Reality TV has come a long way since 2002′s inaugral ‘Pop Idol’ contest, in which Simon Cowell went one better than the Hear’Say-producing ‘Popstars’ by allowing the public to decide the eventual winner. Leaving Darius Danesh and Gareth Gates for dust, it was of course Will Young who cruised to victory, before releasing the biggest-selling single of the decade as his début.
Now, ten years to the month since his first audition, he releases his fifth studio album; and for the first time in his impressively long career he’s taking a slight departure from adult-friendly chill-pop in favour of a more dance-influenced approach. It should be stressed though that by “dance-influenced” I definitely don’t mean he’s off down the club, tearing up the floor with shorty, waving his hands in the air like he just don’t… you get the picture.
‘Echoes’ isn’t as drastic a change as it is perhaps perceived to be – this is still the same Will Young, just in a slightly more keyboard-heavy skin and with Richard X on production duties. Take lead single ‘Jealousy’ as an example – it may have shed the live instruments that made ‘Leave Right Now’ et al so successful, but it’s no less amazing for it. In fact, it’s one of the best singles of 2011; a heartbreaking track with a phenomenal chorus that only Will could do justice.
Truth be told, it’s the best song on the album, but that’s not to say the rest isn’t pretty damn good. ‘Come On’, ‘Silent Valentine’ and ‘Runaway’ are particular highlights, while tracks like ‘I Just Want A Lover’ and ‘Good Things’ would sound at home on a George Michael record. Some tracks on the back half of the LP initially sounds a bit samey and take a few listens to get familiar with, but that’s a minor quibble. ‘Echoes’ is a fantastic album of love songs from a man who’s not only reality TV’s first megastar, but the first winner to shake off the televised roots and become a credible singer-songwriter in his own right. Here’s to the next ten years…