The path to solo superstardom following a number of years in a hugely successful group is never an easy path. For every Cheryl Cole there’s a Mikey Graham (he’s from Boyzone pop pickers) so former Westlife star Shane Filan is likely already feeling the pressure as he embarks on his solo career. After all the career of Brian McFadden has hardly set the charts alight since he departed the group all those years ago did it? Filan has left a suitable amount of time following the group’s end before embarking on his solo career and earlier this year released debut single Everything To Me. Surprising fans with his new sound, the single peaked at number 14 which isn’t quite what the Westlife star would be used to.
Filan’s record label and/or management must have a lot of faith in his album You and Me as it’s getting a release in one of the most notoriously busy weeks of the chart year. On Monday, when the album is released, Filan will face stiff competition from Eminem, The Wanted, James Arthur, Avril Lavigne and The Overtones to name a few. Is there life after Westlife for Filan then as a solo performer?
You and Me is a progression from Westlife’s sound and sees Filan mature musically and drop the key changes that made his former group so successful. The end result is a collection of adult contemporary songs that mix a variety of musical styles. If we had to pinpoint the sound we’d put it somewhere between Michael Buble and Jack Johnson which may surprise his fans as there’s little trace of Westlife in this record. Filan has rolled up his sleeves and co-written every track on the record working with producers Steve Mac, Paul Barry, Martin Terefe, Nexus and Patrick Maskell.
The album opens with the bouncy Everything To Me which starts it off in a suitably happy and sun-drenched way. Gentle ukulele drives the melody and Filan’s strong vocals soar on the sing-a-long chorus. Honestly how this wasn’t a bigger hit we’ve no idea. The album moves on to current single About You which is a self-empowerment anthem designed to make his largely female fanbase fall in love with him all over again as he sings, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing, about you’.
The tempo for the album is mid-tempo mostly with lots of acoustic rhythms providing the backing for Filan’s distinctive vocal. Knee Deep In My Heart is a folky gem that is one of the best tracks on the album, Everytime borrows a little of The Lumineers’ Ho Hey magic and One of These Days injects a little country into the mix. Our favourite moments come on the acoustic ballad Always Tomorrow and The Script-esque In The End. Both tracks showcase Filan at his finest and we think following either of those sounds further in the future would serve him very well.
Every album has to have a dud doesn’t it and that title goes to the cringey Baby Let’s Dance. The song sticks out like a sore thumb and probably should be considered for cheese-fest musical Save The Last Dance For Me as it would fit right in. One mis-step over 13 tracks is no bad thing though!
You and Me isn’t going to change the world but it gives you a good idea of where Filan is aiming as an artist. He’s transformed himself into more of a singer-songwriter and it’s nice to be able to hear the range in his voice without the backing of his former Westlife band-mates. Whilst a lot of the album may be largely middle-of-the-road we think it’s a decent effort that is likely to grow on you the more you listen to it. We hope he gets to a second album as this one deserves to sell enough to make that happen.