There’s a decent pick'n'mix of ear candy on the boys’ third album.
Nick Levine 2011-11-11
It's tempting to rattle through the stats – a pair of multi-platinum albums, five number one singles, a couple of BRIT awards – but this lot's success can be summarised in a single merchandising masterstroke. Three years ago Aston, JB, Marvin and Oritsé were trilling Boyz II Men covers on The X Factor; now they have their own range of branded condoms, Just Love Safe.
They may be more popular than Simon Cowell could possibly have imagined – he turned them down twice, you know – but JLS are no musical innovators. Actually, it's pretty appropriate that they've called this third album Jukebox, because the songs here invariably recall recent electro-RnB hits from their chart contemporaries: Taio Cruz, Chris Brown, Usher, even Britney Spears. You know the drill by now: there's a generous sprinkling of European cheese on the club bangers; the mid-tempo cuts come complete with Umbrella-style vocal hooks; and the lyrics offer coruscating observations about boys and girls on the floor, hands in the air, and drinks, um, in the cups.
In fact, even the record’s relatively adventurous tracks can't help but bring to mind other artists. Both glitchy and glossy, So Many Girls is what an unlikely bunk-up between Justin Bieber and Major Lazer might sound like, while Innocence has the sinewy elegance of a vintage Timbaland ballad: Justin Timberlake's What Goes Around… Comes Around, say, or Madonna's underrated Miles Away.
But while it's easy to sniff at JLS's slick and derivative chart missiles, it would be unsporting to be too dismissive. There's a decent pick'n'mix of ear candy here, especially the Hi-NRG lead single She Makes Me Wanna and a future smash called Do You Feel What I Feel?, which will get the kids bopping from Basildon to Bradford. As if to prove the point, the album ends with Shy of the Cool, a paean to teenage growing pains that the lads apparently penned before they appeared on The X Factor. Well-intentioned but clumsy ("She's authentic, so unsuspecting / This girl can go to school and be respected"), it's a welcome reminder of what a polished pop combo JLS have become.