Born of auditions in 2009, UK's latest boyband sensation is called The Wanted and sounds like a younger version of what Take That is nowadays, UK's most successfull boyband. I mean they don't sound like a manufactured dance/pop act made of cute boys like Take That originally were, but like a mainstream pop/rock group of five handsome boys who still know how to sing and play instruments too.
The Wanted's most appealing face must come (but it surely depends on different tastes) on sexy bad boy looking Max George, who previously was in another boyband, the short lived Avenue, that didn't make it on the X-Factor. His voice dominates all first two singles of the band and his image is omnipresent on every CD cover and in every video. By his experience and must-have crazy girls' huge following, I take him for The Wanted's leader even if all five boys take parts in lead vocals. Indie rocker-like Tom Parker, Curly haired James 'Jay' McGuiness, young child-looking Nathan Sykes and former model Siva Kaneswaran complete the band and it looks like there's everything for everyone between these five hunks, but musically too ; I mean, a couple play piano, one plays guitar, one plays ...football (well, maybe more than one, me think).
Their first single, All time low, wasn't a classic, an instant kind of hit when I first got to hear it and I first thought to myself ; what all the fuss about 'em? That ain't a hit ! They better record some better songs if they want to release an album... Then I watched the video for it, which wasn't groundbreaking with the boys walking in a deserted and abandonned factory, but it did something to me and revealed what the song truly had in store : All time low was a GROWER ! I must admit that although it has been released since July, I still can't get enough of it, playing it on repeat in my car and singing along to the chorus I've learned the lyrics by heart now.
The fact is the rhythm really starts only after the first chorus whith the second verse but by the time it comes a second time round, you're totally hooked by it "But if you know how do you get up from an all time low, I'm in pieces, it seems like peace is ...the only thing I never know : how do you get up from an all time low ? I can't even find a place to start, how do I choose between my head and heart ? 'til it ceases I never know how do you get up from an all time low". Penned by #1 providers Steve Mac and Wayne Hector (Westlife between many more) with Ed Drewett, it makes sense it was aimed at the top of the charts and it got it but not only did it got to number one, its selling power kept growing bigger, unlike other boybands' singles, and it stayed in the UK Top 40 for 16 consecutive weeks. Remixed by Digital Dog, All time low gained some additional addictive upbeats that helped this electro influenced pop/rock power ballad cross over and appeal to different kind of buying people for sure. The CD single featured as a Bside their accoustic version of Cheryl Cole's #1 hit Fight for this love, after a bedroom recorded video of them singing it live made the buzz. In truth, this other side of The Wanted's sound showcased perfectly their vocals abilities and I guess both sides of the single were a must-have in brand new fans' hearts.
Two months later, the boys were awaited in the charts, with their second single, a plain romantic ballad called Heart vacancy produced by Cutfather & Jonas Jeberg who wrote it with Lucas Secon and Wayne Hector (again). They tried the same formula with another acoustic cover version (Kickstarts by Example) on Bside and dance remixes (by DJ Tonka and DJ's from Mars this time) but it only reached #2 in the UK charts, being outsold by Bruno Mars climbing back to #1 several weeks after Just the way you are original #1 placing. Although the song is nice enough, I must admit I didn't fell in love the same way with it. The "In your heart, in your heart, in your heart" pre-chorus parts sounds good and the chorus melodic line is powerful but without real lead lyrics line that sticks to the head, only the Oooh oooh parts. May I say Jay's irritating "When I-aï-I-aï-I talk to you-ooh-ooh on the pho-ow-ow-one..." solo vocal line in the bridge didn't do good to the song's appeal... Anyway, A number two second hit ain't a flop I guess and soon their self-titled album was out too.
The album starts with their two first singles in order of release and displays the latest and third one on track #3. Lose my mind takes another direction although it starts all calm and moody in the intro but the song, that has been post-produced by the remixers team The Wideboys, has an evident dance appeal and a very catchy upbeat chorus. This song does the same All time low did to me ; first I didn't think it was that good but after a couple more listens, it has grown on me and I can't get it out of my head singing along "If heartache was a physical pain, I could face it, I could face it ! But you're hurting me from inside of my head, I can't take it, I can't take it ! I'm gonna lo-oo-oo-se my mind... I'm gonna lo-oo-oo-se my mind". Sadly it looks like the UK charts won't grant the boys with another Top5 hit as Lose my mind only got to #29 after a three weeks yoyo in the charts. Their girls following must like ballads only or maybe the fairground based video didn't appeal to them, but in addition, the record company has evidently been lacking of imagination about this new release (an accoustic cover version of The Script's For the first time that I've yet to hear as Bside and a couple remixes by 7th Heaven and Cahill for dance addicts - although BOTH are pure bliss!!!).
Produced by Greg Kurstin and co-written with multi-awarded songwriter Cathy Dennis, Replace your heart on track 4 could easily become the boys' fourth single and get them back on top as it sounds like a beautiful anthemic ballad, or powerful mid-tempo with a strong chorus and memorable lyrics. Time will tell, and I can already hear nice dance remixes of it, but I can't see a song that good made by such a winning team beeing stuck to just an album filler track !
Hi & Low is next and it has all beautiful acoustic verses sung maybe by Nathan, only with piano, with the others joigning him on the chorus full of vocal harmonies and strings. This song is a pure instant of bliss, intemporal and fragile, like a butterfly gracing the palm of your hand for a brief moment before he flies away.
Next one must be the song I dislike the most on the album, not because this trip-hop kinda song is bad, but because of its sampling of The good the bad and the ugly of Enio Morricone. Let's get ugly loses itself in the mixture of different sounds, d'n'b beats, philarmonic arrangements and 70's spaghetti western sounds. Stripped to the bone and revamped by a total different musical background I'd surely like it a lot but Guy Chambers has all done it wrong on this one. He did better with Gainsbourg's sampling for Kylie's Sensitized but he'd better stop using samples as he's a songwriter/producer that doesn't need that !
As if it was time for album fillers or boys' cash-in material, #7 is the first to have a songwriting credit by the boys but a filler it ain't for sure ! Say it on the radio is an upbeat electro pop/rock song that wouldn't sound out of place on McFly's latest album. And its catchy chorus could easily make it a hit on the radio.
Ben's Brother's leader Jamie Hartman produced and co-wrote with The Wanted the next song, called Golden, and it is a nice peaceful and warm ballad that will melt their fans' heart in no time. Once more, it has a memorable chorus with words coming out of Max's mouth like honey, gold or oasis for wounded hearts... "And we try, and we fall, and we live another day, and we rise like a phoenix from the flames, and it burns but it turns out golden..."
Third song in a row co-written by the boys and still no filler at all, Weakness is an upbeat piano-led pop/rock that sounds like Coldplay. Jay's distinctive vocal on second verse fits it very well and I feel most of the songs here are too pop-orientated for his rock vibe, but he really shines on this one, owning back the bridge part too.
Personal soldier is apparently a fans' favourite and it is a new Guy Chambers song/production. Without disturbing sampling but with a military "left, left, left-right, left" intro and full march rhythm, it uses everyone's musical background and adds a strong chorus that goes "I'll be your hero who's standing strong , who protects you from any fight..." After their first three singles' broken hearted poor boys' tales, how could their girly fanbase could ever do without wanting to sing along to them singing these lyrics to their hearts ? Single potential once more, even if it'll be harder on this one for a remixer to work on...
Another song co-written by the boys at track #11 with Behind bars and its upbeat rythm and uplifting chorus melody. Written and produced by Chris Young with Ash Howes on the mixes, this song has an irresistible charm but I think the verses may be a little too poor compared to the perfect chorus for being single potential, and it sounds like it ends just before it had started at only 3'02 !
Guy Chambers is back on duties with the Taio Cruz co-written Made and... it sounds just like a new HIT to me, except the song would need to be re-named Made for each other if it got released to gain some catchiness. It has got electric guitars all through it to give a powerful rocky edge to this pop song that you can't help nodding your head to while singing along its chorus.
More acoustic guitars follow and it's quite already the time to end the album with A good day for love to die, the last song co-written by The Wanted. Cutfather & co are back on production and it is a powerful pop/rock anthem that would surely set the scene on fire on tour. I can easily imagine the five lads jump up in rhythm while repeating the lines "For love to die, for love to die..." I confess this one is a little bit too rock for me.
iTunes bonus material is called The way I feel and is another Guy Chambers symphonic pop/rock pop song, like those he did for Robbie Williams some years ago, but it is just a filler to me, but a nice encore.
For those who wants to watch them while listening, here are their three videos yet :