No longer able to seek refuge beneath Simon Cowell's ample wing, it's sink-or-swim...
Bren O'Callaghan 2003
No longer able to seek refuge beneath Simon Cowell's ample wing, it's sink-or-swim time for little Gareth Gates as a new brood of Pop Idol& Fame Academy fledglings flee the nest.
It's one thing to bleat a couple of covers for your debut, but by the second foray we want to see if the nation's favourite runner-up is going to continue buffing his halo. Or hurl it through the window of the nearest Naughty Boy Boutique.
First off the starters block, "Sunshine" grabs the baton with a sprint toward George Michael's back catalogue. It's very hard to say anything bad about someone so obviously capable of holding a tune. But when he alludes to lying with some salacious pin-up in "Absolutely", we can't help thinking it's a soft toy, a Tellytubby perhaps, rather than some x-rated tart.
"All Cried Out" achieves the rare feat of delivering a memorable ballad courtesy of an insistent drumbeat, before - saints preserve us - sampling a choral whisper from the Human League! Gareth and his producer kin leave no stone unturned in the hunt for legitimate hooks, and by golly, such determination commands our respect.
"Enough Of Me" whips the hysteria to pantomime levels of excitement: an homage, deliberate or otherwise, to Justin Timberlake. Complete with amateur beat-boxing and oiled-groin vocal acrobatics. The pace slows for "Go Your Own Way" to reference the soulful schmooze of Craig David's direct ancestor, Usher, before slipping into Beyonce's stacked heels with "Club Hoppin'".
Hang on...Isn't there a second disc yet to review? Yes there is! The first, which includes the songs described above, called 'Night', represents the next generation Gareth. The second disc 'Day' is a mushy pile of blunt emotion that pales in comparison to the upbeat nature of the first.
No, it's 'Night' when Gareth comes out to play. It's probably raining too, and his shirt is all wet, and your hair, your hair is slicked across the bosom of a low-cut Latino style dress and...and...you want a diagram with that?