The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 19)

Taking in the hits from the year Paula Radcliffe won gold at the Commonwealth Games, and when Julie Walters won a BAFTA for Best Actress, this is The Story of Pop: 2002. This week: a third solo chart topper for the lead vocalist of one of Ireland’s biggest boybands…

  • Artist: Ronan Keating
  • Song: If Tomorrow Never Comes
  • Released: 06/05/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Garth Brooks / Kent Blazy / Steve Mac
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 20

In our little three week triumvirate of cover versions, we’ve had the mind bending mashup of not one but two old hits, and we’ve had the re-recorded and rewritten Europop banger. So how are we rounding things off? Well, if you’re of a sensitive disposition to Louis Walsh backed vehicles, you may want to look away now. If however, the words “Irish boyband” make you giddy with excitement, you’re in luck.

Come the spring of 2002, Ronan Keating was the only member of Boyzone left standing to have a record deal to his name. Stephen Gately and Mikey Graham had both been dropped, whilst Keith Duffy was turning his hand to his thespian sensibilities with his turn as loveable rogue Ciaran McCarthy in Coronation Street, and Shane Lynch was getting ever more tattooed and crashing ever more cars.

Save for a failed attempt to crack the American market that had kept him away from the UK charts for much of 2001, Ronan had reason to feel confident as he prepared to launch his second album, Destination, especially since his self titled debut Ronan had sold over 1.2m copies. And not for the first time, he was adopting a practice that was a tried and tested one where his own career was concerned.

His cover of Keith Whiteley’sWhen You Say Nothing At All” had of course been the song to start his solo career back in 1999 when used on the soundtrack of Notting Hill, giving him his first number one away from the band.

And it was the great American country songbook upon which he turned to for the first single off Destination. First a US hit in 1989 for country superstar Garth Brooks, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” had actually been doing the rounds for some time on Louis Walsh’s A&R hitlist before Ronan came to record it.

When Westlife first started, they used to sing it acapella in their live sets, and it is widely believed (albeit unconfirmed) that they demoed it for possible inclusion on their debut album in 1999.

Why they never released it themselves is a mystery, but Ronan’s recording of the song shared a producer in Steve Mac, who had been the man behind virtually all of Westlife’s biggest hits to that point. So it’s not too hard to imagine how a full studio version from them would have sounded based on this.

But that’s also to do Ronan a misnomer here in suggesting this is simply a Westlife backing track with their vocals deleted, who in fairness, pulls off one of the most stirring vocal turns either solo or with Boyzone to his credit, dialling down some of the more exaggerated ticks to his singing style to deliver something that couldn’t fail to move the heart.

Certainly, with “If Tomorrow Never Comes” giving him his third solo number one upon its release at the start of May 2002 – spending five months on the chart and eventually finishing up the year’s 12th biggest selling single, it was evident his audience was still there.

The Destination album would also top the chart, eventually going onto reach double platinum sales, whilst more top 10 hits from it would follow in the next year. And whilst, at time of writing, this remains the last song from Ronan or any of Boyzone to reach the summit, it is still a worthy one in his overall career canon.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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