Will Young

Fifth album from the one-time reality TV show winner

Echoes
4/5

Of the reality talent show winners, Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke haven’t done too shabbily, while Joe McElderry is gamely hanging in there. We know what became of the hapless Steve Brookstein (it involves a Pizza Hut in Maidstone) and are frankly too polite to suggest where Michelle McManus might be now. But, ten years on from winning the first ‘Pop Idol’, Will Young is entering another phase of his career.

For his fifth album, it’s out with the strings-drenched pop balladry and ersatz soul and in with co-songwriters Kish Mauve and Andy Cato, and producer Richard X. The latter effected Sugababes’ successful electro makeover back in 2002 and – although there’s nothing as edgy and raw as that here – Young’s move (steered by A&R man and former Haçienda DJ Mike Pickering) involves a major shift in intent and, very possibly, audience. Rhythm is now paramount, hence the funkily insistent ‘Safe from Harm’, the irresistibly lush ‘Happy Now’ and bedazzled, killer single-in-waiting ‘Good Things’, which is ripe for a remix or two. Due to vocal similarities, there’s a fair bit of George Michael in ‘Echoes’, filtered via the disco of Chic, Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp. No complaints there.

It’s not a total groove picnic, mind. ‘Jealousy’ is a banal, quasi- Erasure thumper; ‘Come On’ vapid Euro-house; and ‘Silent Valentine’ treads water. But ‘Outsider’ is a pearlised, piano-based ballad that doesn’t make us heave (result!); ‘Runaway’ has us itching to shimmy across the floor six seconds in; and ‘Personal Thunder’ is gorgeous – a euphoric, 5am weepie that Alison Moyet would kill for. Young scores in all the ways that Robbie Williams must so wish he could. But then,Will does have the voice, not to mention the likeable persona. Happy anniversary, sir.

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