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Ronan Keating re-embraces his “inner popstar” on “Fires”

20 October 2012 24 Comments
This blog belongs to Radio Creme Brulee – an internet music radio station that broadcasts globally.

Ronan Keating, Irish pop star and former lead singer of the hit-making boyband Boyzone, has been no stranger to personal loss in the last few years. It is no secret that for artists, tragedy has the potential to act as a catalyst for creativity. Some artists leverage this creativity by exploring the emotions and stories that are intrinsically tied to their personal tragedy. Others pursue an avenue of creativity that purges from them the feelings of negativity surrounding their tragedy. A single listen of the new Ronan Keating album “Fires” makes it fairly obvious that he has opted for the latter approach -and fortunately for him and his fans, it truly works.

Before diving into the details of the new album “Fires”, it is worth revisiting Ronan’s artistic trajectory from his beginnings as primary vocalist of Boyzone up until now. Boyzone ushered in a second wave of boybands in the mid-90s in Europe. They were rising to prominence just as the world’s biggest boyband Take That was getting ready to wind up with Chapter 1 of their career. The Boyzone catalog was largely “lightweight” boyband fare  and featured a fair share of cover versions. Enjoyable but by no means groundbreaking. That being said, their occasional moments of brilliance radiated through on songs such as “All That I Need” and “Picture Of You” wherein the latter song is the truly noteworthy one. Despite the largely disposable nature of Boyzone’s music, the one aspect that lingered in the heads of musical listeners was the powerful and distinct vocals of Ronan Keating. Whether or not people liked Boyzone or their music, Ronan’s superior vocal ability was an undebatable fact. It was fairly obvious that he was the singer poised for the greatest level of success amongst the five of them.

The predictions for Ronan’s success proved to be true on his eponymous album “Ronan”. Ronan ditched the Boyzone formula and instead hooked up with New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander to put together an album featuring a fair share of infectious up-tempo radio-ready pop songs such as “Lovin’ Each Day” and “Life is Rollercoaster”. On the down-tempo side of the musical spectrum, Ronan Keating’s cover of “When you say nothing at all” (originally performed by American country artist Keith Whitley) eclipsed older renditions on every dimension and cemented Ronan Keating’s position as a bonafide popstar worldwide (except the US and Canada). Ronan had officially passed the “commercial test” of his ability to shed his musical past with Boyzone and go solo. Instead of riding this wave, Ronan Keating started to steer away from the mainstream pop formula and started to reposition himself as a balladeer – and this led to multiple albums of primarily middle-of-the-road ballads. Rather unsurprisingly, this marked the beginning of his commercial decline. Reviving Boyzone in the midst of the reunion bandwagon of the mid-2000s was a great damage control measure that yielded the beautiful single “Gave it all away”. Sadly, Boyzone band-member Stephen Gately’s untimely demise right before the release of their first new studio album (since their reunion) “Brother” brought this new momentum to a grinding halt. Since then, Ronan has continued with downtempo music projects that were not aimed at commercial success. Hence, Ronan did not leave much in terms of excitement or anticipation for his new album “Fires”.

Fortunately, Ronan has halted the MOR ballad overdose and has re-embraced his “pop” roots on “Fires”. This might not be very obvious with the album’s title track and opening track “Fires”. “Fires” is characterized by a distinctly adult alternative sound and while it marks a welcome departure from the material on Ronan’s previous three albums, it pales in comparison to the brilliance that follows. The album’s first truly brilliant moments are on “Nineteen again” – a song characterized by the New Radicals-esque guitar-driven sound layered with piano (courtesy of songwriter and producer Gregg Alexander) and Ronan’s vocals. If the ideas of “30s being the new 20s” or “30s being the new age of youth”  needed an anthem, “Nineteen Again” fits that need very well.

So who’s to say that you’re over the hill

At 25, just starting the thrill”

And the gang we’re an all night show,

The fun begins when you just let go

The bits where Ronan sings “Don’t slow down baby” are bound to be stuck in the heads of music listeners for a while. This song can be best described as the sonic twin of the amazing “Life is a rollercoaster” (a huge hit for Ronan off his debut solo album) despite being more uptempo. It is a shame that Ronan has expressed his reservations about releasing this song as a single  – especially since it has the word “hit” written all over it.

The album’s second set of brilliant moments are on the beautiful ballad “Wasted Light”. On “Wasted Light”, Ronan sings from the perspective of a man reminiscing about a love that took the form of a journey. This man pines with a hint of optimism for the return of that loved one. The track opens with a sparse acoustic guitar arrangement and a light mid-tempo percussion that one can easily snap his or her fingers to. It incorporates more sonic layers as the verses progress  serving as a gradual build-up for the achingly beautiful chorus:

It’s a long way down

when you’re far from the ground

And I’ve been falling most of my life

And though the sun shines on

Even after you’re gone

I feel sorry for the wasted light….”

The song paints quite a picture and despite its lyrics, has an uplifting feel with a flavor that is reminiscent of Ronan’s debut single “When you say nothing at all”.

The third truly brilliant moment on the album is one of the deluxe edition tracks. The song is called “Will you ever be mine”. The song can best be described as being the musical mid-point between hits like “Lovin’ Each Day” and “Life Is a Rollercoaster” with songwriter/producer Gregg Alexander’s stamp all over it.

Besides, the three highlights, there is much to appreciate on the album – for both die-hard fans and casual listeners. Ronan indulges the uptempo side of himself on “Oxygen” – and that is bound to please die-hard fans. He also includes his fair share of pleasant (thought not particularly memorable) down-tempo tracks such as “Easy now my dear”, “Love You And Leave You” and “The One You Love”.  Ronan might have hit a vocal zenith on “I’ve Got You”. The album’s only misguided attempts at sounding “contemporary” manifest themselves a little on “NYC Girl” and “Lullaby” (which features an out-of-place rap verse by Kizmusic). Given the rest of the material on this album, Ronan deserves to be forgiven for this oversight.

In a nutshell, Ronan has gone full circle back to a formula that made his debut album a global success. “Fires” encompasses the key musical ingredients of a great pop album with at least five radio-worthy tracks. In an age wherein artists do not even aspire to create great albums or albums with immense “singles potential”, Ronan has most definitely accomplished something substantial on “Fires”. He also serves as yet another reminder of what American music listeners are missing out on because of US terrestrial radio programming’s relative insulation from the musically and creatively more exciting side of the Atlantic. With the internet being a more pervasive avenue of music discovery today than it was back in 2001, hopefully “Fires” will not be the relative “secret” that “Ronan” was back in 2001 and gets the states-side recognition that it rightfully deserves. The album is a welcome return to form for Ronan and hopefully this is a sneak preview of greater material to follow.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

RADIO ALERT: We might be one of the few American radio stations that plays Ronan Keating’s music fairly regularly. Currently, “Nineteen Again” by Ronan Keating is getting 5 plays a day on our station while “Fires” by Ronan Keating is getting 2-3 plays a day. IF you are reading this on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.), CLICK HERE to listen to our radio station.  If not, listen to our station from ANY part of the world by clicking on the button below.


24 Responses to "Ronan Keating re-embraces his “inner popstar” on “Fires”"

  1. First of all, thanks so much for playing Ronan’s music in the US, he’s got quite a few fans over there who will be appreciating it 🙂
    And secondly, thank you for being so positive about ‘Fires’ and Ronan’s vocal abilities!! We absolutely love his new album, it’s without a doubt Ronan’s best one so far!! It’ just great to have him back at his best:) He’s worked really hard and deserves so much to be sucessful with ‘Fires’!!!

  2. Kathryn H says:

    I’m glad you guys are playing this wonderful artists new Album”fires”. Ronan Keating deserves to go to No 1 with this. I think it’s brilliant too thank you for recognizing this , god bless xx

  3. poppy says:

    great Album deserves to be heard all over America,one of the best Vocalists there is.

  4. Lynne Munson says:

    Thanks for this great review! I LOVE this album. It’s first time I have loved every song on an album and wouldn’t skip even one as I play it. I am so thrilled for him to come back with this great collection of songs. Delighted you are playing Nineteen Again, and hope you will also play Wasted Light. So glad the listeners in America are getting to hear him~

  5. Ronan Keating Fans in the US and Canada says:

    Great album, great review, thanks so much!! Hope Americans are listening out there!

  6. @ronankeatingfans.de: Ronan definitely has some cracking tunes on this album doesn’t he? I have to confess that I was not holding my breath for this new album but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the songs were. Immense potential for radio too.

    @Kathryn: Thank you so much for the comment. We plan on featuring at least two more singles off “Fires” for high-rotation airplay. Please VOTE for the Ronan tracks when you hear them on our station.

    @poppy: I absolutely agree. America is missing out on this great artist/vocalist. I hope the exposure on our radio station for Ronan Keating is the beginning of more to come on other media avenues here in the US.

    @Lynne Munson: I am so glad to know you enjoyed our review. “Nineteen Again” is one hell of a tune isn’t it? It has you hooked in less than 5 seconds. We definitely plan on featuring “Wasted Light” Rumors indicate that Ronan will release it as the next single so we wanted to time things with the single’s radio release. But yes, “Wasted Light” will become a staple on our station pretty soon – definitely before the end of the year.

  7. @Ronan Keating Fans in the US and Canada: Thank you so much for the comment. We too hope Americans are listening!

  8. Denise says:

    This album is great. Bottom line. Ronan has become such a strong vocalist. He has always had a beautiful voice but with this album, he really shows what a great singer he really is. His voice is strong and controlled and just beautiful. I am a huge fan of “Wasted Light”, “Fires”, and so many more on this album. You have it spot on when you say that “Will you ever be mine” has hit written all over it. One of the best on the album and truly infectious! I wish traditional US stations would play his music. I really believe there is a market for him here.

    Thank you for playing the album!

  9. @Denise: Thank you very much for your comment. “Wasted Light” is absolutely beautiful. There definitely is a market for Ronan Keating in the US. As a child of the “terrestrial radio and MTV generation”, I feel sad to say that there is no system in place for traditional radio to feature a lot of music from overseas. With the internet, we have music discovery at our fingertips. Yet, the folks at traditional radio resort to “pay for play” (which is illegal) approaches to featuring artists on the radio. Furthermore, the playlists are also put together based on poorly conducted “market research”. Market research works for everything BESIDES art. Furthermore, DJs don’t program playlists anymore for ANY corporate-owned traditional radio station (and that is roughly 80% of the US radio stations). The folks that “get” the music are not the ones making decisions about what music to feature. I lost faith in traditional radio 10 years ago and tuned out for good. Launching Radio Creme Brulee was one way of making things right and given by our rapidly growing listener based both in the US and overseas, we think we might be doing something right. We follow a “singles-oriented” approach to radio programming. We just added “Nineteen again” to our high-rotation playlist. We will hopefully add “Wasted Light” to our high-rotation playlist right after Thanksgiving.

  10. Christine Ennion says:

    I am a UK fan, but will be listening to your radio station on my iphone if you are playing tracks from Ronan’s awesome Fires album. His vocals get better with each year, and he is so versatile. “Nineteen again” is an amazing track going back to his “Rollercoaster” roots. “wasted Light” is beautiful and is amazing live. Thanks so much for playing his music in the US.

  11. Denise says:

    Thank you for the insight. I have stopped listening to traditional radio as well since, as you said, it is predetermined music. Not like what I experienced growing up Where the DJ could play what moved her/him. I will be tuning in to your station!! Thank you for promoting Ronan.

  12. @Christine: Thanks so much for the commment. We follow a “singles-oriented” approach to radio airplay. Hence, we like to stagger the addition of tracks off an album and spread that out over a while. We added “Fires” in early September. We reduced the number of plays of the song this weekend but we added “Nineteen Again” to the “5 plays a day” pool of our playlist. As we start to do a “phase out” of “Nineteen Again”, we will add “Wasted Light”. We stagger addition of songs to minimize “artist fatigue” for our listeners. We really hope you enjoy our broadcast. We never thought we had much to offer UK listeners when we first launched but judging by the number of UK listeners we have now, we might have been wrong about that initial assertion of ours. Thank you once again for the comment.

  13. @Denise: We’ve been aware of Ronan Keating’s work for ages and we’ve always admired him as a vocalist so we didn’t need much convincing to play his material. The new album is definitely a surprise we weren’t quite prepared for. So glad to know you will be tuning into our station. Please feel free to send your recommendations/suggestions/criticism of the station. We take those fairly seriously and try hard to factor in our listeners’ input to reshape the listening experience on Radio Creme Brulee.

  14. Samantha Kinloch says:

    I absolutely agree, it is Ronan’s best album by far, I listen to it all the time, in the car and at home. My favourite is definitely “Wasted Light”. Go Ro!!

  15. @Samantha: If “Wasted Light” is given the promotion it deserves, it will definitely go down as a modern classic!

  16. Marisa Clarke says:

    You seem to have a winning formula for this radio station 🙂 Great that Ronan Keating US and Canadian fans are getting airplay for their pop idol!! Wasted Light is my favourite on the Fires Album, and Ronan’s next single release in the UK 🙂 Will be tuning in on mobile device and PC from UK!!

  17. @Marissa: Thank you so much for the comment. I really hope we have a winning formula for the station. It is one question that keeps us up at night. We’re constantly second-guessing ourselves. We’re definitely going to add “Wasted Light” to our high-rotation playlist. We just wanted to wait to synchronize it with Ronan Keating’s label’s promotion efforts for the track. Feel free to tune in and be as critical as you’d like to be in your feedback for our station!

  18. Duchess says:

    Ronan Keating has returned to his roots and his new album Fires is absolutely great listening..Hopefully more people here in the USA will discover this truly “catchie” album and perhaps take a look at all his other works!!

  19. Duchess says:

    Also, would like to thank you for this great station!!! There should be more like it, but I am truly grateful for this one!!

  20. @Duchess: Ronan truly has returned to his pop roots. Hopefully, we see another career peak high for him with this album. I am so glad you enjoy our radio station. You can listen to us from any part of the world. Most importantly, please VOTE for the songs you like via our online radio player.

  21. poppy says:

    great this Album is still getting your airplay,I have friends in the USA who have your station now on -line,and are Ronan fans,know they would like this to have wide appeal,and they would hope he can tour the USA with this,keep up the good work,as a live Artist,he is excellent and all live on stage,great shows always,touring the UK in the New Year,so hope you get him there as well,put the word out.

  22. @poppy: We’re taking a “singles” approach to this album – even if some of these songs are not released as official singles. We added “Nineteen Again” to our high-rotation playlist since we knew it would be a while before the next single “Wasted Light” gets released officially. Feel free to listen to our broadcast. You can listen from anywhere in the world on your PC, laptop, or mobile device. Thanks so much for your comment!

  23. Krissi says:

    Ronan Keating is an amazing singer and Songwriter.
    Greetings from Germany 🙂

  24. @Krissi: Thanks so much. Ronan Keating is definitely one of the best male vocalists around today.

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