Boyzone returned to the charts in 2013 with new album BZ20 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band. It was the second studio album released from the four-piece since the death of their bandmate Stephen Gately in 2009. BZ20 sold over 200,000 copies in the UK and gave the band their fifth Top 10 album. It’s the only one of their albums released to date not to hit the top of the charts. A year on from that album, Boyzone are back with new album Dublin To Detroit.
Whilst Boyzone have done a fair few covers in their time, they’ve never released an album of covers until now. Dublin To Detroit sees the group tackle some of the best-known Motown songs ever recorded. It marks a definite change in direction for the group and is their most soulful effort to date but can they pull it off?
It’s not hard to see why Boyzone have decided to go down the covers route for this release. With their chart power fading, an album of covers will help them appeal past their core fanbase and get into the homes of those who love Motown. Unfortunately the first track on the album highlights both the group’s strengths and weaknesses and sets the scene for a rather patchy effort.
Dublin To Detroit opens with What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted and all is going well until someone other than Ronan Keating starts to sing. Whilst Ronan has always been the most vocally capable member of the group, he used to have Stephen Gately to back him up and share lead vocals. For this effort the other three members take on lead vocals at various points and quite honestly it’s not that great.
Boyzone sound fine when Ronan takes on most of the heavy lifting and the other three members – Mikey, Shane and Keith – provide harmonies and support. The chorus on Tracks of My Tears is one of the stronger moments on the album and the building vocals on Reach Out (I’ll Be There) provide another highlight. Album closer What Christmas Means To Me is another moment we enjoyed and made us think maybe the group should have done a Christmas record instead.
The more stripped-back This Old Heart of Mine really exposes the limits to the vocal abilities of the group. Ronan, as is to be expected, sounds fine but when he hands vocals to another member it all kind of just falls flat. The same is true on other songs such as Higher and Higher, and Wherever I Lay My Hat.
For their next outing, Boyzone need to stick to their strengths. Motown music doesn’t really fit with their vocal abilities, not even Ronan’s, and the album feels a bit too karaoke. Whereas a group like The Overtones can pull off this sort of album (and will when they release their new soul album in 2015), Boyzone just don’t have the chops or authenticity to pull it off. It’s a real shame and a missed opportunity.