If 2019 is going to be remembered as the year of anything music wise, it’ll be of those unexpectedly brilliant pop comebacks from bands and artists that many thought were lost to time forever. Busted? Delivered the best album of their career. Jonas Brothers? One of the catchiest modern pop singles of the year with ‘Sucker’. McFly? Drip fed us a whole lost album from 2013 week by week for two months before storming The O2 in London just last Wednesday.
And then there’s Westlife. A year on from the announcement of their 20th anniversary reunion which sold out arenas here in Blighty and across the world in the summer, they’ve now delivered the eighth number one album of their two decade long career with some of the highest weekly sales for a chart topping album in 2019 both here and in their native Ireland.
We already know what about a third of the album sounds like, having been drip fed four of its singles since the start of the year. First came Ed Sheeran co-written stomper and our former #SongoftheWeek in ‘Hello My Love‘ in January. Then in April came ‘Better Man‘, followed by ‘Dynamite‘ in July and more recently ‘My Blood‘ last month.
All – but especially ‘Hello My Love’ – have been surprising revelations, in so far as they’ve bought the sound of a band so tied to a certain era of pop music into 2019 and sounding well, the freshest they’ve ever sounded, whilst not alienating their old audience who loved the epic, ballad-tastic likes of ‘Flying Without Wings’. For some cynics, it stands to reason that the rest of the album can’t possibly live up to what we’ve already heard, right? Wrong.
Because here’s the other thing. This album is only slightly over half an hour long – half the time that a few of their old albums took to listen to in one sitting – but contains possibly some of the strongest material they’ve recorded in their two decade long career. And the majority of these – shocker – don’t require stools.
Should be future single ‘Dance’ – co-written by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder – is a gentle but nonetheless dancefloor inclined bop, as are ‘Take Me There’ and another Ed Sheeran co-write in the form of on the money stormer ‘L.O.V.E’. Listening to it, it sounds like the sort of thing they should have moved into doing years ago whilst still labouring under Simon Cowell approved cover versions for lead singles.
But even when the ballad button does get hit, as on ‘One Last Time’ or ‘Without You’, it’s pleasingly contemporary, even making a nod to the sounds of some of their fellow countrymen and women, as they indeed do on ‘Repair’, it’s pizzicato strings punctuated throughout being a delightful callback to Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’.
In short, ‘Spectrum’ is up there with All Saints’ ‘Testament’, Steps’ ‘Tears on the Dancefloor’ and Busted’s ‘Half Way There’. It is one of the year’s best pop albums, a sparkling acknowledgement of what made Westlife so successful 20 years ago whilst bringing them to a whole new audience, of which we are only too happy to be a part of.
STREAM THESE: ‘Dance’, ‘Repair’, ‘Take Me There’, ‘My Blood’
‘Spectrum’ is available now via Virgin EMI Records, and Westlife are on tour again around the UK next year, starting at Carrow Road in Norwich on 19th June – tickets on sale now. Twitter: @Westlifemusic
Have you heard this album? What do you think? Do you agree with our review? Leave your comments below or Tweet us using the hashtag #CrazyStupidAlbum.