Originally published on So So Gay on 14 April 2015.
TLDR: The slightly patchy material may suffer from some dated production in places, but Shayne Ward’s vocal talents are undeniable and help lift the album’s weaker moments.
For his latest studio album, former The X Factor winner Shayne Ward called on his fans for a little help via a PledgeMusic campaign. After doubling the required goal, his latest album, Closer, finds the singer tapping into his love of Motown through the filter of producer Mike Stock (of pop power house Stock Aitken Waterman fame); unfortunately the results are a little mixed.
Kudos must be given to Ward for flexing his songwriting skills on all the new material here, showing he’s not just an example of talent show fodder purely chasing fame and fortune. The problem on Closer is primarily the upbeat numbers, which veer into cheesy pop territory all too easily, rather than the aimed for contemporary twist on Motown. Part of this is down to the dated production values, which hold back the impact of some of the catchy melodies. Opener ‘Moving Target’ is a fun start, but it’s a formula which often feels repeated throughout the album.
It’s not all bad news, however, particularly if you opt for the deluxe edition of Closer. ‘Rendez-Vous, The Place I Love’ (the first of the deluxe edition bonus tracks) is a joyous nu-disco groove that manages to hark back without feeling dated, while his cover of Alexander O’Neil’s hit ‘If You Were Here Tonight’ is a wonderful and effortless high point.
Thankfully, the ballads are where the album redeems itself, as stripped back emotion merely needs a piano and a talented singer – something Ward certainly is. The best of these is the sparse and moving ‘I Let You Get Away’ (which closes the standard edition of Closer), but ‘Too Much to Lose’ is another highlight with its sonic nods to ‘If You’re Not the One’. Similarly, the acoustic retread of his own hit ‘No Promises’ and a delightfully understated take on the Sugababes’ ‘About You Now’ further showcase the Mancunian’s abilities.
The material on Closer may be a little patchy in places, but what is irrefutable is Shayne’s vocal prowess. Even on the album’s duff moments, his voice shines through to remind you exactly why he was the much-deserved winner of the The X Factor back in 2005. His loyal fanbase (along with the housewives contingent) will find much to love about the album, but for Ward to reach a wider and younger audience again, he really needs to collaborate with upcoming talents. Alternatively, an album of 80s soul/R&B covers could also work very much in his favour. When the right material is in his capable hands, Ward shows he’s not someone who should be written off as yet another Cowell cast-off.
Standout Tracks: ‘Too Much to Lose’ / ‘I Let You Get Away’ / ‘Rendez-Vous, The Place I Love’ / ‘If You Were Here Tonight’