Written by James Christopher Sheppard
The original Pop Idol returns, Will Young releases his fifth studio album, Echoes, at the end of August. Young hasn’t made big waves since his second album Friday’s Child when it reached five times platinum status and provided him with the massive single ‘Leave Right Now’ and ‘Your Game’. However, all of his album releases have gone Top Ten in the UK and been certified platinum. The openly gay popstar clearly has a devoted and loyal fan base, but can Echoes propel him back to the success of his early days? The entire album is produced by electronic and synthpop producer Richard X, so the collection should be more attention-grabbing than Young’s last rather unmemorable effort, Let It Go.
First single, ‘Jealousy’, has already created some excitement amongst the Young fan-base, perhaps due to the upbeat feel of the song. It’s a simple, breezy, emotional tinged synth pop with an 80s feel. The song does have a certain charm, but is unlikely to have the masses yearning to hear it over and over again.
The tempo and mood is accelerated on ‘Game On’, combining the synth sound with an almost Florence and the Machine ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)’ drum beat with an element of ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. While the song certainly shares some similarities with the aforementioned songs, ‘Game On’ feels modern, radio friendly and certainly more addictive than ‘Jealousy’.
Sister track to ‘Jealousy’, ‘Runaway’ is breezy with mellow 80s synths circulating around Young sticking to his higher register. This is pretty catchy, with a hypnotic melody.
‘Lie Next to Me’
It’s ballad time and ‘Lie Next to Me’ will make Will Young fans happy enough. It’s quite dream-like, with Young relying on his voice to carry the song. The production is almost like a boy band Christmas single from the late 90s or early 00s. The emotion comes across in Young’s vocal, but the lyrics are almost too simple to really evoke an emotional reaction. Some people will absolutely love it, some may not. I’m somewhere in the middle.
‘Safe From Harm’
Almost Scissor Sister sounding, ‘Safe From Harm’ has a slightly darker element to it than the first four tracks. The synths are complimented by a simple piano played melody and Young uses his voice more variably, which is a breath of fresh air at this point.
Will seems to have jumped eras and gone from the 80s into the mid 90s. ‘Good Things’ sounds inspired by George Michael’s classic hit ‘Fastlove’, which knowing his audience is possibly a stroke of genius. A pretty decent example of adult pop, I can already imagine my Mum listening to this on repeat.
The first song to not rely on synth-pop is ‘Happy Now’. Usually I listen to a song while I write about it… I have to say I listened to the whole of this track and had only written one sentence. What can I say about ‘Happy Now’? It’s a pretty slow to mid-tempo song about Will singing about being happy now. The instrumentation is quite refreshing at this point and Will sounds more comfortable here than on some other points on the album, but it is a little dull.
‘Hearts on Fire’
Another tempo change, ‘Hearts on Fire’ is an understated dance number that I can imagine being played in Soho’s coolest bars. The melody is darker than most of the album and the whole song has a certain dangerous and intriguing sexuality about it.
Another dark, brooding number, ‘Personal Thunder’ cements Young’s position as the current answer to being what George Michael was during his Older period. The emotion behind ‘Thunder’ is enchanting.
This is possibly the most 80s sounding track on the album to this point. It could almost be a hit factory produced mid-tempo ballad. It’s not bad.
Featuring the most unique and original production on the collection, ‘Silent Valentine’ is transformed from just another synth-heavy electronic slow number, to a gradual captivating track that is one of the most memorable featured here.
‘I Just Want a Lover’
Appealing to a more mature ear, and perhaps a crowd at a swanky cocktail bar rather than your local Oceana club, ‘I Just Want a Lover’ picks up where ‘Good Things’ left off. ‘I just want a lover, nothing that is complicated. I don’t have to know you, we don’t have to talk about it’ Young sings as the song closes. Could this be Will’s sexiest moment yet?
The haunting nature of ‘Outsider’ mimics that of Adele’s ‘Hometown Glory’. It’s a brilliant way to round off the album, which at times is a little lacking in emotion. ‘Outsider’ is soft and hears Young as his most vulnerable here.
The prospect of sitting down and listening to Echoes from start to finish was not something I looked forward to doing. Until I saw that Richard X had been involved, I expected to hear something dreary and dull, but then I pressed play. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, Echoes will certainly charm those that already like Will Young and will definitely appeal to the adult-pop fans that loved George Michael during Older, as well as Darren Hayes solo efforts. Echoes is not the most original album, but it is well crafted and coherent. Whether Echoes will impact to wider audiences and be massive, is something else entirely, but it’s pretty good.
Overall score: 7/10
JCS is Eyewear's music critic and divides his time between London and Hull. He is currently working on a novel.