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Westlife - 'What About Now'

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Fraser McAlpine | 15:30 UK time, Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Of all the metaphorical animals in the rhetoric zoo, the snake that eats its own tail is the most useful. Especially to people who want to make a point about the circular nature of life, and how things which feel like progress can actually be just the opposite.

If you're not sure what I mean, imagine you're a snake, and you're enjoying a lovely meal. Now imagine how you'd feel if your dinner also turned out to be your bum. "This is no good," you would think "I cannot sustain myself by eating myself, why that defeats the point of eating in the first place!"

(Here's a 'video'. It's not the whole song and it's not really a video.)

I mention this because there's a definite air of a world within a world to this single, and here is why:

'What About Now' - as performed by Daughtry - is the song that has been popping up all over The X Factor this year, as a kind of emotional celebration of the journey certain people have been on. It's a great big power ballad, and as all power ballads do, starts with a mournful piano, travels through chest-heaving, sobby verses, and goes all HUGE in the chorus.

(Here's Daughtry's video. It is the whole song and it is really a video, but there's no Westlife, and it's a little pompous.)

Daughtry, you will recall, are the band formed around Chris Daughtry, an American Idol finalist in 2006. American Idol is produced by (and stars) Simon Cowell, who is also heavily involved with Westlife's career, as is Simon's fellow X Factor judge Louis Walsh.

Westlife performed this song on the X Factor over the weekend, a performance which was due to take place in a month, and was brought forward, presumably because the Daughtry version had got to No.11 a week or so ago. And now the Westlife version is shooting up the charts.

It would be tempting to suggest that there's something amiss going on here, like people are being conned into buying music or something, but there isn't really. It would be more shocking if something like this didn't happen from time to time, the amount of pies Simon and Louis have their fingers in.

But it does reinforce the idea that Simon Cowell is slowly creating his own version of showbiz, a self-contained reality which does not need any input from the outside world, and will eventually either take over all entertainment as we know it, or implode, leaving nothing behind but the sound of Simon's impatient sigh howling through the void...and Leona Lewis.

Three starsDownload: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)


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