2005 X Factor champ Shayne Ward is one of the most successful winners to come from the singing competition. Both his 2006 debut album and his 2007 second album Breathless were certified platinum and it looked like he was going to be one of the biggest male artists in the UK. After many delays his third album Obsession arrived in 2010 and it failed to match the performance of its predecessors leading to Syco choosing not to renew Shayne’s contract. Since then Shayne has taken part in Dancing on Ice and performed on the West End as part of the Rock of Ages cast. Now he’s making his long-awaited return to the charts with Closer.
Closer was fan-funded through Pledge Music and sees Shayne teaming up with legendary producer Mike Stock. The album’s first single is the Motown influenced My Heart Would Take You Back, which isn’t quite the departure from his previous material that we’d expected. With his new found creative freedom we were expecting something a bit edgier more along the lines of U Hang Up rather than the one-man Westlife balladry that has hampered his previous releases.
It pains us to say this as we’re huge fans of Shayne’s but Closer is a bit disappointing. Whilst there’s no denying that Mike Stock is a legend, his production makes the album sound dated and unfortunately not in the retro way we think he may have been aiming for. Shayne is a fantastic vocalist, and some dodgy accents diction aside (I’m So Proud Of You, we’re looking at you), he sounds great on the album but his voice is better than this material.
There are some strong moments on the record such as the thumping The Way We Were which is easily one of the best tracks here, and the 90s pop feel of Crying, Lying Eyes. Album closer I Let You Get Away is proof that less is more and when Shayne’s voice gets the opportunity to really shine he sounds fantastic.
Closer is being released as a Deluxe Edition album with additional tracks including a cover of the Sugababes classic About You Now, the 70s funk of Rendez-Vous, The Place I Love, and an acoustic version of his first single proper No Promises.
We really, really wanted Shayne to coming out fighting on Closer. This was his chance to prove that he could really hold his own as a popstar and flourish with his newfound creative freedom. He has the voice and the looks but the material has always let him down. Unfortunately Closer isn’t the album it should have been and the dated production makes it hard to understand where Shayne fits in the current pop climate. He’s certainly not going to be bothering the Top 40 singles charts and we couldn’t predict where the album is going to land. There are some moments that highlight what could have been but on the whole Closer left us pining for a cooler and edgier record than it is.