Only a few scant weeks have passed since Pop Idol Will Young‘s debut album hit the shops and made a considerable dent in the charts. And here we are again, as the nation’s other favourite trundles past on the musical train, no doubt heading for destination top-of-the-charts.
But for spiky-haired Gates, it’s plain to see that he has been plucked from another shelf in a different aisle of the pop supermarket, and comes with an entirely different wrapping. He is a young man in his teens with innocent good looks and vulnerability, with instant appeal to the youngest pop fans just starting to feel their way around the deep and murky waters of musical choice.
This debut offering has been finely tailored to meet the needs of this captive audience who have elevated him to idol status since his sweat, toil and success were played out on television week in, week out. What My Heart Wants To Say is an exhausting opus of 16 tracks – three of them, including the covered-to-death Unchained Melody, we know already because they have given Gates number one hit singles. This album falls neatly into categories and fails to offer any real surprises – even Gates’ joint writing credit on Sentimental.
Too Serious Too Soon following the safe, poppy formula of Anyone Of Us, while With You All The Time is a more measured, mid-tempo affair. The glitterball gets cranked up for Alive and particularly (I’ve Got No) Self Control, which is infectiously retro and is the brightest spot on the whole collection.
For one so young, Gates gives us a taste of the ’80s school flava with It Ain’t Obvious and Good Thing, which will have his fans’ parents reeling back to their roots. The fresh-faced star hints at being a closet soul brother and expressing a personal musical interest aside from the usual fodder which weighs down this album.
Inevitably, we are forced to wade into the territory of balladsville, with Tell Me One More Time and That’s When You Know proving slushy, drippy and entirely forgettable – but admittedly suit this singer’s angelic vocals. The album’s title track sees Gareth sing “if the words don’t come my way” – an obvious reference to his public battle with a marked stammer. The song itself is warm, sentimental, tinged with a rich concoction of strings and chorus – so cloying there is a serious danger of nausea.
But for Gates’ natural fanbase, this will be a signature tune to which hearts will flutter and posters will be gazed at in dewy-eyed awe across the land. As an album, this leaves no lasting impression and is far too long – giving the impression the songs have slickly rolled off a production line.
Gates cannot escape his obvious appeal to young fans, leaving more seasoned music lovers on the sidelines and looking for alternative nourishment. Teen stars have a notoriously short shelf-life, and we have to hope that Gates is allowed to flourish as he grows older, and will capitalise on the immense fame the Pop Idol experience has afforded him.