When toothy-smiled Will Young won the long-running battle to find the nation’s Pop Idol, a ripple of surprise briefly touched the nation. Teenager Gareth Gates, with his angelic voice and hedgehog hair, was largely tipped for a landslide in the public vote – and seemed the perfect pop package to appeal to teenagers countrywide. But Will, who preferred lounge songs to slices of teen pop, was the housewife’s choice – and the record-makers found themselves with a different proposition on their hands.
Tapping into the opening tracks of From Now On before heading into the main territory of this album shows that Will is a Pop Idol with a difference. His victory lap was the double-headed Anything Is Possible/Evergreen, the debut single laid down for whoever won the battle to be made into a star – and he doesn’t sound entirely comfortable with this sweet, candied pop. It was still a mammoth number one smash, but follow-up Light My Fire was the essence of this young performer distilled into a bottle. Reshaping The Doors‘ classic into a bossa-nova cheese fest gives him a chance to stretch his naturally pliant vocal chords and fill his favourite niche.
And if musical cheddar is Will’s natural nook, listen to What’s In Goodbye, co-written by the songwriting dream-team of Cathy Dennis, author of Kylie‘s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head amongst much else, and Burt Bacharach, the legendary king of the smooth, old-style tune, which the Pop Idol delivers with ease. Will’s debut collection is also bursting at the seams with songwriters of the moment, with mistress of the pop song Dennis enjoying credits on five tracks, and Robbie Williams‘ foil Guy Chambers sneaking in there too.
Critics of the whole Pop Idol phenomenon will be greeted with the performer’s own name appearing in the writing credits – Will’s joint efforts Lovestruck, Over You and Cruel To Be Kind inhabit both lounge-room and silky balladsville. It’s the title track – also bearing Will’s name – which is a jaunty, breezy slice of pop that would suit rival idol Darius Danesh down to the ground, with a skipping beat which breaks the album’s slow tenor.
But part of the Pop Idol deal is that you can’t have it all your own way. Will has to earn his keep, so new tracks which are firmly pop and future hits make their mark felt. ‘You and I’ is an especially strong hit-in-waiting, which will have the younger music fans cooing in their droves to the record shops.
This debut offering seems to have struck a balance between making the best of Will Young’s particular talents – and the musical niche where he excels. It should go some way towards silencing critics who said that his individuality was being crushed in a sea of cover versions and pop puppetry. Inevitably, there are teen-friendly pop ditties, but also a more mature seam of songs to suit the cheesemeisters and lounge lizard lovers.
This man has proved what we already knew – that he’s certainly no Gareth Gates and their Pop Idol rivalry is pretty much where the similarities end. With a strong voice and his own musical ideas, Will Young may yet take charge of his own destiny.