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Westlife: not just another boy band

The quintet covers established tunes by Phil Collins and Extreme
The quintet covers established tunes artists such as Phil Collins and Extreme  

August 29, 2000
Web posted at: 10:33 a.m. EDT (1433 GMT)

(CNN) -- 'N Sync. The Backstreet Boys. 5ive. Boyzone. 98?. To the uninitiated, differentiating among the boy bands on the saturated market can prove quite a task.

But a band of five Irish lads has set itself apart by breaking a world record that even the King of Rock and the Fab Five couldn't crack with it's debut self-titled album, "Westlife."

"We were the first band to have five number ones in a row in the U.K. charts," said Westlife bandmember Shane Filian. "Nobody had ever done it. The Beatles had four. Elvis had four, as well. So we were the first band to get five. It's a good thing to have on your resume, I think."

Westlife's star of success has been lit in less than three years, since Filian and bandmates Kian Egan, Bryan McFadden, Nicky Byrne and Mark Feehily teamed up to cover tunes from such musicals as "Grease" and "Oliver Twist."

"When we started off the band, we started it more as a vocal group," said Egan, who was quick to explain where Westlife fit in the evolutionary tract between manufactured bands and serious musicians.

"Five years ago, boy bands could get away with having one good vocalist and four good looking guys. Nowadays, it's not about that. It's a lot more about the music, the sound. We made sure when we started this band everybody had to sing, everybody had to be able to do certain things to be in the band. Everybody had to really, really want what we're doing today."

Which is not to say that the quintet aren't aware of their status as Sligo's cutest export since...well, since ever.

But Westlife's talent and style are well-matched to its business-savvy, having hired Ronan Keating of Boy Zone as co-manager, and covering such established tunes as Extreme's "More Than Words" and Phil Collins' "Against All Odds."


Listen to Westlife perform various songs acappella

"Swear It Again"

384K WAV sound

"More Than Words"
512K WAV sound

"If I Let You Go"
320K WAV sound

The two songs -- the former, a stripped down acoustic song from a 1980's hard rock duo, and the latter, a symphonic celebration which they recorded with pop diva Mariah Carrey -- represent Westlife's variety of influences, and its aspirations to rise beyond the formulaic radio-friendly material of other boy bands. Besides, at their tender ages, the bandmates are looking to expand their repertoire with each recording.

"It's too early to kind of distinguish one style of music for the band," said McFadden. "If you listen to our album, there is a lot of varying sounds, lots of rock sounds. Of course, there are a lot of ballads on the album but we recorded 22 songs for our first album and it just happened to be that a majority of the best songs happened to be ballads.

With five of those ballads atop the charts, Westlife is poised for only the bigger and the better. But, according to the wise-beyond-his-years Byrne, the bandmates are prepared for the accompanying work.

"You need an awful lot of hard work," he said. "You have to get up early in the morning and work till god knows what time in the evening, day in, day out. When something goes right for you, when the single is selling or the album has a chance of going into the top 20, that's when you've really got to knuckle down and work as hard as possible."

Turned on, they tune in: 'Making the Band' fans cheer their faves
May 26, 2000
Music vets offer hints on boy band survival
February 18, 1999
Boy groups following formula to success
January 19, 1999

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