Music Review: Westlife – Where We Are

Despite their amazing sales in the UK (and elsewhere in the world), Westlife have never conquered the American market. Perhaps America prefer boybands that could sing and dance as opposed to listening to four lads pump out tunes while sitting on stools. While the attempts to break the American market might seem futile, it certainly doesn’t stop them for trying to appeal to the audiences across the pond. After taking a year off and tweaking their sound slightly, Westlife is back in full force with their latest album ‘Where We Are’.

Since the masterminds behind Westlife are still keen on getting the boyband to take over the world, they have enlisted a bunch of writers that have made a splash in the US charts including Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. Other fine craftsman who worked on the album include Louis Biancaniello, Sam Watters and Shaznay Lewis of girlband All Saints, who co-wrote Reach Out with band member Mark Feehily. Quite the impressive lineup I must say.

Nobody goes out to buy Westlife albums for radical changes in music; people fork out the cash because they like that the band has a consistent sound. Westlife is in no hurry to change their image or sound as ‘consistency’ has been the cornerstone of their success for the past 11 years. There is a pattern with most Westlife songs. They always start off humbly and finish off in the most grandiose way. The sudden key change would signify the time where they step off their stools and walk towards the front of the stage. Westlife fans like that; therefore they’re keeping that trend in the album.

So Westlife isn’t known for their song writing skills, but the series of covers that they’ve done over the recent years have killed some of the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding their releases. In fact they have 2 albums that consists of entirely covers. The only thing that really saves them from being dumped into music purgatory is the fact that these lads are talented singers. They certainly know how to pick their songs since they highlight their voices very well. There is a reason why there are millions of fangirls swaying over their music.

First track is the current single What About Now. While I’m tempted to say this is one of the best tracks of the album, I can’t. Westlife’s take is a credible effort, but Daughtry’s rendition of the song is the far superior of the two. I can see why it was chosen as the debut single for this album as it does carry the same vibe as the latest material from Take That (who’s been having incredible success in their comeback). However releasing the song while Daughtry’s version is still circling the radio waves is a bad idea, which would explain why Westlife have once again failed to get their 15th UK number one hit.

The song Shadows was rejected from Backstreet Boys latest album but somehow found its way into Westlife’s hands. It’s a blustery ballad that is a bit edgier than the usual Westlife fare. The song is co-written by Backstreet Boy A. J. Mclean and Ryan Tedder. With the futuristic military drum roll midway through the song, it does signify some changes in Westlife’s sound, but this is the furthest they would go.

For fans looking for the trademark Westlife tracks, Sound of a Broken Heart would be something for you. It is one of the weakest songs on the album, but it should satisfy those looking for another song about Westlife’s favourite topic: heartbreak.

The song As Love is My Witness would have made a fine lead single. Perhaps the idea was scrapped when the song was leaked onto the internet months before the release. The soothing ballad penned by Conner Reeves is pleasant to listen to while carrying a bit of a 90s vibe along with it.

The title track of the album Where We Are is by far the best track on the album and is without a doubt a hit single waiting to be unleashed. Despite not being the strongest song lyrically (it is penned by Ryan Tedder), it has one of the most infectious melodies and harmonies which is bound to storm the radio waves.

The Difference is another fine song in the album, where the percussion rises like an arena-filling anthem. The piano-driven Talk Me Down is hauntingly sad with Feehily’s amazing voice leading the way. The album ends off on a sad note with I’ll See You Again which laments the passing of a loved one.

This album is the best that has come out of Westlife in years. That’s really not saying much since their last few releases including Back Home were a bit of a disappointment. At least this record has enough material to help them towards another UK number one, and there are certainly a few songs that are worthy of that title.

The band insists that they were aiming for change and a different sound, but in the end it all feels the same. Where We Are finds Westlife exactly where they were at the beginning of the decade.

Highlights: Talk Me Down, As Love Is My Witness, Where We Are, The Difference

Rating: ★★★☆☆ + 1/2

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