Risk-averse pop saved by some old-school hits
Fearghal Conroy
12:00 27th July 2020

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With a successful 25 year career with Boyzone, and an equally successful solo career selling over 20 million records, Ronan Keating is back to celebrate his twenty year solo career with his aptly named 11th studio album Twenty Twenty.

The album is full of the usual pop tropes with run of the mill love ballad 'Forever Ain’t Enough' kicking things off. “Head on my pillow, tracing your dimples, life is so simple with you”. It’s got it all: the sweet endearing lyrics, the simple guitar pluck and drum pattern and the final uplifting crescendo finish to top it off. 'Little Thing Called Love' is a far more upbeat number with blatant folk-pop hallmarks thrown in - a solitary ‘Hey!’ in the chorus proves the Lumineers' legacy lives on! It’s the safe start to an album that won’t stray too far from a classic pop formula. But who are we kidding: was anyone expecting anything different? 

It’s not even halfway through the album before we get to what Ronan does best. Long has he struck fear into the hearts of many uncomfortable bridegrooms as the stalwart supplier of the traditional first dance, and on this album, that responsibility is given to the track 'One Of A Kind'. But how does Ronan go bigger than all his other ballads you may ask? Enter Emeli Sandé. Similar to the superficial yearly attempts by performers to perfect the Christmas song, this track feels shallow in its desire to capture some sense of noteworthy character. It’s littered with the usual ‘wedding song’ trimmings- the chiming bells, a booming choir and drab forgetful lyrics that could easily slot within the rest of the songs on the album.

Moving down the chart pop checklist, its time for the country box to be ticked off with Keating joining country legend Shania Twain on the sickly sweet cover of 'Forever and Ever, Amen'. Followed by toe-tapping ditty ‘Love Will Remain' alongside Nashville star Clare Bowen; there aren’t many risks being taken with this album.

'The Big Goodbye' featuring Robbie Williams is a touching dedication to Keating’s bandmate Stephan Gately who sadly passed away in 2009. What has so far been an album devoid of character and heart is made up for in this simple yet heart-warming devotion to a personal tragic loss. It's let down a little by misjudged vocals from Robbie Williams, but that shouldn't overshadow what is the best original song on the album. 

The latter half of the album sees a return to three of Ronan Keating’s classic singles from his solo career. The fun and sunny 'Lovin' Each Day', Keating’s smash hit ballad 'When You Say Nothing At All' of Notting Hill fame (eaturing Ed Sheeran on guitar) and a disco rework of the classic pop hit 'Life Is A Rollercoaster'.

This album is a celebration of a twenty year solo career, so it’s no wonder Keating has decided to chuck in reworks of the songs that allowed him to be where he is today. Ronan’s greatest hits crank up the personality and charm with the nostalgia factor playing heavy in the latter half of the album. Like Keating cheering “come on let’s go!” in the opening bars of Twenty Twenty, so the old school bangers track this album's ascent. It's almost as if he knows that these throwbacks are the best the album is going to get. 

Twenty Twenty is out now.

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Photo: Press