Westlife's long awaited 10th studio album since "Back Home" two years ago, "Where We Are", is finally here! Westlife describes this album as "the second era" of their career, which I believe is somewhat true after listening to the full album numerous times since its release. Westlife did not stride too far away from their musical style, but they did readjust their musical path by collaborating with "contemporary-hit" writers and producers Ryan Tedder (Beyonce's "Halo" , Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone", Jordin Sparks's "Battlefield", Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love" and "Happy", etc.), Sam Watters (Leona Lewis's "Better in Time", Westlife's "When I'm With You", etc.), and Lindy Robins (BSB's "Incomplete"), etc. These collaborations give Westlife a more mature and modern sound, and it is definitely a refreshing sound. This album is growing slowly on me, and many loved the album since their first listen. Here's my track-by-track review:
Track 1 - "What About Now" (4.5/5)
This is one of the covers Westlife did for this album, and also their first single. Compared to Daughtry's original version of this song, Westlife's version is more pop with a rockier edge, but it definitely has the traditional Westlife arrangement. I wasn't excited for this track before, because I didn't want Westlife to cover such a "new" song (it was popular in the United States few years ago). But this track is rather uplifting and fits Westlife's "new sound" perfectly.
Track 2 - "How to Break a Broken Heart" (5/5)
A traditional Westlife ballad with a modern beat and arrangement. This song deals with heartbreak and moving on. Shane's vocal is heartwarming and Mark's voice is, like always, smooth and flawless. The vocalized beat "ha-heart ha-heart" after the chorus is catchy and it shows how Westlife's effort to include twists in their ballads. This song should definitely be a potential single!
Track 3 - "Leaving" (5/5)
Another traditional Westlife ballad. This song reminds me of Westlife's "What Makes A Man" a lot, because it has this same bittersweet/depressing arrangement. The lyrics is somewhat similar to Rascal Flatt's "Here Comes Goodbye", especially the part right before the song's climax. I love this song, especially when Shane sings "I beg you don't go"... Shane really does give a lot of soul to this song, because his voice has this very "the pain of a man" emotion.
Track 4 - "Shadows" (4.5/5)
I have been waiting for a Westlife/Backstreet Boys collaboration, and here we are! Well, this is as close as a collaboration gets... This song is written by Ryan Tedder and AJ McLean of BSB (the song didn't make it to BSB's latest album because they went with a different direction). The lyrics are superb and Mark's vocal is great! Not a typical Westlife song, but very fitting on this album. Not disappointed at all.
Track 5 - "Talk Me Down" (5/5)
Pro: 100% Mark's vocal. Con: 100% Mark's vocal. I don't know where Shane, Nicky, and Kian went on this song (actually, I don't know where Kian and Nicky went this album). Even though I am really tempted to change this song's artist from "Westlife" to "Mark Feehily", Mark's solo effort is undeniably perfect and emotionally charged. The song is very melancholy, and I just can't get over how great Mark's voice is. Even though this song is not 100% Westlife, but it is oh-so-sweet.
Track 6 - "Where We Are" (5/5)
Here comes the signature Ryan Tedder's drumbeats! The album's title track does not disappoint, and it is one of Westlife's new era song. This song is one of fan's favorite because this album is where Westlife (and their fans) is supposed to be! Ryan Tedder is really a hit song-machine, a musical genius! "Where We Are" is very modern sounding, and rhythmically charged.
Track 7 - "The Difference" (4/5)
Another nontypical Westlife's pop/rock song. Not one of my favorites after the first listen, but it is definitely growing on me. Shane's voice really matches this genre, can't wait for him to try other songs similar to this genre!
Track 8 - "As Love is My Witness" (4.5/5)
One of the tracks that got leaked onto the internet few months back, and this is another Westlife typical ballad. I refer to this song as Back Home's "I Do" part 2, because this is another perfect wedding song. This song is probably the most Westlife song on this album, because I can hear all of the members harmonizing in the chorus.
Track 9 - "Another World" (4/5)
A slightly gospel song, and the selling point of this song is Mark's vocal. Another nontypical Westlife song, and the lyrics are very different from what they used to sing about, kind of reminds me of John Lennon's "Imagine". A new try for Westlife indeed.
Track 10 - "No More Heroes" (4.5/5)
This song is like a direct response to Beyonce's "Save the Hero". When Beyonce's song is about "who is going to save the hero", Westlife responses with "you'll never be alone, when there are no more heroes". This song has the same typical Westlife arrangement (very similar to "You Raise Me Up" and "The Rose"). Another great song by the lads.
Track 11 - "Sound of a Broken Heart" (5/5)
I wonder why Westlife include a song so similar to the theme of "How to Break a Heart", because this song is like an extended story of "How to Break a Heart" (same writers and all too!) Besides the coincidence, I really love this song! I can repeat how great Shane's and Mark's voices are like 1000x in one review, and it will still be not enough! Haha. Great lyrics and arrangement! "I still feel the pain, it still beats the same... Still feel the pain for you, still beats the same..."
Track 12 - "Reach Out" (5/5)
Not only can Mark sings, he can write songs too. This song has nice melody and again, Shane's and Mark's voice are impeccable. The song's theme is similar to "Save the Hero", but more upbeat and special since it is written by Mark. "Will you reach out...for Meeeeee????"
Track 13 - "I'll See You Again" (4.5/5)
People who don't know about what's going on in Westife's life will probably just dismiss this song as "boring", "slow", and "not up to par with other songs on this album". This song is dedicated to Kian's father and Nicky's father, who both passed away recently. It is really meaningful, sorrowful, and simply beautiful. A perfect song to end the album too, because Westlife will definitely see their fans again!
To conclude, this album does not stride far from their previous albums. But there are nontypical Westlife songs such as "Where We Are" and "The Difference", and also traditional ballads such as "As Love is My Witness" and "No More Heroes". The only negative thing is... Nicky and Kian are officially missing. I can hear Kian in certain bass-harmonizng part (such as in "What About Now"), but ...that's it. And Nicky, where is Nicky? We all know that Nicky and Kian can manage solo lines, but why are they not giving it to them? And where would Shane, Kian, and Nicky be onstage when Mark is performing "Talk Me Down"??? Songs such as Back Home's "I'm Already There" and Love Album's "Love Can Build a Bridge" is what's missing in this album... because those songs actually have all 4 members singing! And this album doesn't have any uptempo songs such as "The Easy Way" or "Hit You With the Real Thing", etc... But all in all, "Where We Are" deserves 5 stars!