First Published November 2018
BOYZ BOW OUT IN STYLE
Twenty-five years. Man, that’s a quarter of a century! It’s enough to make you feel old. Well, it is if you can remember that far back like it was yesterday. And for those of a certain generation, who grew up in that era when Boyzone first came to the fore and were at the height of their fame all those moons and issues of Smash Hits ago, it’s also somewhat sad to think that their latest album, the aptly titled Thank You & Goodnight, is where the last chapter will close on Ireland’s first boyband.
By now, I think, it doesn’t even really matter if you like their music or if you ever actually did, for that matter. Because from their seemingly shambolic and now infamous Late Late debut, to the glory of sell-out tours, the heights of chart-topping singles, the prestige of number 1 albums, all the way to the incredible heartbreak of losing Stephen Gately so suddenly – and while still so young – Boyzone have been, more than anything, a bunch of Irish lads who knew they hit the jackpot and did their best to enjoy every minute of it. And for the most part, without ever losing any sense of who they were and where they came from. That’s not to say, of course, that there wasn’t bumps along the way, but hey, what road worth travelling doesn’t have its share of ups and downs, right?
Thank You & Goodnight sees the Dublin foursome of Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham, and Shane Lynch, going out in style, presenting us with an album that’s insanely catchy from start to finish. But not alone that, it carries at its core the unmistakable confidence of men in control of their own destiny in life, at peace in each other’s company, and following their hearts in putting this album together. That’s the way it should always be, true. But it’s not always the easiest place to reach or thing to do, so when it happens, credit should go where it’s due. Tracks like Because (co-written by Ed Sheeran, hit songwriter Amy Wadge, ace producer John Shanks, and Ronan), and Love (co-written by Gary Barlow and Shanks again) are already as good as anything the charts have seen in the last few years, and easily so at that. But there’s more to come from this album, in the shape of Talk About Love, Loaded Gun, and Learn To Love Again.
The one that’s going to bring a tear to your eye, though – even if you don’t expect it to, trust me, it will – as it closes out the album, and the Boyzone story, is Dream, which features a vocal from Stephen. In fact, his is the last voice you hear, something I’m sure didn’t happen by chance knowing the place Stephen still holds in his ‘brothers’ hearts. The song has a feel of Take That’s Never Forget to it, in that you can easily imagine it being the song that would be the perfect finale for every show they perform for the rest of their careers. Regardless of whatever I may have thought of Boyzone’s music from time to time, I’ll never forget the genuine, completely heartfelt love they showed for their bandmate when Stephen passed away so suddenly almost a decade ago.
Some moments bypass and supersede all others, and one such moment was when Ronan, Keith, Mikey, and Shane, decided they wanted to spend one last night with their brother, and stayed the night with him in the chapel where he lay at rest ahead of his funeral the following day. That simple, yet overwhelmingly powerful and emotional gesture, showed how close the five lads from Dublin had become during the years of their adventures around the world. When it all came down to it, what mattered most was one thing, and it was one thing that no-one could doubt was real: togetherness. They were five lads from Dublin at the start, and with Stephen’s voice being the last you hear on the album, they’re still just five lads from Dublin at the end of it all, too. And there’s something that’s very hard not to like about that.
When you throw in their biggest hits from back in the day such as Love Me For A Reason, Picture Of You, A Different Beat, Baby, Can I Hold You?, and even No Matter What (which I always found hard to take to myself, for some reason), and so many more, well this farewell tour definitely has the makings of a pop-party to remember. So, lest there be any doubt about it, the Boyz will certainly be going out in style.
If they’ve gone out of their way to make sure that Stephen is still seen as an intrinsic part of the Boyzone story, and rightly remembered for his role in making the band one of the pop sensations of their time, it’s interesting to note that nowhere in the album notes is there even a mention of Louis Walsh, a man who, for many, is as much a part of the Boyzone story as Ronan, Keith, Mikey, Shane, and Stephen. It seems hard to imagine that this was something as simple as an oversight. And whatever the reasons for it, that’s up to the band themselves, it’s their decision. But it does slightly leave you with the feeling that there’s still something unfinished, unresolved about it all. In Ronan’s liner notes, he writes, “We made it up as we went along with no one guiding us and look what we created.” In his notes, Mikey writes, “To all our managers…”, but nothing more personal than that.
But it is what it is. Not everything can be perfect, as much as we’d all wish it could be sometimes. And maybe that’s the best way of summing up Boyzone. It was never perfect. But beyond the music, it was never less than real. Watching them take to the Strictly Come Dancing floor for Children In Need last week, it was impossible to feel anything other than proud of what they’ve achieved and who they’ve become, and how much they’ve meant to so many people, of all ages now, all around the world.
And as far as I’m concerned, that’s something well worth acknowledging and celebrating. So lads, THANK YOU, and goodnight.