10 years have passed since UK boy band, Blue, offered us anything new in terms of studio releases with 2003’s Guilty being the group’s last studio effort. During the early 2000s’ the four-piece enjoyed a very successful stint at the top with hits that included their debut single, All Rise, If You Come Back, One Love and the Elton John duet, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word before parting ways and taking on various solo projects. Ten years is a very long time for an act, particularly a pop boy band, to be absent from the pop scene without vanishing entirely into the harsh terrains of obscurity.
Blue reunited in 2011 after a 7 year hiatus, but the comeback, paired with the group being enlisted as the UK’s representatives at Eurovision with their single, I Can, proved less than rewarding and they soon fell off the radar for a second time, sending the lads running with their tales firmly between their legs.
With that disastrous comeback now in pops past the boys are back to give it another go with the release of Roulette, their first album in a decade, in the hope to regain control over the charts they way they had with their first 3 records.
Roulette is ushered in with the swooping balladry of Hurt Lovers, the albums lead single. As Duncan opens this sentimental number, pacing himself with the piano backbone that carries the albums intro, it is the Lee Ryan driven chorus that touches on both familiarity and a timeless Blue quality that signals the welcome return of one of the UK’s most vocally equipped boy bands. Lee’s vocals are the focal point of this track as he swings into falsetto with ease and stamps his distinctive vocal inflections throughout this romantic pop highlight.
Momentum surges with the following Without You as Simon leads his fellow Blue boys through a mid-tempo hit with all the elements of early Blue pennings while RnB shines on Break My Heart in the tracks verses before the chorus applies a techno coating, getting us worked into a frenzy with Lee’s impressive vocal peaks reaching impressive peaks throughout.
Ayo was one of the first tracks off Roulette that struck a chord with us almost instantaneously. The vocal approach on the number differs to the style applied to the rest of the tracks contained within Roulette making this number one of our favorites on the new album.
Further into the record the promise of revitalized success begins to wither with Risk It All and Heart on my Sleeve as both fall flat with their dated sound and, in the case of the latter, appear have gone one step too far into auto-tune territory as the track begins to take on a cringe-worthy and tacky form. This is a real shame for a song that would have sounded far superior had it been left stripped back.
With a brief sample of Kim Wilde’s eighties classic, Keep Me Hanging On, We’ve Got Tonight brings us back to modern day Blue as they unleash a semi-memorable pop rocker with a slick rap licking as the track draws to a close. Though there is nothing groundbreaking about this number it does offer the record an upbeat pop center that could easily work its way onto the radio as a future single. Super producer, RedOne, who has produced hits in the past for the likes of Lady Gaga, Cher and Usher, has molded this track, along with several others on Roulette, giving the band a much more international feel than some of their earlier material. The band has also been able to flex their songwriting muscles on the track, as well as many others on Roulette with co-writer credits.
A raw vocal arrangement is cast over Broken as we approach the end of Roulette. Built solidly around a power ballad, piano-driven arrangement the band sing about doing everything they could for a loved one before having their hearts ‘broken’. It’s a bittersweet and memorable addition to the record and with it we are reminded of the reason for Blue’s success with previous ballads like If You Come Back during their early years.
The pop/RnB sound that is synonymous with Blue is found within almost each song that makes up Roulette. While it is great to be offered something we are familiar with in terms of Blue pennings we wonder if it is wise for the group to be so reliant on a safety net at this point in their career, particularly since it hadn’t work for them as well as they had hoped when they first made a comeback two years ago? We aren’t entirely sure it is. Regardless of this, Roulette is a fun and weighty release from Blue who may just find themselves back in the charts if they pick their singles wisely from the record.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
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