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Music Review

Shayne Ward: 'Breathless'

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Shayne Ward: 'Breathless'
Released on Monday, Nov 26 2007

The Leona Lewis story has eclipsed just about every pop release of the autumn, but it casts a particularly dark shadow on Breathless, the second album from Shayne Ward. While the Manchester lad has toiled tirelessly to shake off his X Factor shackles, undertaking lengthy promo campaigns to place recent singles 'No U Hang Up'/'If That's OK With You' and 'Breathless' in the top ten, Lewis appeared to shed hers without breaking sweat. The number one spot? Hogged. Sales records? Smashed. Next year's Brit Awards? Bagged. To put it in context, Lewis' debut album Spirit has sold more in a fortnight than Ward's eponymous first platter managed in 18 months.

Nevertheless, the success of those singles suggests pop fans are warming to Ward, a process his 'people' have sought to speed up by grooming him as a fun-loving, bed-hopping ladies' man. To that end, he's got himself a buzz-cut (phwoar – manly!), gone shirtless in a promo video (ooh – steamy!) and, as his sophomore album attests, taken his musical cues from Mr. J.R. Timberlake (ah - sneaky!). 'Some Tears Never Dry' and 'Tell Him' are reasonable facsimiles of Timbo's Justified sound, while 'U Got Me So' approximates the tremulous electro of his recent Timbaland hook-ups. Sadly, like large portions of Breathless, they're crippled by the dry, stale whiff of anonymity.

As a young, handsome pop boyo with one eye on the Bliss market, the other on Saturday night at G-A-Y, it makes sense for Ward to ape Timberlake, currently the nearest thing the pop world has to a regnant King. However, his decision to channel George Michael, a contender to that throne back in the late eighties, is woefully misguided. Michael hasn't convinced as a ladies' man since he sauntered into an LA latrine on April 7, 1998, and Ward lacks the vocal charisma to attempt a 'Father Figure'-style soul workout, as he attempts on the vapid 'Stand By Your Side'. Worse still is 'Tangled Up', which photocopies every element of Wham!'s 'Everything She Wants' except the one that really matters: the gutsy, impassioned vocal performance.

Tantalisingly, when Ward concentrates on holding a tune rather than trying to copy the bigger boys in the pop playground, he emerges as a likeable, talented performer. 'Breathless' shows he's capable of selling a slick pop ballad, while the sleek reggae-pop of 'Damaged' makes good use of his impressive falsetto. The Timberlake-on-amyl club rush of 'U Make Me Wish', meanwhile, points to a possible new direction for the talent show survivor. Less cred-obsessed than Timbo, he can release the fun, frivolous pop songs that the increasingly po-faced Mouseketeer is too cool to croon.

As for that lothario act, it's comprehensively quashed by the gooey sentiments of 'If That's OK With You'. "I wanna keep your toothbrush at my apartment," Ward simpers winsomely. "I'll make a second set of keys and ask you to move in." Hard-partying bed-hopper? Nah. This one's more the stay at home type. Once he and his 'people' accept this, Shayne Ward might have a shot at a long-term career.

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