coming on some level (he did acting classes over their 4 month holiday and has always expressed an interest in acting), but I didn't expect it so soon. Should be interesting, although I'm not sure I'll be able to watch him in a movie without going: "NICKY! That's NICKY!" Not that it's even for sure yet *shrugs*. I'll bring you more information as I hear it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Westlife Style School... The Sequel!

I have returned to dispense more important style tips! Get your notepads out, darlings, because this is important stuff! Especially if you ever feel like joining or starting a boyband. And if you don't... well, it might help you get a date. Unlike Mark, who probably never got laid while wearing those yellow shorts. Learn from their mistakes, without making your own.

First of all, as promised, I bring you the brown woollen beanie that swallows your head. I'm sure it spends its spare time as one of those swamp worms in King Kong that ate Andy Serkis' face. Notice the slight look of terror in Mark's eyes. He's thinking 'I hope this photoshoot's over fast enough that its teeth don't get a decent hold on my eyebrows'. This, of course, is a slightly glazed look, as the hat has already started sucking his brains out through his ears.

Another entry in the repartee of really ugly Westlife hats. I hope the unstyled hair they're hiding underneath these hats is really hideous, because if it's not as hideous as these hats... they might as well take them off. This specific hat comes from the South Park mall. It also doubles as a pillow for your friend (Shane is modelling this particular aspect of use). But just because it has multiple uses and keeps your ears warm, it does not mean it should worn in public. Ever.

Tying a shirt around your waist and standing on a balcony with your hands on your hips does not make you look like a superhero, no matter what you might think. There are so many things wrong with this outfit I don't know where to begin. Windswept hair only works if you're some maiden just come down from riding her stallion free across the plains. My guess is that you have not been riding a horse, even if that outfit does make you look like a girl.

Yes, obviously you want to be a girl (turning your jacket into a skirt is a dead giveaway), or you wouldn't be standing like one, or dressing like one. And the headset around your neck does not qualify as an accesory.

Now this, children, is one of the few times a hat is a good thing. The others could use one right about now. Let's start with that dolt in the middle. The one with the blond curtains that fancies himself as the next Nick Carter. He is not Nick Carter, and he is not stylish. Then onto his friend, the one with the long red hair. We've spoken about this before, lad - you are not Lindsay Lohan. Then the two down the front, who are virtually indistinguishable from each other. Here's a note to you: if your friend has an ugly haircut, it is not okay for you to mimic said ugly haircut. Especially when the dye job is as bad as it is.

Unless you're doing it to get Simon Cowell to like you. We'll forgive that.

Bald is beautiful. For some that is true, for some it isn't. So, before you go the chop-n-shave, please be aware of a few small details.
1. If you have lumpy, oddly shaped head, do not shave.
2. If you can't get it even, do not shave. There is nothing worse than looking like a mangy rat has died on your head.
3. If you have very large eyes, do not shave. You will look like E.T.
4. If you have very nice hair and it is not falling out, do not shave.
5. If your name is Mark Feehily or Nicky Byrne, do not shave.
6. If your name is Shane Filan, Brian McFadden, or Kian Egan, do not shave (just getting in on this one before it happens!)
7. If you have big ears, do not shave. You will look like a car with its doors open.
8. If in doubt, do not shave.

There's one exception to the rule, of course. If your hair looks like the picture on the right...


Tune in tomorrow when I show you how to avoid hair that makes you look like you work for Hitler.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Westlife Style School

Stylists are there to make you look presentable, make you look respectable, and stop your hair looking like it's trying to eat your head. Usually, they do a decent job. But sometimes the stylist's... erm... creative vision doesn't quite match with yours. Or, worse yet, he goes AWOL and you have to muddle through it yourself, even though you really should never attempt styling without an expert. This leads to what is clinically titled a 'fashion disaster', and may result in one too many sequins, a quiff that takes on a life of its own, or (gasp!) crocheted knitwear.

Here are some of the most severe crimes against fashion, from the archives.

Never, ever, ever try to use items from your own home to finish off your outfit, unless you are a qualified professional. This includes making your shirt out of carpet. As well, check with your friends first to make sure they haven't had the same idea, otherwise you'll look completely unoriginal. If, however, you do accidentally have the same idea as your friends, don't stand next to them or you'll clash and look like a bad interior design job. Especially if your carpet has sequins.

It is a little-known fact that if two dark haired men stand next to each other, one will absorb all the other's hair pigmentation. But it's something everyone should know, so they can avoid disasters like this. If, as shown here, you and your friend don't want to be victims of looking like a block of white chocolate next to a block of dark chcolate, don't stand too close together. And certainly don't dress like a ghostbuster.

In fact, you won't have a problem after that. Dressing like a ghostbuster is the kind of fashion crime you'll get 20 years to life for. So you'll always be separated by perspex now, which is the safest option.

Just because Lindsay Lohan has flowing red locks, it doesn't mean it will look good on you. She has breasts to enhance the look. You do not. Also, do not scalp Lindsay Lohan and glue her hair onto your head. This tends to upset people. Well, some people. People that aren't called Paris, Ashlee, Mary-Kate or Scarlett. But even if they like you, they will not fancy you. No-one will fancy you. Ever.

On the upside, Adidas will pay you not to wear their stuff.

If you have a bald patch, do not style your hair to accentuate it. It is not a solar panel for a sex-machine. It does not make you look intelligent. It does not make you look like a hippy. It does not make you look like a surfer. It does not make you look like there are more important things in your life than how your hair looks. It makes you look old. This is bad. The best option is a short, spiky hairstyle that conceals it. This does not mean a comb-over, which will only accentuate your receding hairline (see right).

Some hats are what we in the industry call 'ugly'. Grandpa caps on young men are the biggest example of 'ugly' hats that we can give. Especially brown grandpa caps on young men that already have wrinkles and receding hairlines. Especially brown grandpa caps made of corduroy.

Burn it, please burn it! Before our eyes are assaulted further!

Pimps are only sexy to a very very small percentage of the community. The other percentage find them sleazy and creepy, even when the pimp is a faux pimp like yourself. The glasses are offensive to x-wing pilots, the beret is offensive to Mickey Mouse, the coat is offensive to vegetarians, the lip gloss is offensive to Pamela Anderson, and the scarf is offensive to matadors.

Pimps, especially, are very offended.

Floral maternity shirts are not attractive. At all. Even if you are at Mardi Gras. Really, with all those gay men and drag queens about, you'd think one would have at least pointed out your fashion faux pas.

I'm going to hope, for your sake, that you are there to spread the word of safe sex, and that smiley face mock is full of condoms. Otherwise, take it off right now, throw it under the nearest float, and be done with it. I don't even care if it's got your phone inside. That kind of thing needs to be disposed of immediately.

There's a reason your friends are drinking a lot. They want their vision blurred so it can't focus on that monstrosity of a shirt.

Shorts like that are only good if you never want children. Aside from the fact that they severely restrict bloodflow to your testicles, no woman will ever want to shag you. That may sound cruel, but think of it as a public service announcement. Not that we really want the kind of people who wear yellow nut-crushers to procreate anyway. It could destroy society as we know it.

Now, what have we learned today?

Stay tuned. Tomorrow, I show you a beanie that can come alive and suck your whole head into its brown, woollen mouth.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Happy Birthday to Mark!

He's 26 today!

Stop The Presses!

Lose him... he is holding you back
Delta's mum in tug-of-war over boyfriend Brian
by Nui Te Koha

A TUG-of-love for Delta Goodrem has erupted between mother Lea and boyfriend Brian McFadden.

Manager Lea and a team of advisers have told the pop princess to ditch her boyfriend of two years because he is ruining her career.

But in an angry letter to Team Delta, seen by The Sunday Mail, McFadden warned his detractors to back off.

Goodrem, who is yet to start work on a make-or-break album, and McFadden are still smitten as they parade the world on a seemingly endless holiday. This week they were in the Bahamas, then London.

But behind the scenes, Lea has warned Delta, 21, that McFadden has stalled her rise to the top.

"Lose him," Lea Goodrem has told her. "He is holding you back."

Sources close to Goodrem say influential US music figures agree with Lea's judgement.

Indeed, industry heavyweights say Lea, often portrayed as a controlling 'stage mother', deserves kudos for taking Delta's career so far.

Insiders say Lea's private dislike of McFadden, 26, has not strained her relationship with Delta. But advisers have urged Lea to show the same mother-knows-best resolve with the next phase of Delta's career.

McFadden, a former member of top-selling boy band Westlife, wants Goodrem to sign with his management group. But Team Delta is strongly opposed to the move.

Goodrem supporters cite his lack of hits as a solo performer and fading profile since he left Westlife two years ago.

McFadden is also fighting for custody of his two children with Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona.

But in a fiery missive to Team Delta, he said: "You don't know anything about my career or future. Delta is am intelligent, talented woman who is making decisions by herself. Be choice with your words in the future."

McFadden, who sold 30 million albums with Westlife and had a British No. 1 solo single, accuses his rivals of having "little knowledge of the music industry on a global scale."

Earlier this month, Goodrem met Irving Azoff, the US power broker who manages superstars The Eagles ad Christina Aguilera. Those secret talks came as a frustrated Goodrem put her US ambitions on hold.

"The timing wasn't right and timing is crucial for a new artist," Goodrem said last month.

A merger at Goodem's record company SonyBMG, and delays in releasing her album in the US affected her career momentum.

But meetings with important figures like Azoff suggest a second strike is imminent.

Delta has described Lea as her rock of support. Lea has helped her daughter through management fallouts, a cancer battle and a failed romance with tennis star Mark Philippoussis.

~ The Sunday Mail

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nicky Byrne: Human Disaster Area

Westlife Postpones June 3 Concert

WESTLIFE postponed their Shanghai concert on June 3 because band member Nicky Byrne has acute enteritis.

A doctor recommended Byrne avoid long flights until June 9 as he recovers from an intestinal tract infection.

The make-up date for the concert has not been confirmed yet. But the organizer, CPPA Entertainment Ltd, said the concert will probably be held on June 25.

So far, more than 60 percent of tickets for the June 3 concert have been sold. The organizer said these tickets can be used at the make-up date. Those who want to return tickets can go to East Asia Ticket (Gate 6, Shanghai Stadium, 666 Tianyaoqiao Road) before June 3.

According to the former itinerary, the band was scheduled to arrive in Shanghai on Tuesday and was going to visit other parts of the country to record a documentary series before the concert. The organizer said the documentary will still be filmed, but at a later date.

- Shanghai Daily, China


And Nicky's sick again. I, personally, blame his fragile Dublin upbringing. All the others were running around the countryside getting dirty and building up resistance to bacteria, while Nicky ponced around Dublin on his sterilised footy field. Apart from Shane's glandular fever in 2003, nobody has had to take time off for anything other than a death in the family. Nicky had kidney stones a couple of years ago, as well. Honestly. Then there was that time he came over all faint before a concert and smacked his head because he'd been in a car accident the night before and hadn't got himself checked out. Good job, lad. And then there was the time he fell down the stairs.

I suggest some bubble wrap for next time he goes outside.

A Bunch Of Westlife Games

Okay, because I have to go to work in about seven minutes, today's entry is going to be a bit piss-weak. My apologies, but I have to go out and make money so I can buy more Westlife stuff (and my Lois & Clark DVD boxsets).

Anyway, I present to you... some fun fun Westlife online games. Enjoy.

Guess Who?
Guess which Westlifer belongs to the different body parts.

Slidey Westlife Picture Puzzle
Slide the pieces around the box to get the whole picture.

Your Westlife Name
Enter your real name to get your Westlife name. What's yours? Mine's Shnicky's Bouncin' Munchkin.

Westlife Trivia Quizzes
There's loads of them here, so see how much you know about Westlife. (And try my quizzes)

A Bunch Of Other Games
This site has a load of them. Just hit fun and check out the list down the side. There's 'Spot the Difference', a Quiz, a Word Search, a Jigsaw puzzle, and some other stuff.

Also, I seem to remember there was a game where you moved Bryan's head around to catch the KFC? So if there are any fans that remember it and know the link, could you please post it? That was an awesome game!

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Rise and Fall and Rise Of Brian McFadden

Ask someone to think of a person that quit their boyband to go solo, and they’ll almost always say Ronan Keating or Robbie Williams. Both (arguably) the most talented songwriters and singers in their bands, they stepped out of the group and tried to make names for themselves as individual artists, and were incredibly successful.

And then there’s Bryan McFadden.

Only months after announcing his retirement from Westlife to ‘spend more time with his family’, he was onstage again, this time by himself without the other four to back him up. He shed his squeaky-clean image, changed the spelling of his name to ‘Brian’, and started writing songs about how the Catholic church liked beating him up when he was in school. Bryan was no longer – this was a newer, rougher Brian, one that had shed all the stereotypes the press had condemned him for, one with a newfound independence, and one that just wanted to write genuine, quality songs.

So what went wrong?

His first single ‘Real To Me’, an air-guitar classic about the trappings of his Westlife fame, went straight in at the number one spot. He both dismissed and relished the press heralding him ‘the new Robbie’, and began playing at festivals on the same bill as Westlife, his energetic performances drawing attention and acclaim. But within months the bubble burst with the release of second single ‘Irish Son’, a very pointed dig at his Catholic upbringings, painting his Catholic school teachers as abusive and tyrannical. The church hit back against the allegations and, rather than garner acclaim for speaking out, Brian was branded a liar. Regardless of its high musical quality and its affecting subject-matter, the single only just struggled into the number six spot amidst a flurry of bad publicity.

Not only this, rumours concerning his departure from Westlife surrounded both him and the Westlife camp, and Westlife came out ahead. There were claims that Brian had been evicted from Westlife for violence, alcoholism, and his bad work ethic, though these were denied by both parties. In accordance with his new ‘rough’ image, he began to make outspokenly negative comments about other artists, and about his past life as a Westlifer, forgetting that it was Westlife fans that were primarily buying his music. Unable to establish a new rock and roll audience because of the stigma surrounding his status of ‘that bloke that used to be in that poxy boyband’, and with the old fans beginning to feel discontent and anxious with his new image, music and attitude, he was on uneasy footing.

But more was to come. The release of his album Irish Son, co-written entirely by Bryan and with the help of Robbie Williams’ usual writing partner Guy Chambers, coincided unfortunately with the collapse of Brian’s marriage. The bitter separation was carried out in the national press. Wife, Kerry McFadden, used the press at her discretion, releasing statements branding Brian a cheat and a drunk, and it staggered his career further, his third single, ‘Demons’ limping into number 28 to little notice. All attention was turned to Kerry’s allegations of infidelity, and she became a media darling while Bryan was turned into a press punching-bag. His charity work and quality music was ignored, drunken snapshots the only media coverage .

Still, all was not completely lost. Feeding off each other’s respective public figures, Brian McFadden and Delta Goodrem released Almost Here, a duet featured on both their albums and written by Brian. The single did remarkably well, considering the controversy surrounding McFadden. In Australia it made the number one spot, and the number three spot in the UK, despite rumours that Goodrem and Brian were an item and that she was the driving force in the collapse of his marriage.

Brian and Delta announced their relationship following the release of the single, though maintaining that they had not started their relationship until after Brian and Kerry’s split. News of Kerry’s sudden relationship with another man following the split was ignored, and Brian was branded a cheat and Delta a scarlet woman. This did not stop the commendable success of their single in Australia, but his own solo career was largely ignored down-under as well, his position instantly becoming that of ‘the bloke Delta’s dating’, and not one of individual talent.

For a long while, nothing was heard of him. It seemed he had done the only thing possible and buried his head in the sand, apparently content organising his next creative move, supporting Delta, and avoiding the eye of the media. Ultimately, it was the best move he could have made. Without a feud to satisfy their readership, the Irish press turned their scrutiny back onto ex-wife Kerry. Soon, rumours of cocaine use and her own infidelity surfaced, as well as allegations that she was neglecting their two daughters – of whom she had custody. Brian reappeared, fighting for custody of their children, whom he said were being passed around to relatives and friends while Kerry entertained different men. This time, the press sided with Brian, seemingly sick of Kerry’s constant media whoring.

With a new album in the works, a custody battle building, and a successful relationship, it seems as though Brian may be regaining his footing on the slippery slope of public approval.

Let’s hope he doesn’t fuck it up again.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mud-Slinging And Rumour Mills

When you get a spectacularly popular boyband like Westlife who, incidentally, also happen to be (mostly) squeaky-clean, there’s not much the media can do but jump all over them. There have been a hundred different rumours, scandals, and flat out lies printed in the media over the last six years, ranging from the true, to the vague, to the blatantly false, to the just plain weird.

And here’s my list of the best ones.

6. Westlife Smoke.
Westlife have been seen *gasp!* smoking in public! Oh, what terrible role models they are! And they’ll ruin their voices! Why, oh why would they do it?
Verdict: TRUE! Mark especially. And I swear if one more fan starts whinging because they’ve just found out and are devastated, I’ll punch them. We’ve known for years, and while we don’t exactly condone it, there’s no point complaining.

5. The Westlife Movie
Following the success of the Spice Girls movie, Westlife’s management decided it would be a fantastic idea to make a Spice-style movie starring the lads. The lads are taking time off from music to make the movie, which will be produced by Simon Cowell and chronicle the rise of Westlife from their small-town beginnings, through to getting their record deal and establishing international success.
Verdict: FALSE! I don’t even want to start on how wrong this would be.

4. Westlife To Duet With [insert name here]
This one seems to pop up every six weeks. The most notable ‘duet partners’ include: Michael Jackson, Shaggy, Ronan Keating, Mike Tyson (I kid you not), Mariah Carey, Diana Ross, Lulu, Jessica Simpson, Brian McFadden (after he left, obviously), Julio Iglesias, Lionel Richie, and Madonna.
Verdict: occasionally true. A total of three of these have happened (Diana, Mariah & Lulu). Not nearly as often as the press would have us believe.

3. Westlife To Split
This one appears so often that it’s lost all of its impact, as most people just dismiss it completely on sight. So far they’ve (apparently) had drunken punch-ups, affairs with each other’s wives, ‘creative differences’, conflicts with their management, solo careers, film careers, and substance abuse. Oh, and we all know a Greatest Hits is undeniable evidence that a band all hate each other and are injecting heroin into their eyeballs.
Verdict: FALSE! Unless there’s something I don’t know yet.

2. Mark Is Not Gay
They really did have a bloody good go of convincing us of this one, even though it was blatantly obvious that the lad was a second short of whipping out the neon hotpants. He had a (pathetically weak) sex scandal fabricated by the powers-that-be that painted him as the bad guy (but a straight bad guy!); a night where he snogged two girls in his hotel room for 90 minutes with the curtains ‘accidentally’ open in full view of fans, but didn’t do anything else (yeah, okay); and a bunch of girlfriends that just happened to work for the same record company, including Mandy Moore.
Verdict: FALSE! Oh Mark, we never believed you.

And finally my number one rumour of all time...

1. Kian vs the Lion.
This one surfaced while they were in South Africa. The story was that they’d gone on safari and Kian had climbed out of the jeep (which is an incredibly clever idea when you’re in the middle of the savannah with wild animals everywhere) to have a closer look at a lion. The lion woke up, got annoyed at being stared at, and chased him back to the jeep. Kian closely escaped death when Mark pulled him back into the car, Kian’s legs inches from being turned into casserole. I hate to say it, but the first time I read it I thought it was true… and I nearly pissed myself laughing.
Verdict: FALSE! They didn’t even go on safari that day – they were too busy sleeping off a hangover.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bloody Hell!

Well, Queensland didn't win Origin tonight.

Here's what Brian and Mark thought of the game!

We'll try to win next time for you, lads.

Still, 16-17 isn't a bad score. I thought we were completely buggered after the first twenty minutes. But we did alright considering how many times Qld dropped the ball and tripped over and made stupid passes that ended up in the hands of bloody New South Wales.

Bloody Queensland. They were absolute bollocks tonight.

Where Are You When I'm Calling Your Name?

Annabel, my dear, I know you're going to be devastated but... this is the last single. Single number 20, it was released in February, and is the latest single to make the top three! Hooray for Westlife! So there probably won't be another one released until September-ish. It's already confirmed to be The Dance, a cover of a Garth Brooks song. They performed it on tour and it's sounding fantastic! But in the meantime, here's the latest single... Amazing.

This video makes bugger-all sense. From what I can figure, Mark's gotten himself locked in the car park of an empty building, and the others have come back in the middle of the night to look for him. Kian checks in the stairwell. Nope, Mark's not there. Shane wanders around one deserted floor, and then looks out the window in case Mark's out on the road. Nope, he's not there either. Nicky finds a floor with nothing but a photocopier in it, but Mark's not there either. The photocopier starts to go haywire, spewing blank pages everywhere. Nicky makes himself scarce so he can't be blamed for breaking the photocopier. Meanwhile, Mark's been wandering around the carpark so long he's grown a beard and has started singing to himself. Finally, he gets out of the carpark and finds the others in the lobby. Discovering that they've all been singing to themselves, they figure 'why not?' and launch into the chorus in the middle of the empty lobby. Then they take a photo of them singing in the lobby, just because no-one would believe it otherwise, and stick it on the front of the single. Mark still has a beard.

I, personally, liked the beard. But it did divide fans everywhere. Some thought it made him look all rough and manly. Some people thought it stopped his sudden eyeliner fetish looking too girly. Some people thought he looked like a total derro. I'm going with the first option, mostly because derros generally aren't dressed that expensively, and because I loved the eyeliner anyway.

Finally... Finally a single with some new material on it. This one comes with two brand new songs, one co-written by Shane and Mark. It's a ballad called Miss You When I'm Dreaming, and is a welcome reminder of just how talented Westlife are. The vocals are understated, but powerful, and you can't help but go a bit teary at the lyrics. It's utterly beautiful. The other song is called Still Here, an energetic up-tempo kick up the arse, considering the amount of ballads they've had recently. Also, there's not a cover in sight, a nice surprise when you consider there hasn't been a cover-less single for almost two years.

The other addition is an 'Exclusive Chat', which is basically just them having a very prompted discussion with each other. It's not entirely fake, but it sounds a bit rushed and tries to shove in too many ads for themselves at once. But there are a few cute 'mate' moments, so you can sort of forgive it. It's just a little hasty and scripted. Not as though every word has been prompted, but you can tell they were told exactly what they should talk about.

Shane: Are we looking forward to the tour, are we?
Kian: The tour is going to be excellent
Shane: We're actually touring in about... uh... seven weeks from now.
Kian: The tour is going to be excellent, so anybody who's bought a ticket we promise you you're in for a real treat

Hint, hint.

State Of Origin Game One Tonight!

Westlife Supporting the Maroons!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Small Moment Can Be Worth A Lifetime

I'd like to add this, just because it's one of those defining moments of my life.

Yes, on Thursday, the 2nd of March, I saw Westlife perform live for the very first time and got to meet them.

Oh, it wasn't that simple of course. No. First I had to take the small amount I could spare from the money I was saving up to go to the tour in Dublin, and use it to buy a plane ticket to Sydney. Then, myself, some friends, and some Aussie pals on the Official message boards organised to stay together in the same hotel (there were about 30 of us, all up).

We left Brisbane at 5am and headed for Sydney. In the airport we stopped for breakfast, because we'd heard that Westlife were arriving from Melbourne that morning, around 9. At 9:30, I got a call from Bank, a friend from the message boards.

"Where are you?" She squeals. "Westlife are here!"

We screamed and ran! I may have run through moving traffic... multiple times. And finally, gasping and panting for breath, we reached the right terminal and the right gate... only to find out we'd missed them by mere moments. There were crying hysterical fans, there was their security organising their luggage... but Westlife, Nicky and Shane's wives, Shane's parents and daughter, Mark's boyfriend, and Kian's girlfriend? Gone.

Disappointed, we headed for the hotel, and then put into motion 'the grand plan'. Yes, the 'grand plan', the one we'd been planning for weeks. To celebrate their first visit to our country in 6 years, we put together a huge gift basket of 'Aussie stuff'. Vegemite, Tiny Teddies, little flags, TimTams... everything we could think of. And a little gift bag for baby Nicole Filan, including a copy of Fern Gully and some Wiggles bandaids. Then, after an hour of hanging about the hotel we thought they might be at (while the lucky competition winners who were not us went to a private showcase), we toddled back to the hotel and went to bed early, ready for the morning of excitement that lay ahead.

Then we had to get to the Sunrise studios at 4:30am to see them perform live. Now here's the cool part:

We'd been milling around (absolutely hysterical, I might add) for about 20 minutes when the security guys began to hand out stickers. We were told very sharply to not lose them, as these stickers would allow us into the studio to see Westlife perform. So we kept a very close eye on them, I can tell you. Then Kochie and Mel came out and spoke to us (they were really cool, by the way), asking us questions about what they should say to the lads and all that. And the sign that I'd made ("See You In Dublin" in the colours of the Irish flag) got me on telly a few times. The security then informed us of the procedure - we were allowed to go in and watch them from the balcony, but there was to be complete silence until we were told to cheer. We readily agreed. A t 7:30am, we spotted Westlife through the glass separating us, on the street, from the inside of the studio. We spotted Shane first, and went mental. Then Nicky appeared. They were laughing and joking, messing about. Then Kian and Mark. We all groaned - Kian's famous temper was out. He was in a right mood, looking completely grumpy. He sat on his chair, not talking to anyone while the other three prepared for the performance. Then, at quarter to 8, we were allowed inside the building.

It was a mad crush. There were about 30 of us allowed inside, and we all dashed for the escalators to the balcony, already able to hear Westlife singing and frightened that we were missing half the performance. But our worries were unfounded - they were only doing a quick soundcheck and rehearsal during the ad-break, which was almost as fascinating, because we got to see what they were like in real life, without cameras on them - and they were exactly the same. They were wandering around, drinking from their water bottles, and every now and then they'd look up and wave at us (Nicky looked right at me and grinned!). During the rehearsal, there was a moment where the music cut out, but Mark didn't realise right away and kept on singing a few words after everyone had stopped. We laughed, forgetting that we weren't supposed to make any noise, and Shane put his finger to his lips and shushed us, this big friendly grin on his face. We all waved back and nodded in understanding.

Then the performance. It was... magical, for want of a better word. To be that close to them, watching them perform so close I could see Mark's stubble? What else could a die hard fan want? They sang You Raise Me Up, and it was utterly incredible. Nothing could have prepared me for how amazing it would be there, in their presence, watching them sing live for the very first time. (a good quality video of the performance here, and a video of less quality, but including the interview and a few shots of me here. They show the fans at the end of the performance. I'm the one with the green feather boa looking a bit hysterical).

The performance was over too quickly. They did a small interview and left (Mark forgetting to talk into his microphone - hilarious!) . But it wasn't over. Oh no. Now we were allowed to go next door for a signing.

The queue was huge already - they hadn't expected nearly as many people. I was told afterwards that over a thousand people showed up that day. We joined the end of the queue, and half an hour later, there they were again, mere feet away. They watched out presents move as we handed them to the security guy.

Mark was first. I'd gotten a little bit held up while I was fighting with the security guy who wouldn't let me get my lovely glossy photos signed instead of my album cover, so by the time I got to the table he was already waiting for me. I handed him my cover and he began signing. But oh no, that wasn't enough. My favourite Westlife member and he'd barely looked at me? A travesty! So I said possibly the coolest thing I've ever said in my life. My voice didn't tremble, I didn't burst into tears like I thought I would. I just smiled and said:

"How's it going, Mark?"

He looked up. "Good thanks, yeah." He grinned, completely freezing me with his big blue eyes. "How're ye?"

"Fantastic!" I replied, very proud of myself for not falling apart when I heard his Irish lilt. He laughed, already reaching for the next cover that was being shoved in his face and said:

"Cool. Thanks for coming, yeah?"


Then it was Nicky, who was already waiting for me. A lot more animated than Mark, this one, he looked like he had ants in his pants. He was ready for me even before I could open with my cool new line.

"How's it goin'?" He said, before I had the chance to.

"Good thanks, Nicky! How's it going with you?" I replied. Oh yes, sure, I could have complimented them on their performance or thanked them for coming to Australia, but my brain wasn't exactly working. Not with a blonde Irishman stood in front of me with a crooked grin and sparkly blue eyes.

"Good thanks! Thanks so much for coming!" He was so nice and friendly I just wanted to reach over and hug him. But I didn't. Because I didn't want to get dragged away by security when I'd only met half the band.

Then Shane. Ah, good dependable Shane with his huge cheesy smile.

"How's it going, Shane?" I said.

"Great! Thanks." He replied, reaching for my album cover.

I finally kicked my brain into gear. "I hope you like your presents."

"Oh yeah!" He exclaimed, glancing over his shoulder at the huge Aussie flag gift bag. "They look great! Thank so much for that!" He was very friendly and sweet, like Nicky had been, and genuinely nice. As opposed to polite-nice. They all looked so excited to be in Australia, which made my day because I was half expecting them to be really bored with the whole signing thing after so many years, but they were so full of energy that it was a real joy.

Well, except for Kian.

I'd been a bit worried about him from the moment I'd spotted him through the glass in Sunrise. He was in a mood, you could tell that in an instant. I walked up just as Shane passed him my album cover.

"How are ya, Kian?" (Hey, a classic's always good).

"Good thanks." He mumbled. I smiled at him, willing him to look up. And he did, for half a second, gave me what couldn't quite be called a smile, and then looked away again. I shrugged and moved on. If he felt like being a grouchy prat, it was none of my business. Three out of four ain't bad!

And then it was over. Just like that. I'd made it to Sydney, I'd seen them perform live for about 4 minutes, and I'd gotten to meet them. That was all I'd wanted out of it, and I was eternally glad that I did, because now, almost three months later, I still get a fluttery feeling in my stomach when I think about it. I did it. I saw them in the flesh, I heard them sing, and they spoke to me.

To some that might not seem like a lot. But I'm a fan. To me, it's the world.

Move Your Body, Every Every Body

With Diana Ross. Hmm. But do you see her here? Nope. She's not on the cover, she didn't do any live performances, she didn't do any promotion, and she didn't record it with them (she did her vocals in LA, and they did theirs in London).

Which leads me to the bigger question: Is Diana Ross dead?

It's a little bit like the Elvis conspiracy in reverse, isn't it? It's like that whole 'Paul McCartney is dead', fiasco. But I, rather than coming up with odd ways Westlife are 'telling us' through their CD covers, have hard evidence. Well... soft evidence. Whatever.

First of all: the new version sounds exactly like the old one, but with their voices mixed in over the top. Considering the abilities of modern technology, it's not a stretch to say that this is actually the case.
Second of all: the video. She actually looks like a corpse they've wheeled out on a trolley with a stick up her back to keep her straight. She's Bubba Ho-tep in sequins (for those of you haven't seen Bubba Ho-tep, go rent it. You won't be disappointed). They've just used stop-animation to make her look like she's moving (for those of you who don't know what stop-animation is, go rent the Nightmare Before Christmas. You won't be disappointed).
Third of all: She did no public appearances, promotions, or performances with them. Her part of the video was on a screen behind them.

Though it does make you wonder... why go to all the effort of fabricating Diana Ross? If you were going to do a duet with someone dead, I'm sure you could do better. Ray Charles, for instance. Or Iggy Pop (okay, okay, cheap shot).

Moving on from the Diana Ross thing... the b-sides. More Bryan-purging. It's If I Let You Go, this time, and they've cannily replaced good old whatshisname with Kian. Kian does actually sound quite good, but it seems a little callous, especially seeing as it was Bryan's first big song. Oh well, it's better than the other two tracks: a hideous rendition of White Christmas that will put you to sleep before you even hear a voice, and a Westlife-only version of The Way You Look Tonight, which was the version us Aussies got on our version Allow Us To Be Frank anyway. Not that it's a bad thing. Someone should have told Westlife that using a tacky Christmas special to find a wannabe-Pop Idol was not the best idea they could have come up with. Especially when they found good old Joanne Hindley, who sounded like an out-of-tune cat caught in a dryer. Still, didn't want her upstaging you, did you lads?

You Might As Well Be Walking On The Sun

This is the beautiful cover for Westlife's most recent number one, You Raise me Up. Well, it's one of the covers. The other cover has some subtle, if dramatic, differences. See the orange sunset background on this one? On the other one, it's a blue/green sunrise. See how they're all spread out across the cover? On the other one, they're all photoshopped into a group. I'm not sure what that's supposed to signify. Maybe at sunset they're all smelly because they've been running around the hills in those black suits all day and need a bit of space? Who knows?

Classic black suits. A real surprise - we've never seen those before. But these are, admittedly, very nice suits. Especially the one that woman next to Mark is wearing. Oh wait... that's no woman... that's Kian! Yes, the most criticised, ridiculed haircut he's ever had, and it's right there on the cover. The boy does not pull off long hair. Thank god he's chopped it all off now.

I suggest that he didn't actually grow his hair. His bald patch is just spreading and pushing all the hair at the top down towards his chin.

This single comes with three acoustics versions of their old hits. It's the last step in the purging of Bryan from Westlife's history. All his parts in the songs have been replaced by Nicky or Kian, as if he never existed at all. My Love now features Nicky. And Flying Without Wings and World Of Our Own never had anyone but Shane and Mark in them in the first place. They've finally put their collective feet down and said "Look! Look what we can do with only four people!"

Otherwise, there's nothing new or particularly of note here. But the title track is just a bit brilliant.

NB: Everybody please buy this single! It's sitting at number 3 in the Australian charts right now. If you flick on Rage between 9:30am and 10am on a Saturday morning, you'll see the video.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Viva Las Vegas

This is a single cover from what I like to call "that unfortunate rat-pack period." They had a few of these covers, but they were all just pretty pictures to put online because every single from this period was only released on the internet as a download. Apparently they wanted everyone to buy the whole album instead of just the singles. I disagree with this 'apparently', mostly because it sounds like crap to me. The real reason? They were terrified that nobody would like them after Bryan left, knew the songs weren't that good, and figured they just wouldn't let any possible failures enter the single charts. Even so, the songs all did quite well in the download charts, but my guess is that all the fans did what they usually do - buy two or three copies to give them a boost.

Here's the cover for Ain't That A Kick In The Head. Though you can't see it under that hat, Shane has a delightfully hideous haircut. Yes, for the first time in six years, he changes his hairstyle. And what does he get? ...a comb-over.

Still, the others look okay. Their suits are (literally) tailor-made for the period they're trying to capture, as are the poses. But I'm not sure where they're supposed to be. The truck in the background doesn't exactly look like it's something Frank Sinatra would have driven around in. It's as if they've sat down for a cigarette break in between filming the videos, and suddenly someone's jumped on them with a camera.

Ah yes, the videos. Every single one of them was pretty much the same. Westlife in Las Vegas. You can pretty much assume that they went there for the gambling and a piss-up and figured they'd film something along the way. Even so, the videos are quite good. Ain't That A Kick In The Head is basically just them singing on a stage in a bar, re-enacting the old drunken rat pack performances: ogling showgirls, knocking back whisky, and laughing at each other. There's even a moment when Shane accidentally headbutts Mark in the face, which is always good for a laugh. Smile has them wandering around Vegas looking for Mark, who's gone off to sulk. And Fly Me To The Moon is them losing lots of money at the gambling tables.

Tourism centre, anyone?

I think I'll have to include a picture of Shane's comb-over, just because it's pretty bloody hilarious.

Pop vs Snobs

I just thought I'd add this because I like it and it basically encompasses my total philosphy on the pop music vs snobs war. It's from Nick Hornby's Songbook.

"That's the thing that puzzles me about those who feel that contemporary pop (and I use the word to encompass soul, reggae, country, rock -- anything and everything that might be regarded as trashy) is beneath them, or behind them, or beyond them -- some proposition denoting distance, anyway: does this mean that you never hear, or at least never enjoy, new songs, that everything you whistle or hum was written years, decades, centuries ago? Do you really deny yourselves the pleasure of mastering a tune (a pleasure, incidentally, that your generation is perhaps the first in the history of mankind to forego) because you are afraid it might make you look as if you don't know who Harold Bloom is?

"A three-minute pop song can only withhold its mysteries for so long, after all. So, yes, it's disposable, as if that makes any difference to anyone's perceptions of the value of pop music. But then, shouldn't we be sick of the 'Moonlight Sonata' by now? Or Christina's World? Or The Importance of Being Earnest? They're empty! Nothing left! We've sucked 'em dry! That's what gets me: the very people who are snotty about the disposability of pop will go over and over again to see Lady Bracknell say 'A handbag?' in a funny voice. They don't think that joke's exhausted itself? Maybe disposability is a sign of pop music's maturity, a recognition of its own limitations, rather than the converse."

While I'm at it... anyone watch Eurovision last night? What did you reckon?

*sings* "We are the winners... of Eurovision..."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Goodbye To Everything I Thought I Knew

A very bittersweet single this. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of their best. I've already said in my review of the Turnaround album how brilliant this song is, so I won't retread that territory, but rest assured that it is utterly fantastic.

So why so bittersweet? Take a look at the five young men on the cover. Two weeks after this single's release, there were only four. On the 9th of March, 2004 (my birthday, dammit! And I'll never forgive them.), Bryan McFadden announced his departure from the band in a tearful press conference. Thousands of fans cried, me included, hearts utterly broken. They read a little statement, answered a few questions, and then he was gone. Just like that. Nobody had seen it coming.

(Author's note: a very strange thing just happened. I have my entire music collection on random, and only a few seconds ago, it randomised itself straight onto an audio file of Kian crying through their goodbye statement to Bryan. I may have started crying myself.)

Anyway, on to the actual single, although there will be numerous mentions of my own emotional reaction to it, and not a scathing snark like the rest of these have been. First of all, the cover. Black, as usual, but with a fiery sort of background, which makes a nice change. The video has fire in it too - it's set around it. Each member has his own individual set up on a beach - Nicky is surrounded by hundreds of beds, Mark by televisions, Kian in a little boat just off the shore, Shane under hundreds of dangling lightbulbs, and Bryan on a bridge. The televisions, bed and lightbulbs all explode, and the boat and bridge start burning up as well. At the end, they all meet up together just as the waves burst into flame. It's astonishingly magical, even if I'm not sure what it has to do with anything. Bryan knows, though:

Bryan: The burning beds, that actually represents the fact that Nicky is hot in bed.
Nicky: If you ever want to have a good night of passion give me a call!
Bryan: The light balls represent the fact that Shane always come up with these crazy ideas. When he does the light ball goes "piiing". Um, Mark his...
Shane: TV-thing.
Bryan: ...blowing up televisions actually represent Westlife exploding onto your screen. I actually have a few arguments with people, that's the whole point of bridges-part. And um, we basically told Kian to get the boat.

I miss Bryan.

The b-side, I'm Missing Loving You, is unintentionally heartbreaking. It's another Bryan and Mark affair, a midtempo about someone secretly not wanting to be in a relationship and deciding they can't go on any more. In other circumstances it might have just been a brilliant song, but considering the timing and the fact that we were all confused and had no idea of the exact circumstances leading to Bryan leaving the band, it's a hell of a tearjerker. There's also a medley of some older hits, and a live version of To Be With You. Both are good, but aren't a patch on I'm Missing Loving You.

So I'm going to finish this with the lyrics of the b-side, as a little tribute.

Thanks Bryan. You'll always be missed.

I'm Missing Loving You
I can’t figure it out in my head
Nearly time that we put this to bed
It feels like it’s over
I’m tired and a mess

You feel guilty for my big mistake
And keep throwing it back in my face
We’ll both end up lonely
If we can’t put things straight

And I guess it might seem I don’t want you
But I still need you now

I love it when you fall asleep at night
Cos I can hear the bell that stops the fight
I know that when the darkness turns to light
The fight’ll take over
Can’t stand living with you
But don’t wanna live without you
I’m missing loving you

Well it first started out like a phase
Now it’s come to us changing our ways
Acting so crazy
But sorry’s come too late

See you’ve started to feel like a fool
Telling all of our friends that we’re cool
The truth is I’m lonely
Even though you’re by my side

And I guess we might as well just end this
Cos I don’t feel you now

I love it when you fall asleep at night
Cos I can hear the bell that stops the fight
I know that when the darkness turns to light
The fight’ll take over
Can’t stand living with you
But don’t wanna live without you
I’m missing loving you

I think about the future now
I’ll stand by you forever
But baby you just gotta let me know
Hey yeah

I love it when you fall asleep at night
Cos I can hear the bell that stops the fight
I know that when the darkness turns to light
The fight’ll take over
Can’t stand living with you
But don’t wanna live without you

I love it when you fall asleep at night
Cos I can hear the bell that stops the fight
I know that when the darkness turns to light
The fight’ll take over
Can’t stand living with you
But don’t wanna live without you
I’m missing loving you

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I Put My Blue Jeans On

This is one of those default covers they put on a single when they can't figure out how to express the song in a picture. The black/white/navy/denim theme's really starting to set in now which, while it's a nice change from the black/white theme, is starting to grate because of its irritating same-ness.

Nicky looks suitably sexy with his blue sweater and man-jewellery, especially with just a hint that Donkey-Man might be waiting in the wings. Shane looks completely vacant, like his brain's just stopped working. Kian's got a haircut that rivals his recent hippie-do for hideousness (Forelock! Argh!), Mark's hiding in the back, and Bryan's wearing possibly the most unflattering jacket of all time. It makes him look like a flabby gorilla.

The b-sides here are absolutely superb. A cover of Greased Lightning is an rollicking delight, with every member displaying a voice that suggests every hipthrust is being done right there in the studio. It's a grand nod to the past too, for many fans - Shane, Kian and Mark met during a school production of Grease, though there's no way that performance could have exceeded the one here.

The other b-side, You See Friends (I See Lovers) is probably one of Westlife's most triumphant songwriting moments. Sticking with the basic format of I Won't Let You Down from the Hey Whatever single, the song features back-and-forth vocals between Mark and Bryan. But whilst I Won't Let You Down was only fantastic, this song is spectacular. The lyrics are wonderfully interwoven into delicate, nuanced harmonies, and are injected with beautifully quirky vocal acrobatics - Mark's final falsetto, especially, is a bizarre little trademark that lifts itself out of 'just plain odd' and becomes magical and perfect, made even better by the little laugh included at the very end of the track. It's a delight, worth a thousand of Mandy.

Mark's On Tour Interview

This is Mark's online interview, posted just today. Here's what they managed to orchestrate out of it:

+ It's a really good tour, come see it. It's not the same as the album, so you'll have to buy that too. Stick around for Colour My World.
+ We're creative and doing loads of new stuff.
+ We're only human, we make mistakes all the time. Mostly because we're always joking about on stage, just like best friends do.
+ I have loads of friends and a boyfriend I love - I'm very nice and into commitment. And I'm very gay and like having fun with that in a purely clean manner. So you girls should all love me.
+ Australia likes us, aren't we great and international (PS. to the Australian fans: We love you! Buy our stuff!)
+ We love all our fans and acknowledge their love for us. Thanks guys and keep forking out the money!
+ More rude banners would be nice. Ta!

So how’s the tour been?
It’s been fantastic. It’s been the most enjoyable tour on a personal level and it’s the best tour we’ve ever done in terms of the content and design of the show. I’m just so pleased to be in this situation, in terms of the band’s career. We’re still here, still doing new stuff, still being creative. We’ve always tried to make our shows totally different from our albums, and deliver the songs in a different way to how the fans know them.

Which has been your favourite date so far?
It’s difficult to say, they’ve all been amazing, but what makes a gig extra special is the acoustics of the venue. The show that stands out for me is the Saturday night that we played in Manchester. Nobody can imagine the sheer size of the arena. I also had a particularly great gig there, I was on top form!

Which is your favourite song to perform?
There’s so many I enjoy performing, but I think it’s ‘Colour My World’. It’s a bit more soulful, I can let rip vocally a bit more. I also love the opening part of it.

Have there been any funny moments on tour yet?
Every night someone makes some kind of mistake, but generally the fans won’t notice. Normally if I notice someone making a mistake then I’ll start laughing, then they’ll start laughing, and sometimes the laughter gets infectious and everyone starts laughing and no-one’s singing. I’m always trying to make Shane laugh when he’s singing the really serious parts of the songs. I’ve succeeded on quite a few occasions.

Have you seen any good banners this year?
A few. They normally turn the names of our songs into puns or whatever. But I want to see more crazy banners, or rude banners!

How do you unwind after the shows?
On most shows when you come offstage, you’re just so buzzed up and then all of a sudden you’re offstage in your hotel room. It’s very difficult to say ‘right then’ and order a cup of hot chocolate and go to bed. I usually won’t go to bed before two or three o’clock unless I’m really tired. I just stay up chatting to Kevin or a friend who’s over, maybe go for drinks with them. I’m a bit of a nocturnal person anyway, so I sleep in ‘till twelve or one.

What have you got planned for when the live shows finish?
Probably about five hours off then we’re straight back into recording the next album! I’d love a month or two off, but at the end of the day that’s life, especially as things are going so well at the moment. We can’t afford to take time out and just chill.

What’s been the highlight over the past six months?
There was one trip where we went to Sydney and Melbourne and I had a lot of fun. I love photography and I just went around taking photos of random things. We were there for one week and at the start no-one knew us and at the end the single went in at number 1 and we literally broke Australia. It was just a really good trip and we had family and friends with us and all of that. Australia’s a great place and we went to the Mardi Gras, which was brilliant. It was just a big laugh, you know.

Any message for your fans?
Only that if we’d sold only a handful of tickets, our label would be like, ‘OK, what’s going on with Westlife?’ but it’s done the opposite, the fans have been amazing, and the reaction to the shows was incredible, so I just want to say thank you very much for letting us stay here and sticking with us. By supporting the album and supporting the tour they’re helping to keep us successful, so thanks a billion for staying with us and we hope with this tour we’ve delivered something that they’ve really enjoyed.

Shane's On Tour Interview

Figured I'd add this in, even though it's a week late. Basically, every week a member of Westlife does an online interview talking about how the tour's going, and this is Shane's. Notice how they cover all the bases. I don't doubt that it's an honest interview on his part, but do notice the way the interview is designed to work in mentions of: family, the tour, how great touring is, how happy they are, problems in rehearsal, You Raise Me Up, and the next album. In short, it's designed to say, basically: "I am a lovely young, talented, clean-cut family-man, who does tours all around the world in my fantastically succesful and talented band. But of course we're only human, we make mistakes like everyone. Our shows are really amazing. Come see them. Because we've had to defy the odds (ie. all the stuff-ups in rehearsal) to make them really good, and so you should be especially impressed by how well it's all come together on the night. Buy our single. And save up for our new album; we're not splitting up, so there will be another one."

Here we go...

So how’s the tour going so far?
So far, so good! In the week before it started we were getting a bit nervous because we were wondering whether we’d have it ready or not. It’s a much more energetic show this year. The routines are more difficult and a bit harder to learn. We’re really pushing ourselves and working a lot harder on the actual production of the show. The first night was probably the best first night we ever did. If there’s a bad rehearsal, it’s always a good show!

What happened in rehearsal?
Things were just going wrong, technical stuff, and we were missing the beat here and there. But you’ve just got to make sure you get it as best you can. But on the night it was great, the Belfast crowd were fantastic.

What’s been our favourite song to perform this year?‘You Raise Me Up’, without a doubt. We recorded that song and always wondered what it would be like on tour, how the crowd would react and whether you could hear a pin drop or whether the crowd would sing along, but they’ve actually sung along louder than I’ve ever heard them before! They roar it out. It’s a great song to sing live.

How do you unwind after each show?
Well, there’s no ritual, but we just end up watching telly and usually it’s at least two o’clock before we get to sleep. You’re just so hyped up after the gig and you’ve just come off stage and already there’s people saying, ‘OK, here’s your car back to the hotel.’ So it’s a bit of a downer if you like. But I sleep in ‘til 11 or 12 every morning.

What do you do with the rest of your day?
I just spend time with Gillian and Nicole, because they’re on tour with me. It’s great though, because I wake up and they’re there looking at me, laughing at me still sleeping. Nicole doesn’t know any different, so she thinks it’s great fun seeing her dad sleep in.

What’s been the highlight over the past six months?
I think it was definitely ‘You Raise Me Up’. That week with ‘You Raise Me Up’ at number one and the album selling like a quarter of a million in the first week in the UK, that was just unbelievable. We’ve just got to find another great song for next year.

What have you got planned for when the tour finishes?
Most of June we’re going to spend at home with our families. Then July, we’ve got the outdoor shows, which are great. They’re much more family-orientated, a lot of families come for a day out. It’s always great to be on tour at that time. We’re hoping to record an album as well in July and August, so we’ll be very, very busy I think. We’ve got four or five great songs already. We’re really getting excited about it again, it seems like we’ve only just finished the last album.

Any message for your fans?
I want to say a big thank you for all your support over the last few months and coming along to the tour. It’s great, because we recognise faces who come every year. We look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I Love Your Every Colour

I'm going out tonight, so I know you'll all be terribly distraught with the fact that there's only one entry for today. I was considering not doing one, but I don't really want to lose my streak, so... here it is!

Hey Whatever is the exact opposite of Tonight. Where Tonight had a vibrantly colourful clip and a black-and-white cover, this one has a black-and-white clip and a... well, you can see for yourself. The video is basically set around the morning after, but with a slight 1950s feel that suits the hungover laziness to a tee. It's bare-feet and big sunglasses all round, with a lot of mucking about and leaping into swimming pools fully-clothed. Even without the colour, it's one of their most vibrant videos, and is spectacular fun.

The cover keeps with the lazy theme, but updates it slightly, bringing in casual denim and t-shirts, while they all lounge about on those very comfortable looking stone steps. There's some red and blue on a Westlife cover for the first time in ages and it's a welcome addition to the usually sombre catalogue.

The b-sides are more self-written triumphs, featuring I Won't Let You Down, a wonderfully circular two-part tennis-match between Bryan and Mark, the vocal parts passed back and forth with beautiful ease. Singing Forever, the second b-side, is less successful but holds its own well. The lyrics are delightfully slashy, with Shane's husky crooning lighting up the second verse. Mark, however, lets the team down with a nasal, creaking first verse that almost hurts the ears. Still, both songs do have very strong points and complement the main track beautifully. It also comes with the video for Tonight and a short 'making the video' clip.

I think this is another one where I'm going to have to add the clip. Enjoy. And I'll be out having fun while I should be studying. Which is what all good uni students do anyway.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

That's What Friends Are For

Look, they're still good friends! They must be, sitting on that couch all together, with empty glasses in front of them! They've obviously been having a good gasbag and a milkshake. Just like friends do. But that's what happens when everybody thinks you're going to break up - it brings you closer together. So that you can sit on comfy designer couches and drink 'milkshakes' and read magazines with your bestest friends.

That's showbiz for you.

Not only are they wearing black again, the photo itself is in black and white, emphasising the blackness. Mark's even wearing a nice pair of black sunglasses. But there's a fair bit of white, too. The window/wall, the milkshakes, Nicky's teeth...

Oh yes, Nicky's teeth. Put them away, lad, before you hurt someone.

More self-penned music here, with Where We Belong, a wannabe version of You Don't Know, which is just a little too self-congratulatory and sentimental for it's own good. It's sweet, but too syrupy and too manipulative in making us believe that Westlife are (awww...) here to stay for ever and ever and ever.

The remix of Tonight appears, and it's very nice, with a spanish guitar and thobbing percussion. But it's not a patch on the original. As well, the bland Miss You Nights makes an appearance as an unofficial double a-side.

The main track is the best.

We Will Still Be Friends Forever

Aw, look at Westlife. They're chatting and laughing and walking together. They must be real mates, mustn't they? Sticking in line with the No We Are Not Splitting Up album (also titled Unbreakable), it's probably the best option for a single cover. Even if Nicky's got a rampant erection.

Ah yes, Nicky's alter-ego, Donkey-Man, has finally made his way onto a single cover. It took quite a while, considering Donkey-Man's relative fame amongst the Westlife fan base, and didn't hurt his popularity in the slightest. Notice Donkey-Man is looking right at Shane while he displays his unique 'powers'. Is touching him, even. Slash fans take note!

Otherwise, it's one of those single covers that screams "friendship!" right in your ear. Mark's draped all over Nicky, while Nicky and Shane eye each other up. Meanwhile, Bryan and Kian discuss something very important. Judging from the way Kian's gesturing, it's about the size of Donkey-Man's... ahem... asset.

On a personal note, Unbreakable is the culprit of all my obsession. I was just swanning along, one of those pop kids who quite liked Backstreet Boys and Blue, and then suddenly... *WHOOMPH!* Unbreakable jumps out from a So Fresh CD, grabs me in its taloned grip and drags me into full-on Westlife fan-ship. Three weeks later I had all the albums. It has a special place in my heart.

The B-side, Never Knew I Was Losing You, is completely wonderful, a gorgeous little melody-driven piece of perfection, written by all the Westlife lads together, and featuring every voice in perfect synchronicity and harmony.

Donkey-Man, especially, sounds beautiful.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We're Men! We're Men In Tights!

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away when men were still men, women were still virgins and sex was still sexy, there live a beautiful maiden who wished to marry for love - but her father wanted her to marry the vilest man in the kingdom for cold, hard cash. Only the mighty musketeers could save her. However this plan had been thwarted after Duke Vincent had them cast into a filthy dungeon. There seemed to be no hope ...

And so starts the video. It's the most adventurous video they've done so far, complete with horse stunts, sword fighting, and... (gasp!) an actual storyline! Yes, the mighty Westketeers escape from the dungeon, break up the wedding, and save the girl from the eeeeeeeeevil Duke Vincent (Vinnie Jones). It's silly, it's over the top, but did it ever make for an awesome video! And if sword fighting isn't really your thing, there's the consolation prize of seeing the lads in tights.

Admittedly, a song that has the lyrics "when I call you at home and he answers the phone, when I get your machine and I don't hear me" wouldn't tie in with the most technologically advanced musketeers, but who cares? Shane rides a horse through a church!

The b-sides here are, for the most part, wonderful. A band-penned song called You Don't Know has to be the first ever to feature no lead vocals from Shane, and doesn't suffer for a moment. Its a heart-wrenchingly honest cry from both Bryan and Mark about how the world feels they know them, made all the more poignant considering Bryan's later departure and Mark's recent coming out. Second b-side Bad Girls is fantastically awful, to the point where it's a delight to listen to just for the self-deprecating smile it puts on your face when you realise you're tapping your foot along. It's half-baked, totally out of left-field, and features a fast-paced chorus that borders so close on becoming a rap it's scary.

Then there's the remixes of Imaginary Diva and Bop Bop Baby. They're fun, but they had it right the first time, so no reworking can possibly do the songs justice.

And it's the first and only single ever written by the band themselves. It only went to number five, the lowest chart position ever, mostly due to the fact that BMG (now SonyBMG) were of absolutely no help and barely promoted it, scheduling the song for release during a tour, when Westlife were least able to promote it.

It's always nice to know your record company are behind you, but only while you depend completely on them and do what you're told.

Inside The Mind Of An Obsessed Fan

How many albums have Westlife released? Seven.

How many do I own? Twenty two.

How many singles have Westlife released? Twenty.

How many do I own? Forty-two.

How can this be? Do I have some illusionary, non-existent albums from the future? (fingers crossed, 22 albums would be quite nice). Nay. Tis the curse of the special edition. Tis the curse of the limited edition. Tis the curse of the… (gasp!) double single release!

Oh yes, when you buy a single, you cannot buy simply one disc. You must buy two! Why? Well… there are b-sides, dammit! B-sides! Sure, you can get them off the internet if you ask some other fans very nicely, but golly gosh, it just isn’t the same as having a beautiful, shiny case resting in your hands with the very distinctive Westlife font stamped all over it. And then there are the ones with extra songs! More songs than the original single or album ever had! But then you ask ‘alright, but why buy the original?’ Because they’re still different!

And this is my curse. The curse of an obsessive compulsive collector of Westlife goods.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realise that buying a seventh copy of Coast To Coast because it has I Have A Dream on it (which, incidentally, appeared on The Greatest Hits and on the single I Have A Dream/Seasons in the Sun, both of which I already owned) is a little crazy. But I have a problem. I’m not afraid to admit it. I also don’t feel the need to seek help. Not while there’s still money in my piggy-bank.

And then there are the foreign editions. Oh, the foreign editions. I have Asian and Australian editions of almost every album. Yes, that’s right. Even if the songs aren’t different, if it has a beautiful, unique cover photo: I want it. You know the only real difference between the Australian and UK versions of the You Raise Me Up single? The spine. On one it is blue, on the other it is brown. The picture? Exactly the same. The songs? Identical. But still I buy it. And also… you know what? We’re helping Westlife. We’re giving them a kick-start in both the Australian and UK charts if we buy both versions. And what kind of self-respecting fan wouldn’t help her idols?

It’s a cruel joke, really. SonyBMG know we exist, us Westlife maniacs. They know, and they use us to get themselves more money. Why not? We’ll buy them. We want to buy them! And that’s the thing. We can’t feel any outrage, not really, because we want them. Every last one of them! It’s an obsession; it’s the amazing rush you get from touching, for the first time, the one single you’ve never been able to lay your hands on; it’s a status symbol. “I bought the Turnaround album with the white cover and the extra bonus track!” “That’s nothing! I have the special limited edition signed box set of the first four DVDs, only 200 released in the world.”

Does the mind boggle? I, personally, do not have the special limited edition signed box set of the first four DVDs. Because there were only 200 released in the world. But why should I care? I have each of those DVDs separately. I have a signed Westlife album. I got it signed personally, in their actual presence, instead of buying a pre-signed product. So why do I care about that DVD box set?

I don’t know, but I’d probably cry if I ever did get it.

This is my curse, and damn it makes me feel good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In The Navy

Look! The background isn't black or white!

It's grey. And they're all wearing combinations of grey, black and navy.

They really are cheerful lads, aren't they?

Also notice their staring, penetrating eyes. Rather than look sexy and sultry, they look like they have mercury in their irises. Or as thought they have no irises at all, and the background is filtering through the empty spaces in their eyes. Nicky is almost bald here, as well, a result of him shaving his head as part of the Queen Of My Heart video.

A pretty boring cover; again it looks completely photoshopped.
The video was pretty dodgy looking, too.

As far as b-sides go, this one has two, one of which was penned by the lads themselves. The first one, Crying Girl, was written by all five Westlifers and has a long way to go before it becomes a quality track. Musically it's incredibly inventive, with a uniquely catchy strings intro and captivating melody. But lyrically it fails. It's as thought they knew what they wanted from the song (its themes of suicide could be effectively poignant), but weren't quite sure how to go about getting it. Still, it does show remarkable musical promise.

Second b-side I Promise You That, by contrast, is fantastic. It succeeds on every level - lyrically, melodically, harmonically, and vocally. The opening note is a triumph, a powerfully rasping note that comes right from Shane's stomach, and it gets even better from there. A definite must.

As well, there is a remix of their version of Angel, which brings nothing particularly groundbreaking to the original, but does have a beautiful strings accompaniment.

Worth it just for I Promise You That.

Look At This Photograph, Everytime I Do It Makes Me Laugh

"Look at us! We're serious and we're wearing sports gear!"

This is probably the single most mismatched single cover of all time. They've brought back the black background, but suddenly there's colour! Colour everywhere! There's tracksuits, ties, jerseys, denim... but it doesn't quite work all together. It's a bit of fashion overload. Still, no black, which is nice. But it looks too photoshopped and artificial.

Bryan put it best when he said (and I quote): "That is crap. That is a crap cover. Isn't it? It's like... the West Ham United team song."

Now, onto the b-sides. One is When You're Looking Like That, which was released as a single in Australia and Asia, but not in the UK, so they popped it on as a b-side. The other is the very first ever band-written b-side. Titled Reason For Living, it's a darling little example of acoustic pop. Everyone had a hand in writing it, everyone gets a go at singing, and it works perfectly, with just a guitar accompaniment from Kian. It's an obvious backlash at the record company's hesitation to allow them to release their own songs, and proves them wrong with every single note. It's raw, basic, and low-budget, and is absolutely brilliant.

There was actually another cover to this single, but it's basically the same thing, just a bit more zoomed in, with their heads photoshopped closer together.

But for all the shortcomings, I do have to admit that I like Nicky's tie.

Monday, May 15, 2006

I See Red, I See Red, I See Red

Nothing says charity like red underpants on your t-shirt!

No, seriously.

Recorded to raise money for Comic Relief, the video featured a star-studded lineup including Claudia Schiffer and Ioan Gruffudd, and was directed by good old Richard Curtis (he makes soppy English romcoms, like Love Actually). But they don't appear on the cover, so screw them.

As well, it fulfilled a lifelong dream for little Mark and Shane, both of whom had expressed long beforehand that this was the first song they rememered singing as children, and their desire to one day cover it (everybody say "AWWWWW...!")

Claudia Schiffer didn't hurt the deal much either, I'm sure.

The b-sides are Angel's Wings (from the Coast To Coast album) and Close Your Eyes, which was released on some special versions of Coast To Coast. It's an absolutely fantastic song, very reminiscent of their Swear It Again/What Makes A Man-style work. Amazing vocals, spot on harmonies, incredible lyrics... it should have been its own single instead of the god-awful Mariah Carey one.

On to the cover... doesn't it just scream: "Look at us! We're having fun!"? They're mucking about, throwing red clown noses, smiling and laughing - it also screams 'cheesy'.

Bryan looks like he's broken his ankle, like that messed up zombie in Resident Evil that drags its foot along behind it. Shane's hand has come down to protect his balls from that plastic nose Bryan's holding, and I would too (if I had balls), because the pain of that mangled foot would probably muck up your aim.

Mark is wearing short sleeves, which put to rest all the rumours that he didn't actually have skin on his arms. The lad was never seen without long sleeves before this, and hasn't been seen without them much after. But it's nice to know he could let his (arm-)hair down for five minutes, just for charity. Maybe all the red got him excited.

Sometimes He's Nutty, Sometimes He's Corn...

Westlife's eighth single, and the very first ever not to go number one. It was Bob The Builder's fault, but then isn't everything these days? Yes, Bob-mania was in full swing. Everywhere you turned, there he was, with his hardhat and his toolbelt and his freaky, talking heavy-machinary. But where's Bob now? Huh? Nicky reckons he's become a plumber.

Anyway, now that I have all the very droll trivialites out of the way, let's explore this cover, shall we? Let's explore it together, and get to know it on a much deeper, more emotional level.

*cough* Sorry. The voices in my head tell me to be weird. It isn't directly my fault.

First things first. It's BLUE! That's right, it isn't black or white, it's BLUE! A very dark shade of blue, admittedly, and they're still wearing black and white, but it's a lovely step in the right direction. Thank god.

Second things second. All that fatty Irish food can't be too good for the constitution because, for the second time, there's constipation on a single cover. Mark seems to have borne the brunt of it, the pained grimace not quite concealed behind a hefty grin. Bryan, as well, looks like he's concentrating very hard, and Nicky's got that little lip-lift like he's trying to spread his cheeks as far as they will go so he can just roll one out. Kian and Shane look okay, so maybe they've been eating lots of fruit. Good for them. Being healthy is very important, especially if you're going to a photo shoot.

There are three b-sides, and they're all covers. They were going through a motown phase at the time, which only worked up until a point... so thank god this was pretty much the beginning and end of it. My Girl, What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted, and I'll Be There. They're all very good, actually, even if the novelty does wear off after a while. I'll Be There, especially, has a fantastic opening by Shane, who belts the crap out of the first note. It's really quite brilliant. My Girl is a good finger clicker, and the harmonies are absolutely stellar, especially from Kian and Nicky's end. What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted (or, as I like to call it, WBOTBH) is okay. It doesn't bring a lot to their motown phase, but it could have been worse.

Now, in case this hasn't given you any hints, go find some fruit. Or Metamucil, if things are getting desperate. You don't want to look like Mark.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

These Boots Are Made For Walking...

After the shitstorm that was the last few singles, finally we're back on track with a great song! A fantastic single, it's the first song off their second album and scooped them Record Of The Year for the second time in a row. The b-sides are a bit lazy, with a remix of If I Let You Go, and an instrumental of My Love. The instrumental's very pretty, actually, but the remix is the exact same song with a spaceship noise in the middle. Nice one, lads.

The cover… they’re leaving an airport. Or so I believe. It’s not a wild extrapolation when you consider that the video starts at an airport. Ah yes, with one of the finest oscar-worthy performances of all time, they complain about how shit the flights are and how it would save time if they just walked it. And they do.

They walk. And walk. And walk. Not even fake walking again. Actual walking, across cliffs and through train stations, and down streets, and along beaches. Obviously they have a very long way to go, and are in a massive hurry to get there, because their ambling gait is so urgent you really feel for them and their quest to end up spinning on those damn cliffs. And obviously they have to stop for a few moments to muck about and chase each other around the trainstation. The scenery really is lovely, in all fairness. Plus they all look especially gorgeous, as if they've finally been cornered by a stylist.

The leather might be a bit much though. I feel dirty looking at them, as though I've slaughtered a herd of cattle. It must have been really sweaty to do all that walking in as well.

Needless to say, the cover's all black and white again. But at least they've used both black and white, so we can find them against the background.

You know what? The video's such a corker I'm going to attach it. Just for the quality *cough* acting at the beginning.

And Aaaaaaall I Got Was Boobs!

Mariah and Westlife. Westlife and Mariah. Mariah featuring Westlife. Funny, isn't it, how a duet that's meant to boost your own flagging career can feature five someones much more famous than you? Poor Mariah, she's got her priorities wrong.

They must have gone the same way as her breasts.

Yes, this is the scariest, most breast-oriented clip of all time. Think they look weird and kind of flat on top? Like a shelf? Well, imagine two giant sacks of small rodents, squibbling this way and that, searching for food. They don't even move together. Lefty goes up and right, Righty goes down and left. It's no wonder Bryan spends half the video staring at them, and I suspect it's not because they're good. It's because they're mesmerising! They're the anatomical version of those pictures that look like two faces... then a candlestick... then two faces... You keep looking back, just to see if they've changed again. It's in the clip, and it's really obvious. They stand there, smiling, and then suddenly Bryan's eyes just... slide. And then his whole head, and you can just see a little thought bubble above his head going "Oh my god, they've moved again!"

And Mark looks like he's going to wet himself the whole video, being as massive a fan of Mariah as he is. Imagine me liking Westlife. That's how Mark loves Mariah. He once said he wants to be her cat, I kid you not.

And people didn't believe me when I said he was gay...

B-sides? None. A 'westlife only' version of the song, which is the same as the main song, but with instrumentals where Mariah should be. I like it much better than the Mariah version, but that's not saying a whole lot when you consider how much I dislike this song. It's crap. There, I said it.

And half the video has only four of them in it, cos Kian was a moron, missed the plane, and only made it for the second half of the shoot.

I like to think it was because he was hiding in his room, hands over his eyes, muttering: "They're only breasts, they're only breasts, they're only breasts..."