Monday, May 08, 2006

Review #5: Turnaround

Number five, here we are *gasp, pant*. Only two more to go after this one (so far), and Westlife have managed to do the unthinkable: They've stayed together after their Greatest Hits! (Okay, so Bryan left four months later, but we'll forget about that for the meantime)


Released: November 2003

The album: Returning from their greatest hits, Westlife released an album of uptempo pop magnificence. The album is sunny, cheerful and fun, and remind us exactly why Westlife have stayed around so long. There are a few songs not quite up to par, but no real clunkers, and the covers are generally well judged and arranged, while most new songs are standouts. But where are the songwriting abilities displayed so thoroughly on the last albums? None of the songs here are written by a member. And the previous standard of seventeen songs per album has been severely diminished to twelve. Arguably, this is a favourable aspect – there are few fillers, and more time seems to have been spent on each individual song.

A theatrical Barry Manilow cover, this one got a lot more attention than it actually deserved. The Westlife version is orchestral, dramatic, and filled with decidedly above average vocals. But the song was never a standout and it isn’t now, no matter how well it’s performed and produced.

Hey Whatever:
A groovin’, jivin’ extravaganza of popped-up grunge, this is an instant singalong, few-drinks-down-the-line classic. Originally recorded by Relish! as a gay pride song, the lyrics have been… ahem… ‘cleaned up’ slightly, but the message still remaines. Be proud of yourself, take every opportunity that comes, and have fun! Musically, the song adheres to the same message: it’s daring, brazen, and backed by the most jubilant gospel choir imaginable.

Kian? Is that you? He bursts into the opening verse with gleeful abandon, and everyone else (including the oft-ignored Nicky) follows with the same grinning attitude. They all sing their parts with power and spirit, from Nicky’s croaky drawl to Mark’s diva falsetto. With a foot-tapping beat and soaring melody, this one can’t do anything but rock!

An endearingly restrained piano track establishes Obvious as a hit even before the drums and guitars kick in. Shane’s voice is sweet and pure, Bryan’s commands a raspy and demanding power, and Mark’s brooding drawl brings the hopeful words to life. A definite love song all the way, expressing longing so succinctly it’s magic.

When A Woman Loves A Man:
A bit of a yawner, this one. The lyrics are cliché and the rhymes obvious. It’s too bad, because the melody is quite pleasant and some of the vocals stunning. But it should be a lot more, or not at all.

On My Shoulder:
With an earnest repetition, the first verse is commandingly heart-wrenching. The melody is exceptionally unique; some phrases sound almost incomplete in places, which is deservedly ear-catching. Listen out for Bryan’s verse, his voice-cracking high note a definite highlight. Lyrically, it’s simple but honest, and the kind of song to listen to in bed, curled up with a pillow or teddy bear.

Turn Around:
Spaceship noises! Mark’s voice accompanies them, sounding older and deeper than it ever has. By the time the chorus kicks in, you’re already dancing on your living room rug, and your pants are hanging from the light fixture. Nothing matters here except the beat – it’s boyband electronica in it’s finest and most pure form.

I Did It For You:
By songwriting legend Diane Warren, this song doesn’t hold up to her earlier triumphs. It’s good, but when the composer of Can’t Fight The Moonlight gives you a song, you expect something… well… more. Most of the best parts here belong entirely to the lads – Shane and Mark’s harmonic bridge is outstanding – but the rest suffers from being just a bit too boring.

With a clapping rhythm, this is a head-bopper all the way. It’s groovy nostalgic feel rocks along easily, with Westlife surfing proudly atop its celebratory beat. Their voices are superbly energetic, bouncing with what can only be labelled delight. It could be likened to Uptown Girl in style, but is too individual to be likened to anything, its summery dance feel in a league of its own.

To Be With You:
Another cover. Fun and catchy, it’s another energetic clap-along. But so was the original. This version doesn’t do any damage, though, so cast your mind back to the early nineties in a cheerful timewarp. Of particular note are Kian and Nicky’s tiny but indispensable moment in front of the microphone, and Mark’s falsetto acrobatics.

The verses are beautiful, the chorus gorgeous, but there’s one problem: they don’t match. Both balladic and touching, the rhythm doesn’t carry between the two, giving the illusion of a heavy-handed mash-up. Still, take them separately and it’s two surprisingly good experiences rolled up in one. The bridge especially shines through, Bryan’s husky syncopation working perfectly.

What Do They Know:
Seemingly an earnest whinge at the critics and media, this song would have worked better had it actually been written by a member of Westlife. Still, it is a delicately arranged lullaby that is a joy to listen to, if only for the solo guitar melody and strings accompaniment, which was tailor-made for tearjerking.

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