When I interviewed The Wanted‘s Nathan Sykes earlier in the week, I asked him how he felt about the boyband being one of very few UK pop groups to have had so much success without starting off on a TV show. He said: “You know what, it’s really nice to know that we’ve done it the old school way. Obviously, it’s great that there are the talent shows and stuff like that, but if you get Top 5 on X Factor you’re almost guaranteed a record deal, so it sometimes is kind of strange to see people just getting thrown into the limelight. But it’s really good looking back over the last year and seeing how much we’ve grown.”
As their eponymous debut album last year proved, having some cracking pop tunes at their disposal has certainly helped them keep up with the X Factor-endorsed likes of JLS and One Direction. Fortunately Battleground, which follows almost exactly one year later, doesn’t let the standard drop.
It does however sway the quintet in a slightly different direction. Whereas their debut was more straight-forward lad-pop, this one brings them up to speed with the dancefloor-oriented sound du jour, steering clear of the overdone blandness that has plagued so many other artists. Chart-topper ‘Glad You Came’ is a cool example – its lyrics may not exude originality, but it has enough charisma and summer-friendly production to see it through.
Merge that with the slightly less club-targetted hit ‘Lightning’ and you have a pretty good idea of where the LP is going. Note especially ‘Invincible’, a radio-ready barn-stormer that would make perfect sense as a single, and ‘Last To Know’, a slightly darker midtempo affair with one of the record’s best choruses. Actually, midtempo is where the boys are most successful – the Diane Warren-penned ‘Rocket’ has just the right amount of acceptable cheese, and ‘Lie To Me’ is one of the best songs on the whole disc. Lord only knows why it’s tucked away right at the end.
The ballads are where things get a bit wobbly. ‘I Want It All’ is fine, if a bit wishy-washy, and ‘I’ll Be Your Strength’ never really goes anywhere, despite some lovely performances from the band’s lesser-used vocallists. But the good thing is that they’re in the minority. The Wanted remain instrumental in pushing the boyband image further into the 21st Century, and with a sound that keeps them maturer than One Direction and more lads-next-door than JLS, they deserve all the success they get.
My above review was also published to Entertainmentwise