I’m having a bit of a pop clearout at the moment, with some of the notable winter releases from the UK’s pop scene. Unfortunately despite a successful launch with two hit singles, the UK still seem a bit reluctant to get on board with The Wanted as an album act. Let’s hope the US disagrees, since “Glad you came” is unexpectedly blowing up there at the moment, #2 on iTunes and #4 on the Hot 100 as I’m writing this. Very pleasing to see that, especially since this appears to be better than One Direction’s performance so far.
So what IS the second album like? I think the singles sold this to me, heading in a more dancey floorfiller direction but still trying to tick the boxes that boybands do (e.g. mandatory ballad action). It’s the album of a group who are finding their sound and finding their voices as a group, and that’s a good thing to hear.
10 Glad you came – Lead single, and a perfect summer track. Maybe it’s the video skewing my perception of it though. It certainly hasn’t missed a trick capitalising on the success of dance music from Romania in recent years, notably “Stereo Love” by Edward Maya. It’s a simple melody, with memorably strange lyrics. I like the weird lyrical device they’ve used, starting each sentence with the last word in the previous, perhaps because of some of the ‘hmm’ moments you get as a result (“I decided you look well on me”?!). Great electropop feel to it, well done boys, you’ve arrived.
10 Lightning – But this is where it really enters another level. Initially I felt this was another lyrically dodgy pop track, and I suppose it is, but there’s just this amazing energy about it from start to finish. The pulsing beat really makes it an exhilarating dancepop track, and it wasn’t long before I preferred this to “Glad you came”. The video really worked well, the slow motion effects really set it off. It was a good move using the same director for all the videos, it gave the campaign a real coherent feel. Marvellous, I almost want to go back and listen to this again instead of the next track.
06 Warzone – Three singles? Must be ballad time. A menacing air to this (well, not really, but they obviously want it to seem like that). Max’s vocals get an airing on the chorus, but it doesn’t really get going until the beat finally arrives after a minute. It’s alright, but I don’t see why they picked this as a single, and seemingly neither do the UK public. It’s alright but really drains the momentum after the opening songs.
08 Invincible – This is a bit more like it, almost feels like a dance track by someone else with Max on a feature credit. The lyrics are beyond banal, basically an attempt to wear as many words together that sort of sound like “invincible”. I guess we aren’t looking for Ivor Novello awards when you’ve got a dance track like this, and at least in that respect it’s pretty energetic and listenable. It’s good for the car, but it’s perhaps a bit insubstantial.
07 Last to know – Oh more edgy beats (for a boyband), it’s a better attempt than Warzone anyway, it’s got more of a melody to it, and some rather grand sounding production, is that a church organ? I was thinking the other day how Swedish pop music sometimes has this different feel to it than usual UK pop music, but it’s just got that feeling here. Wikipedia indicates that this track is crawling with Nordic names, so that probably explains it. I like it, but again I think the curse of the first two tracks has taken the shine off this a bit.
07 I’ll be your strength – Where are the upbeat tracks? This is a Xenomania production so I had high hopes, but it seems a bit of a minimal piano-led ballad. The vocals are quite sweet really, and the melody is nice. It’s just a bit flaky, and keeps threatening to turn into a Will Young-esque thumper several times without really making it. The middle-eight blossoms into something rather lovely, and the dance thumper finally pulls into view for the last minute. It just feels like it could have been a lot better if they’d have got into that a lot earlier on. That last minute really is quite wonderful, shame really.
07 Rocket – Diane Warren is still doing songs? Well it’s got a nice beat to it, and with a title like Rocket it’s got to be pretty good right? Only it sort of doesn’t, the big climax in the first minute doesn’t really develop into what I thought it was going to (or wanted). The percussion is very strong, and that adds substance to a melody that dithers around a little too much. The high notes are nice, it’s just a bit of a track without a clear idea of what it’s supposed to be. Nice though.
07 I want it all – Anyone else hear a bit of “More than words” in this? I was never that hot on that song, but I prefer this. Not that I think this would have the same enduring appeal. No idea who’s doing vocals on here, sounds like one of the other boys that doesn’t get a lot to do. That’s good though, I’m sure it would be tempting to over-use Max as his voice is definitely the strongest. The song builds quite nicely but doesn’t generate a lot of excitement from me.
08 The weekend – YEAHHHH, bubbling dance beat, inane lyrics (“I’ll make you sweat like you’ve worked out”), generic floorfiller title, THIS is more like it. And no surprises here, it delivers on its promise. It’s more on the level of “Invincible” than the big two tracks, but this just feels like such a comfortable fit for them. A dance boyband is an intriguing idea, and that’s certainly where the pop wind is blowing at the moment. It’s only a matter of time before someone works this out at The Wanted HQ, and if we are lucky we might get an equivalent to Girls Aloud’s “Tangled Up”. But for now, just sling this out for the fourth single, and maybe wring a few more sales out of this campaign for God’s sake.
08 Lie to me – Another dark-feeling pop track, though the production is a lot more interesting, and it doesn’t dwell too much on the gloom. That’s actually not a bad chorus, even if they are doing the One Direction trick of having no idea that to harmonise you can’t just all sing the same note. It’s a fair effort for a midtempo track, and that middle-eight really works for me.
10 Gold forever – Now maybe this could be treated as the first single, coming out early in 2011 as the Comic Relief charity single. It’s really really grown on me since then, and I guess was an early indicator that the bombastic dance track was to be a good match for the boys. That video is a bit selfconsciously ker-azy, but there are some genuinely lovable moments, mainly down to Siva (the Asiany-looking one, fact fans). The melody is pretty great the more I think about it, lots of different catchy hooks in it. A really nice warm song, one of their best certainly.
Well it did sag in the middle, and I really hope that for the third album they realise that dance-pop is their strength. But saying that, there are three 10/10 moments for me, and that’s more than a lot of albums get, so I’d call that a win. I hope they use Steve Mac, who I’ve just realised produced all three of those great songs. The battle of the boybands might not be the busiest of battlegrounds at the moment, I can only really think of The Wanted, JLS and One Direction at the moment. None of them are really out ahead, but with the big three singles from this album, I think The Wanted are my pick at the moment.
Keepers for the iPod: Glad you came, Lightning, Invincible, The Weekend, Lie to me, Gold forever
Glad you came –
Gold forever –