t’s hard to believe but for a boyband, Boyzone has lasted six years and right now they’re stronger than ever in the UK and Asia. Not bad for a band many dismissed as a passing fad. Boyzone’s entire musical history is now here, in one greatest hits compilation that spans all three of their albums plus seven new songs. Seven out of eighteen songs in total. Not a bad buy really. There are good news and bad news. Good news is, Boyzone is definitely making musical progress from bad kiddie-pop to mature white R&B sounds. Bad news is, out of 19 songs, seven are cover versions. That’s an ammunition for critics who say the they rely too much on covers. But hey, who cares what critics say right? Question here is, do I like By Request?
Yes I do.
I haven’t heard Boyzone’s first album but if the five songs representative are any indication, I’m not missing anything. The most interesting songs is the cover of the Cat Stevens song, Father and Son, and Key to My Life, the latter having the most cringe-inducing lyrics ever. Here I must say Boyzone’s greatest asset lies in the melodic contrasts between lead singers Ronan Keating and Stephen Gately. Mr Keating has a low, purry, sultry baritone that sounds husky and way older than his age of early-twenties. Mr Gately’s higher pitch, when he has it under control, has a child-like quality that is either sweet on a good day or damn annoying on a bad one. Fortunately Mr Gately’s having more good days as the album progresses to the newer songs.
In Key to My Life, an otherwise pleasant but forgettable song, Mar Gately’s gaily, airy voice sailed over Mr Keating’s steadier, more sober baritone like icing over cake. It is eerie yet stunning, a contrast of clashing colors. Indeed, for the most of By Request, the most interesting songs are the duets between the two men. A Different Beat, an interesting take on pseudo-African music, has Mr Gately’s voice providing the light, breezy feel of the verse before Mr Keating steps in, slowly drawing the listener back to earth. In No Matter What, an Andrew Lloyd Webber composition, the song could be repetitious and bland if not again for this contrast of voices. It ends up being one of their better songs. a nicely sung song of hope and defiance of convention in pursuit of happiness.
Ronan Keating does wonderfully alone too. On songs like Picture of You and All That I Need, his voice, clear as a cathedral bell, is compelling and seductive. But oh, it is his solo single When You Say Nothing at All that he really shines.
Now, the covers. Words, You Needed Me, Baby Can I Hold You, Father and Son, these are well done, in fact, I find their Words more interesting than the original by Bee Gees (ooh, blasphemy!). However, their massacre of Billy Ocean’s When the Going Gets Tough (totally lifeless) is unforgivable.
Overall, however, By Request is very listenable, despite the throwaway songs from the debut album. This album is for the casual listeners, like me. But hey, the song When You Say Nothing at All alone is worth the price of this album.