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New Beginning

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Critics' Reviews

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The Irish male group Boyzone has played their cards perfectly (and suspiciously similar to Take That, their predecessor). Take That released three original albums and one greatest-hits album within just a few years, before the group departed and its two lead singers, Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams, took on solo careers. Boyzone has likewise released three original albums and one greatest hits album within a few years, and its two lead singers wasted no time in releasing solo albums even though the group was still officially together. While lead singer Ronan Keating's debut concentrates on thoughtful and moody ballads, Stephen Gately serves up a fast, breezy, and melodic album. With a voice that could be described as lightweight Michael Jackson, Gately has also faced his share of press hounding. In 1999, after speculation about his sexuality, he drew both criticism (mainly from shocked conservative parents and young female fans) and praise from undying loyalists for revealing that he is not only gay but had been dating a member of another boy group. In an earlier decade this could have meant a scandalous end, but Boyzone's Polydor label chose another route, taking him to the utopia that every boy group member dreams of: a solo career. Curiosity about the prospect of an album with a gay theme or suggestive lyrics can be put to rest -- Gately really delivers an entertainingly ambiguous album here that will appeal to anyone who likes pop music. The production is somewhat synthesized, an unspoken requirement in pop music of the early '00s, but the best tracks here owe a lot to the string sessions. Songs like "Stay" and "Wanna Be Where You Are" sound like a one-man boy band with their peppy choruses. Most pleasing is "I Believe," the grand theme song to Britain's gem of a film, Billy Elliot. It is time that someone realizes the right wardrobe and marketing can make anyone number one, but to stick around for the long haul requires a voice and personality. Gately seems like a bridge between fad and that long haul. If Polydor keeps their good faith and if this New Beginning is a taste of what is to come, then that middle road should not be half bad. ~ Peter Fawthrop, Rovi