by Blue, pop (2003)
Innocent/Virgin, ASIN B0000DD7LB

Well, well, for their third CD, the lads Blue have come up with a CD that's pure guilty pleasure. In the months since their last CD, this boyband's tacky fashion sense and their tendency to put their foot in their mouth have made it an embarrassment to even like these guys, but Guilty is a CD that refuses to stop until it's won me over. Boybands shouldn't be allowed to sound this cool. It's humiliating and I am too old to do that teenybopper thing.

The lads have toned down a little of their West Coast hip-hop sound and Guilty, while still boasting some West Coast R&B aspirations, is also filled with standard pop ballads and midtempo tunes. It is very hard to turn up my nose at infectious pop tunes like Stand Up and Taste It, where the lads put on an aggressive and sexual front that are far more convincing than their predecessors like the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. While Justin Timberlake is groomed to be a sex god only after he's freed from N'Sync, the boys of Blue are already beating him at the game, and they don't even have to date Alyssa Milano while they are at it. (Okay, Duncan wanted to shag Kym Marsh, but we'll overlook that... for now.)

Ballads like the title track and How's A Man Supposed To Change? are standard MOR tunes, but they are listenable. Or rather, Lee's vocals are always listenable - he's the new Ronan Keating minus the sterile personality) and the others aren't too bad. The killer track here is Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours, a really good updated hip-hop version of the Stevie Wonder classic. It features the boys duetting with Wonder as well as Angie Stone, and if there is any doubt that Blue cannot appeal to adults, this song may work in dispellin that doubt. It's really, really good, that one. Sure, white boys can't dance or do convincing pop songs laced with R&B influences, you say? Listen to this one.

My personal favorite though - and that's only because I'm strange that way - is the Nik Kershaw-like Walk Away. I'm a sucker for any song that brings to mind the excesses of the New Romantics and I don't care if Duncan's vocals at the bridge sounds like the bleating of a gutted lamb, I love this one. The chorus, the bridges, even the verses - oh, boys, the 1980's will be so proud of you.

It is probably not very good for one's credibility or respectability to admit that one likes a CD by Blue. But oh what the heck - that's what underwear drawers are invented for, right? Shut the window, pull down the blinds, turn up the volume, and pray that the neighbors won't call the cops. Blue is prime Guilty pleasure, and it's never such a bad thing, really.

Rating: 87

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