TThere are a number of artists about these days with voices so unmistakable it can take but a breath for them to be identified. Some of these include Michael Stipe, Stevie Nicks, Eddie Vedder and . . . Ronan Keating. Ronan, Keating’s first foray into solo-dom, comes hot off the heels of first single “When You Say Nothing at All” from the soundtrack to Notting Hill. It begs the question as to why, at the height of international success with Boyzone, Ronan decided to go it alone. Without offering any clear answers, this album is less than brilliant. In fact, it’s a huge disappointment.
As a fan of Boyzone (happily, thank you very much), especially those dual vocal efforts by Keating and fellow singer, Stephen Gately, I was expecting big things. Sadly, the intensity and fun of Boyzone are gone, replaced by overproduced beats and bland “I love you” lyrics—all those things sure to crack the US pop market. And while there are a couple of passable songs, I doubt that’s gonna happen.
“When You Say Nothing at All” showcases that distinct Irish-lad croon we know and love. It’s a sweet effort at a song that has been everything from country to blues in the past, though it’s manipulative in its very concept—continuing the theory that in order to gain monumental success, a) do a cover, and b) put it on a Julia Roberts soundtrack.
“Life Is a Rollercoaster” is up there with “When You Say Nothing at All” as an album highlight. It’s a terrifically bop-worthy few minutes, thanks to the genius of ex-New Radicals’ Gregg Alexander lending his writing talents. It was somewhat of a shock to read the former socio-political commentator’s name anywhere near a pop record fuelling the ever growing machine he spat out against in 1999’s “You Give What You Give”. Ronan’s voice gives Alexander’s jump-jive justice, though I still say it’d be better with Gately alternating verses. It’s kind of like “When the World Was Mine”, which goes back to the Boyzone days, only needing Mikey, Keith, Steve and Shane doing harmonies to put us back “where we belong”.
The third single, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, grows on you steadily. Watching Keating smile cheekily as he fumbles around atop a sinking car in the video is kind of ironic as it all goes down from here. And just when you wonder why he’s hiding his trademark clover-laden pipes in favour of a coffee-and-cigarettes Bryan Adams drawl—WHAM!—there’s Adams’ name in the credits. It’s a worthy imitation, though Bryan would surely have taken it to number one 10 years ago.
Next up are a whole lotta throwaway sap tunes including “In this Life” (“you were the treasure that I longed to find”), “Brighter Days” and the obligatory Diane Warren song, “If I Don’t Tell You Now”, before Alexander is back with “Heal Me”. This one is a strange attempt at giving Ronan something a little edgier but Alexander is digging from the bottom of the lyric pile with “why won’t you heal me / love won’t you steal me”. It wins only in that it could very well be the first and only song in history to include the word “unfurl”.
“Only for You” and “Keep on Walking” are okay, taking Ronan back to his Irish roots musically, all the pipes and such. While neat-sounding, the lyrics still suck—“knowing you completely / my dreams are guaranteed”.
“Addicted” is almost a novelty song, comparing the addiction of love to the addiction of, umm, crack cocaine. The lyrics are a tad annoying (“just one more kiss and I’ll be gone”) and not a little bizarre (“girl I can’t sleep in these wet sheets”) but Ro’ wants it to work so damn badly that it almost does. That is, until he says “all I need is a dime bag of attention”.
Ronan pleads with his fans on the very last song (thank god), “Believe”, to go with him on his little journey. I wish I could, but with the predictable, boring tracks emanating from this middle of the road epic (13 songs total), it’s nearly impossible. It’s all about “knowing you’re there” and “being with you” and “chasing rainbows” and “letting go”. Boooring.
The re-release of the album includes a new track, hit “Lovin’ Each Day”, about which I have nothing to say (except how annoying it is to find yourself singing just that one line all day) ‘cause I bought the CD without it.
Ro’, we’ve seen for the past five years what you can do, so why aren’t you doing it? I understand one needs change every now and again, but honestly, put the zebra suit back on and let’s get this show on the road.