IT was a close shave, but with a swerve of my thumb I've narrowly avoided bringing Ronan Keating's album sales up to 182 this week.
Poor Ronan. Six years since original solo material and out comes 'Fires' and so far it's not really doing what's expected of it, the naughty thing. Because come on folks, he's trying.
A quick taster flick through the songs shows just how hard. The first few songs aren't too bad – he's toned down that deep-throat thing that he used to do – you know the one – like Anastacia and her out of M People, where if you do the impersonation for too long you gag. He's followed the instructions - produced ballady, sway-alongs, so far so good. And then he manages to copy, sorry, be inspired by both U2 and Gary Barlow in the space of about three notes on one, then there's another one which was going really well until the rapping started.
One of his proud claims is that “I've been working with the guys behind Life Is A Rollercoaster again”, he says. And boy do we know it. There's so much of Gregg Alexander's one song-wot-he-wrote-ever in this album that it can only be where he's putting his horcruxes. At least five of the songs are just Rollercoaster rearranged slightly. By the end, he's not even bothering to change the lyrics, just the speed.
To be fair, I'm not a fan – in fact, it was only Keating's terrible sales figures that made me curious enough to have a listen. The album's actually not all that bad - if that's your bag. In fact, if a lot of this stuff was recorded by Boyzone, then fans might even like it.
So what is it about Ronan Keating? Why do people go on the internet and claim that he doesn't deserve his success – which is immense, by the way. He's accumulated vast wealth from mega-millions of album sales both with Boyzone and as a solo artist. Not enough? Then how about being the only artist ever to have 30 consecutive top 10 singles in the UK chart, (beating Elvis Presley) and a multi-award winner, including the Ivor Novello.
He's raised millions for cancer, representing the charity he set up – walking, running, swimming, creating perfumes and climbing mountains. He's been a successful TV presenter, tried acting, represented Ireland in track and field as a young fellah and even won Rear of the Year. You don't get that from sitting on your arse all day at your keyboard, calling people 'talentless cretins'.
So why do people mock him? Make fun of his voish, sorry, voice, and call him nasty names?
It's time to draw the inevitable Barlow comparison. Gary's also won Ivor Novellos, climbed Kilimanjaro, is a charity God, successfully fronted boyband, tried a little acting (well, 'Heartbeat') and also won Rear of the Year and he's untouchable. Even cool people like him, whereas the general response to poor old Ronan varies between venomous hatred; 'sure didn't he do well for himself?' and 'Who? Oh yeah – what's he been up to?'.
Well, some backing dancer, unfortunately. Something else he and Barlow have in common. Except Barlow has remained married to his and Ronan's had a very messy, painful and public marriage breakup.
So is that why we're not buying the album? Because he's not the messiah and has been a very naughty boy? Or is it because he hasn't included material about the split on his album? Because he's not getting divorced through the medium of song? Why hasn't he applied Adele-o-nomics?
There's any number of reasons why sales are a bit slow – for starters, it;s not hard to spot that it's been meticulously and formulaically plotted and planned for success – revisit the songwriter of your biggest hit – check; copy other successful artists – check; rapper for the kids – check; ballad-tasticness for the fans – check. Keating says that the album is a return to pure pop but unfortunately for him, that particular creche at the moment is full to capacity with the Murses, the One Directions, the Perrys – and Old Man Keating could never defeat the might of the Bieber.
The music is one thing but really, what has Ronan Keating ever done to us? Is it simply because, no matter what he does, in Boyzone's own words – no matter how many reinventions he goes through, no matter how many of his songs we sing along to, no matter how naughty he is, or contrite for that matter, that somehow we can't forgive him for being perceived as, well, bland?
His voice can't out-booble the Buble, his look lacks that 'phwoar' that Barlow's managed to pull off by staying off the pies but he hasn't called round and mugged our grannies, or set off bangers under the cat, has he? Even the greats can produce duff albums – but, personal blips aside – and they're not really anyone's business – Keating's actually not doing too badly at the longer race. And I doubt he's going to disappear anywhere any time soon. Never thought I'd say this but 'reshpect'.