Stephen Gately: 1976-2009


Growing up I was just the right age to be there in the heat of the Boyzone explosion. As it turns out I wasn’t that keen, mainly because at that time I was obsessed with hatred when one person did all the vocals and the rest of the group never being allowed to sing. Finally when Stephen Gately was allowed to bust a groove ‘No Matter What’ happened, was perhaps Boyzone’s biggest hit, went on to be one of the finest Andrew Lloyd Webber songs of the modern day, and is just an utterly brilliant pop song.

Hearing about the death of a famous person in 2009 has meant two things for me. First, you see the news break on twitter and aren’t sure whether to believe it or not. With MJ I was in Ghetto Brighton with some friends when the first reports of a heart attack came through, then lots of refreshing later Colin & I sat on the prom eating fish and chips as the first reports of a death washed in via twitter with no reliable source. This time round the shocking news came in the early hours from NOTW Showbiz Editor Dan Wootton who called it ‘the saddest story I have ever broken’ (and plugged his link a little too much, but I get – it’s his job!) On the other hand social media gives you almost too much access into the reaction of your friends or acquaintances. Seeing them make jokes about the death of a 33 year old moments after his death, just because they think he was in a ‘comical boyband’, leaves me with somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth.

Coming straight out of the glory days of pop that were the 1990s, I remember with a smile the numerous Smash Hits or Top Of The Pops magazine stories which back in the day tried to pair him up with Emma Bunton constantly – the two babies of the biggest group of the day. I can’t claim to be a massive fan, but the only time I saw him live was wonderful. He performed at a big charity gala Rocky Horror show performance at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2005 and managed to turn my least favourite Rocky song ‘Once In A While’ into something brilliant. Boyzone might not be your cup of tea, but there’s no doubt Stephen was an excellent vocalist.

[Edit: Unfortunately the youtube video has a screengrab of Ronan looking a bit special]

Review: Ronan Keating – Songs For My Mother


Ahead of Mother’s Day each year albums designed to appeal to your mum trot out in stores around the country. As well as dabbling with a Boyzone reunion, 2009 is the year for Ronan Keating to make his mainstream comeback starting with a release of ‘Songs For My Mother’.

This, his fifth studio album, is a collection of covers recorded by Ronan with a live orchestra. It’s no rapidly chosen covers album though; instead it’s a group of songs Ronan remembers his mother, who he lost to cancer at the height of his success in 1998, listening to throughout his childhood.

Covering songs as cherished as Don McClean’s ‘Vincent’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ is always going to aggravate fans of the original but on the whole, Ronan manages to create careful versions filled to the brink with emotion. Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ crackles with tears, popular Celtic folk songs such as ‘Carrickfergus’ and ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ are tender and the orchestral arrangement of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ adds an extra layer of euphoria coupled with the sadness of the lyrics.

Only a cold heart could refuse to be moved by the gentle ‘Mama’s Arms’. Originally performed by American singer-songwriter Joshua Kadison, the heart tugging lyrics must have been hard to Ronan to sing, his voice cracking on the beautiful line ‘all you want is mama’s arms’. The mood is only ruined somewhat by the suddenly jolly ‘Suspicious Minds’ and echo-heavy cheese fest cover of R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’.

It would be easy to thrown scorn on ‘Songs For My Mother’ but instead it’s a sweet, and surprisingly enjoyable compilation of gorgeous songs. Perfect to show your mother how much you care.

Originally for Orange Music

Review: Boyzone – Back Again… No Matter What

When Boyzone were first about, a decision had to be made. It was either Boyzone or Take That. To like both was the ultimate sin in the life of a teenage girl, and if you were foolish enough to choose the Boyzone option, you weren’t really worth hanging out with.

Now wanting a piece of TT’s comeback pie, they’re back, playing a sold out tour to their adoring public, and releasing ‘Back Again… No Matter What’ – a compilation of their greatest hits, plus three new songs, and a live version of Ronan’s ‘Life Is A Rollercoaster’.

While the bad are either hilarious (Love Me For A Reason) or coma inducing (You Needed Me), the good amongst Boyzone’s 16 consecutive top 5 hits still make us smile. 1998’s #1 ‘No Matter What’, penned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Jim Steinman for musical Whistle Down The Wind, was a highlight, particularly as Ronan finally let someone else sing the main part. Ronan’s traditional growl is, of course, omnipresent, especially in ‘Baby Can I Hold You’, one of four covers. When it comes to new songs, ‘Love You Anyway’ recaptures the motown fun first heard in ‘Picture of You’ but ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ is an awkward electro song that doesn’t fit the band at all.

Ultimately there’s no denying the greatest Boyzone song – ‘A Different Beat’. We are not even slightly being sarcastic here by declaring this one of our favourite pop songs of the 1990s just for it’s extreme randomness. Yes, for some unknown reason, Boyzone, bored of soppy ballads, decided what they were missing were African drums, chanting, foreign languages, thunder, a rousing middle 8, lyrics to solve work peace and a trembling piano. Everything is forgiven just for these 4 minutes. Amazing doesn’t even cover it.

If you love Boyzone, you’ll love this. If not, well you might just find yourself a bit surprised by how many songs you’re happily singing along. Perhaps after 9 years of Westlife, Boyzone sound like a treat.

Originally published at BBC Music. I hated Boyzone as a child, apart from ADB obv, but this was oddly enjoyable.