Little inherently wrong here – but shouldn’t we be demanding more?
Mike Diver 2009
With their first two singles – Beat Again and Everybody in Love – so ubiquitous across commercial radio that the only comparable arrangements must be the infuriating jingles and idents that pepper ‘more music, less chat’ stations playing to provincial town traffic, JLS have managed what few products of The X Factor and its talent show ilk have: mainstream recognition beyond a Saturday night series.
Throw in a couple of MOBO awards and you might think JLS were a serious, sincere proposition than so many peers. But while they formed prior to their run in the 2008 X Factor series – they finished second, to Alexandra Burke – this debut album is every bit as needlessly polished and lyrically banal as almost every other artist to have found fame via television rather than any ‘traditional’ route. While once they toiled away in small clubs, now JLS absolutely are part of the ‘Simon Cowell Presents’ system. They can’t be perceived any differently.
Every song revolves around some girl or other that they’re either keen to pursue or are rather cut up about losing and now want back. What with the four harmonising (and well, too – when the Auto Tune isn’t running amuck anyway) lines of longing and lust, it can be a little unsettling picturing the playing out of these scenes in the mind’s eye – but this is a longstanding headache of boyband (and, indeed, girlband) material, the rather sinister suggestion of, to put it politely, polygamy.
With lyrics never likely to be strong, one focuses quickly on the structure of the tracks backing them. Just occasionally a sidestep pricks the eardrums, with Close to You all hand claps and strummed acoustic guitar, contrasting hugely with the surrounding high-energy RnB beats of Heal This Heartbreak and the steady throb of Only Tonight. The latter initially seems set on ripping off Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer, before settling on a dull backbeat – shame, as a burst of rock energy would have served proceedings well.
The unavoidable ballad closes matters, Tightrope’s claim that “loving you is a challenge” one that could equally be applied to appreciation of this collection. There’s little inherently wrong with JLS, the album, given how it’s come to be; fans (the many of you) will undoubtedly be satisfied, if not thrilled throughout. But, eventually, an artist following a similar path is going to have to deliver a cracker, or viewers will grow disenchanted.