Let me first get this out of the way: I like boy bands. I also like
Steve Reich, but that's a different review. Actually, if I'm getting things
off my chest, I should also reveal I have the Spice Girls' first album, and
I like it.
Enough rambling. What I have in front of me, for my listening pleasure,
are Take That's Nobody Else (1995), Boyzone's ...by request (1999), and Backstreet
Boys' Millenium (1999). Take That were HUGE in the UK and the rest of Europe.
Their breakup caused hotlines for distressed fans to be established in a number
of European countries. They had some success in the U.S. with the single "Back
for Good," but never quite managed the hysterical following that Backstreet
Boys or *nsync have sussed up in the U.S. Oh, why am I not including *nsync
in this boy band review? I'll get to that later. I promise. Anyway, Take That's
breakup spawned off Gary Barlow's and Robbie Williams' relatively successful
Boyzone are Irish, hugely successful in Europe, and again relatively unknown
in the U.S. They've contributed the theme song to the Mr. Bean movie ("Picture
of You"), had a cameo appearance in fellow Irish band U2's "The Sweetest Thing"
video, and lead singer Ronan Keating had a song in the Notting Hill soundtrack
("When You Say Nothing At All"). Yet they're still unknown in the U.S. Life
is *so* unfair.
Backstreet Boys? Just watch MTV. Enuff said.
Oh, why didn't I include *nsync or 98 degrees or others? Because they didn't
have songs that got me all swoony like the three boy bands being discussed.
Songs that made me go, "Oh, that's just the PERFECT pop song!" (Jon Secada's
"Just Another Day" was one of those songs) and faint right away.
Take That had the aforementioned "Back for Good." The song also had the
silliest video I'd ever seen (I think their best music video is for "How Deep
Is Your Love," a Bee Gees cover), but the song itself made me want to have
Gary Barlow's babies right then and there.
I had that moment of truth when I saw Boyzone's "Isn't It A Wonder" on MTV
Europe in an apartment in Malmo, Sweden. A shirtless Ronan Keating in the
video didn't hurt, either. Ronan Keating's cover of "When You Say Nothing
At All" also gets me all tingly, too. Both are in ...by request, which is
a Boyzone greatest hits compilation.
Backstreet Boys wasn't doing much for me until I heard "I Want It That Way."
I have no idea what the lyrics mean. It doesn't matter. It's a perfect pop
song. They're also different from the other boy bands in this review (other
than success in both the U.S. and the rest of the world) in that there's no
one band member who's the voice for the band. More democratic, if you will.
Boyzone has an interesting taste in cover songs: Tracy Chapman's "Baby Can
I Hold You", Billy Ocean's "When the Going Gets Tough," and the Bee Gees'
"Words," among others. I hated all three of them. (What is it with boy bands
and Bee Gees songs, anyway?) I would say the most successful choice is "When
You Say Nothing At All," which also happens to be a solo effort from Ronan
Keating. Alison Krauss had previously covered this song, by the way. This
track shows Ronan has both good taste in music and the vocals to do it justice.
All I can say is I highly look forward to a solo career from his part. Overlooking
some of the weaker tracks, songs such as "Isn't It A Wonder," "A Different
Beat," "All That I Need," or "Love Me For A Reason" should be enough to introduce
one to the charms of Boyzone. Appreciate the vocals, but don't expect to dance
to this album. I am not too impressed with the quality of the arrangements,
either, most of them exhibitng a certain je ne sais quoi cheesiness. Overall,
...by request is a competenet introduction to the Boyzone oeuvre.
Ah, Take That, boy band par excellence, sui generis. Nobody Else, the band's
third album, is smooth pop all the way, tastefully done, avoiding the cheesiness
of some of Boyzone's songs. There are some obviously 80's synth flourishes
in the arrangement of tracks such as the opening "Sure," but Gary Barlow et
al's vocals conquer all. No, wait, even Gary can't rescue "Every Guy." Besides
the aforementioned "Back for Good," "Nobody Else" is another nice swoony track.
Robbie Williams had left the band by the time this album was released in the
U.S., so although he is credited for vocals he is not listed as a band member
nor he is featured in the band's studio shots. Did I mention the boys wrote
their own songs (the majority penned by Messr. Barlow) and produced some of
their own tracks? Oh, and you can't really dance to this album.
Which brings us to Backstreet Boys. Let's dance, kids! I have to admit I
can't name a single Backstreet Boy, let alone tell them apart in their videos.
Oh sure, there's the cute one, there's the sensitive one, there's the bad
boy, etc., but that's about the extent of my recognition. Of the boy bands
discussed here, Backstreet Boys is the only one not suffering from One Guy
Who Can Sing and Four (Three for Take That) Other Guys Who Look Cute in the
Music Videos Syndrome. Except for "I Want It That Way" I can't really recall
any distinguishing characteristics of the songs in the rest of the album.
Conclusion: get the single.
And now for pointless trivia. Wow. The sleeve credits for the Backstreet
Boys list wardrobe - provided by Prada, Gucci, Armani, John Bartlett, Cynthia
Rowley, Tommy Hilfiger, and Barney's New York. Take That only listed Vidal
Sassoon for hair. Boyzone thanks Pepsi and Father Ted. Boyzone wins the sleeve
credits award! Are these guys cool or what? (Who's Father Ted? You need to
watch more telly!) Boyzone has the best logo, too! Check out www.boyzone.co.uk!