Westlife are an Irish boy band. The band has
proven very successful in both Ireland and the United Kingdom although their
success has been questioned by peers.
The band have had thirteen UK number-one singles between the years 1999 and
2005, the fourth-highest such total of all time (trailing only Elvis Presley,
The Beatles, and Cliff Richard). They also had their first seven singles ever
released reach number one, a record (once held earlier for two decades by Gerry
& the Pacemakers), and furthermore each of these singles entered the
charts at number one.
Westlife was formed in July 1998, with the members Shane Filan, Kian Egan,
Mark Feehily, Nicky Byrne, and Bryan McFadden.
The bands' origins are in Sligo in northwest Ireland, where Filan, Egan, and
Feehily were in a six-member vocal group named IOU, which put out a single
called "Together Girl Forever". They were then discovered by Louis Walsh, the
manager of 1990s boy band Boyzone, but did not meet Simon Cowell's approval for
a record deal with BMG, so changes were needed. The other three members of IOU
were given the sack, and Walsh went to Dublin and recruited Byrne and McFadden.
The new group was named Westside. That conflicted with another band of the same
name so their name was changed to Westlife. Boyzone singer Ronan Keating was
brought in to co-manage the band with Walsh.
Their first single "Swear It Again" was released in April 1999, going
straight to the top of the charts in Ireland and the UK.
Filan is the group's de facto lead singer, using a commercial pop style, and
does some song writing. Egan is a multi-instrumentalist who has a distinctive
rock voice. Byrne is known for his husky tone, Feehily has a soulful tone, and
McFadden supplies a plaintive voice. While Boyzone is an obvious antecedant,
Westlife's ballad-heavy style also owes a debt to Boyz II Men.
Although the band has enjoyed unprecedented success in the Irish singles
chart, many detractors argue it has been achieved by releasing bland unmemorable
ballads and cover versions into a declining singles market.
As of late 2005, they have published five original pop albums, one greatest
hits album and one Frank Sinatra-inspired swing album. Westlife's fan base is
global: they have had success all over the world, especially Scandinavia and
South East Asia, but also elsewhere in Europe, Canada, Latin America, and
Australia. Westlife have had record-selling indoor arena tours and are one of
the biggest pop acts to come out of Ireland.
Westlife have not managed success in the United States, though. Their debut
single and music video "Swear It Again" was released in the US in Summer 2000
and was a minor hit on mainstream radio and MTV, reaching number 20 on the
Billboard Hot 100 and being shown briefly on MTV's Total Request Live.
Their debut American album was also released in 2000, but they have not released
another one there since. The original Westlife hit most known to American
audiences is "Flying Without Wings", since it was later a success for
American Idol winner Ruben Studdard.
The band won ITV's Record of the Year competition on a record three
occasions, with "Flying Without Wings", "My Love", and "Mandy".
Bryan McFadden left the band on 9 March 2004 to devote more of his time to
his family life with the British TV personality and former Atomic Kitten member
Kerry Katona, although he has subsequently separated from her and reverted the
spelling of his first name back to its original 'Brian'.
Like most other boy bands, Westlife is primarily marketed to teenage girls,
but they also have a large following of male fans and have performed numerous
times at gay venues in the UK. On 19 August 2005, Mark Feehily put to rest years
of speculation among fans that he was gay by publicly coming out of the closet
in the UK tabloid The Sun, and announced his relationship with Kevin
McDaid of the former boy band V.
Westlife's seventh full-length album, Face to Face, was released in
October 2005. On 6 November 2005, the album and the single "You Raise Me Up"
reached number one on the UK charts, marking the first time the group held both
top album and single in the same week. Having outlasted just about every other
boy band, the members of Westlife continue to laugh off any speculation of a
split-up, claiming their goal is to score at least 20 UK number one singles.
|1999 "Westlife" #2 UK, #129 USA
|2000 "Coast To Coast" #1 UK
|2001 "World Of Our Own" #1 UK
|2002 "Unbreakable - The Greatest Hits - Vol. 1" #1 UK -
|2003 "Turnaround" #1 UK
|2004 "Allow Us To Be Frank" #3 UK
|2005 "Face To Face" #1 UK
- "Swear It Again" (1999) #1 UK, #20 USA
- "If I Let You Go" (1999) #1 UK
- "Flying Without Wings" (1999) #1 UK
- "I Have A Dream"/"Seasons In The Sun" (1999) #1 UK
- "Fool Again" (2000) #1 UK
- "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" (with Mariah Carey) (2000) #1 UK
- "My Love" (2000) #1 UK
- "What Makes A Man" (2000) #2 UK
- "Uptown Girl" (2001) #1 UK
- "Queen Of My Heart" (2001) #1 UK
- "World Of Our Own" (2002) #1 UK
- "Bop Bop Baby" (2002) #5 UK
- "Unbreakable" (2002) #1 UK
- "Tonight/Miss You Nights" (2003) #3 UK
- "Hey Whatever" (2003) #4 UK
- "Mandy" (2003) #1 UK
- "Obvious" (2004) #3 UK
- "You Raise Me Up" (2005) #1 UK
- "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (with Diana Ross) (2005) T.B.A.
Westlife singles not released in the UK include "I Lay My Love On You"
(Australia, SE Asia & Europe), "My Private Movie" (Japan), "When You're Looking
Like That" (Europe), and "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" (Belgium).