Review Summary: Stephen Gately shows great promise with his debutalbum. A fine effort.
When the Irish pop group Boyzone
called it quits in 2000, its two lead singers released a solo album each. The two lead singers of Boyzone
were Ronan Keating
, and... Stephen Gately
There are several reasons that makes this album different from Ronan Keating's debutalbum - Ronan
. But the two main reasons are:
1. The pace. This is a, mainly, upbeat album. It contains catchy, upbeat, melodic songs.
2. This album is... good.
This album doesn't actually sound anything like Ronan Keating's album. This sounds more like Michael Jackson
, Robbie Williams
and Ben Folds
mixed together - extra spicy.
Stephen Gately possesses an easily recognized voice. A powerful, pleasant voice. And it, along with the breezy melodies and some simplistic, but yet wonderful lyrics - that all the way through the album are borderline cliché, dominates this fine debutalbum.
It's a really ambigious album, lyricwise; and a very varied album, melodywise. Its production is top notch. It doesn't sound all that overproduced. Just well produced. It's perfectly produced, for a pop album - in my opinion.
Now. The Tracks.
It starts off with the title track, "New Beginning". We are introduced to Stephen's lovely voice, and the piano is not far away. After 13 seconds it makes its entrance. As we strike 23 seconds, there's drums, strings, guitars, and Stephen's voice. Upbeat drumming, vastly omfortable strings, and a acoustic guitar guilty of adding to the atmospheric sound. This is really one of the best pop songs ever. Stephen's voice is truly unique, and maybe at its peak on this song. The melody is driving and flowing wonderfully. And the lyrics aren't half bad either, talking about "... a new day comin'/gettin' ready for a change
". Towards the end of this song (you'll be hypnotized way before this...) there's a part where he goes "Come on, come on/there's gotta be a better way/yeah yeah yeah
" which kind of makes this song almost... epic. Very, very high-quality singing. A bit like Michael Jackson, but in my opinion better. More powerful. More believable. 4.5/5
Next track is called "I Believe". Cliché2k. But still. Damn classy piece of music. The melody is driven by the melodic piano and string arrangements, with drums keeping it all in check. But the thing that really makes this song is, like most of the songs on this album, Stephen's voice. His voice is more pleasant than a "add your favourite flavour" icecream on a hot day. When he sing "[i}Sometimes we win, sometimes we fall/but that's no reason to give it up, 'cause after all/if you can't choose what to be/you can't choose what to dream/and I believe/I believe in love, it's the best of everything/I believe in hope, and the changes it can bring[/i]", it's almost like hearing Michael Jackson on "Heal the World". It's cliché (by now). But it ain't bad! 4/5
Moving on to "If Only You Were Here". A song focusing more on the acoustic guitar, than the earlier tracks. But the string arrangements are still more than present. Lyricwise, this is one of the strongest tracks on the album. A song dealing with rejection. "If only you were mine/I would say it's forever/'cause I cannot help myself oh no, no/from falling in love
" goes the chorus. Nice, sugarsweet lyrics. Kept company by great acoustic guitar work, fine string arrangements, gradually upbeat drumming and, as usual, a high-quality vocal performance. 4/5
Then there's "Stay". The perhaps weakest track. A bit too... well. Stereotypical. It's like a one-man boyband track. Not very creative melody, not too sharp lyrics (but not very bad either). The only thing that saves this track (apart from the vocals, of course) is the '80s-like keyboard. But overall, this track really is a let down - compared to the three previous tracks, all of which rather good. 1.5/5
"Wanna Be Where You Are" is the next track. It further proves that the tracks written by/with Gately himself in general really kicks these other tracks asses. "Wanna Be Where You Are", the pre-mentioned "I Believe" and "Stay", "Do Without Me" and "Coming Back" are the tracks written entirely by other people than Gately himself. Whilst "I Believe" is really good, and "Coming Back" is okay, the three other tracks, including this track, brings the album down. This track isn't nearly as bad as "Stay", but still. It's too one-man boyband. It's too stereotypical. Not a bad track, just not nearly as good as the other tracks. This song is really quite average. Not bad, but not especially creative or special. It gets a plus for being so upbeat happy happy. It's a feel good song to be played in your car, driving around with your friends on the summer. A good listen if you're either drunk, in love, in good company, or all the above. If you ain't - skip it. 2/5
Now here's that compulsory ballad. And it's all here. Sobby lyrics. Relaxed background string arrangements. Drums keeping it in check. A laid-back acoustic guitar solo. Emotional lyrics. Even more emotional singing. What it all adds up to is... a damn fine ballad. Lyrics like "Constantly sleepless/alone in my bed/visions of you babe/is all that I have
" are tons more creative than the lyrics on the two previous tracks. "Where Do We Go" is a good track. 3/5
"Judgement Day" is the seventh track. And it's a drastic change of pace, from the ballad "Where Do We Go". This has some great samples, near genius string arrangements, upbeat drumming, BRILLIANT singing and suprisingly good lyrics. Perhaps my favourite track of this album. "Doomsday I know that I have made mistakes/I've paid please don't give my soul away/I'm dreaming of freedom I watch from my window inside/My pulse and my breathing is what I am needing for life
" are some of the very nice written thoughts about craving forgiveness. This is the most catchy track of the album. This is the most emotional track of the album. This is the most passionate track of this album. This is the best track of this album. 4.5/5
Let's slow things down a bit, shall we? "You Lied" does that. It slows the pace a bit. To a more pleasant, comfortably laid-back melody. Not as hectic as "Judgement Day", but nowhere near as slow as "Where Do We Go". A mid-thing, like that found on the title track, "New Beginning". There's a funky electric guitar. Fitting sampling. Atmospheric keyboard. Upbeat drumming. Amazingly good vocal performance. Creative lyrics. You know... the lot. Lyrics like "I heard that you were cheating on me/I sat up waiting it was quarter past three/you said you stopped, that you quit playing around/but I finally found out
" suggests a sad song. But the melody is far from sad. It's very upbeat, and puts you in a good mood. This song could just as well been played by a black, female soul or r'n'b artist, if you changed some parts of it. A good track. 3/5
Now it gets more cliché than ever. Dance pop with that incumbent boring beat; a weirdo flute-ish thing, sounding like freakin' Titanic OST; highly uncreative drum rolls. What did the great lyrics, and/or the wonderful vocal performance do to deserve this? I mean. This actually kind'a work. A bit. But it could be so much better. If the melody was on par with the lyrics and vocal performance, this would've been an excellent track. But it ain't. It almost sounds like a high-pitched Celine Dion track. 1.5/5
Another track that sounds like something that could've been made by a black soul or r'n'b artist, a male one this time, is "Just Can't Say Goodbye". Don't know how. But somehow, it works. The lyrics don't blow me away. Neither does the melody. They are just about average. But they aren't half bad either. Stephen's voice on the other hand, is grandiose as always. As he's almost sobbing the words, you wouldn't even dream of skipping it. But it doesn't actually force you to put it on repeat either. 2.5/5
Then follows "Do Without Me". This is another track not written by/with Gately. And it's another average track. This isn't near as stereotypical or bad as e.g. "Stay", but still. It ain't too good. The lyrics aren't that bad. The melody mediocre. The vocal performance astonishing. Yeah. Just about like the other filler tracks on this album. Skip it. 2/5
To end it all comes "Coming Back". This is some weird piece of pop music. Another fantastic vocal performance. A catchy acoustic guitar. Upbeat, catchy drumming. Nice sampling. Good lyrics. This is just a really fun song. "I get so high, high/and though you lie, lie/I just don't mind, mind/coming back for more" are among the lyrics that puts a smile on my face. A funny, fitting end to this album. 3/5
All in all this is an album that shows great promise, but doesn't quite make it all the way. A lot of the songs just drown. They're average and mediocre. Only thing that doesn't make me skip'em instantly is the excellent vocal performance.
But. There are som amazing tracks here. Some really, really excellent tracks. But sad to say, it's few of them. If all the songs were of the same high quality as the best tracks, this would easily be a four star effort. But it just ain't. AI'm really sorry, but it ain't.
What it is though, is a very good debutalbum from a very promising artist. If Stephen Gately releases another album, I'll definitely buy it. This is not only heaps better than any of the albums released by his contemporaries (Ronan Keating, Robbie Williams etc), but loads more genuine and passionate. Stephen Gately has got that fiery passion that most pop artists lack. He just needs to be more creative in his melody composing. And he needs to get rid of those filler tracks written by "professional" songwriters, and start writing his own; 'cause he's good at it.
If Only You Were Here
Skip these (you won't remember them two minutes after you've heard them anyway):
Wanna Be Where You Are
Do Without Me