C/T REVIEW: Union J, ‘Union J’

Albums / Words

28 Oct 13

Image © Patrick Balls Photography

The pen that en-captures talent show participants from the past is rarely scaled. Its’ rigid confines defeat artists who bark ‘THIS ISN’T THE END!’ at Dermot O’Leary on Sundays as yearly outputs of Groups, Over 25s, Boys and Girls sink into roles playing the ghosts of pop’s past.

Union J managed to evade the Village Fate tour. To their fans, they are another One Direction – mod-pop purveyors with real personalities – who lived up to expectations with ‘Carry You’ this year, a high-production return to the scene which laid the ground work for what is actually a rather splendid debut album.

It’s tricky to decipher just how much these lads – and Sony – want to forget the X Factor. On the surface, this whole ‘Union J’-album experience is a power-pop success formula which presents an authentic group worthy of merit. There’s a lot to choose from, as tracks range from 80s-tinged disco scamps to 90s balladry and naughties Calvin Harris-style dance. This is true, until the final two closers throw a Saturday night! vibe into the mix and return to TV show formula: a cover of Demi Lovato’s ‘Skyscraper’ is cheese on toast, and the smooshy ‘Amaze Me’ borrows from the Backstreet Boys.

Not to worry, though, these squeezes from the past are light on the tongue. Somehow, they make even the sickliest Demi Lovato track sound rather honest, and as for ‘Amaze Me’ – it’s a naughties try at 90s sick-in-my-mouth pop as well as being the ‘Little Things’ of the album, if they’re still to be compared to One Direction – and I don’t think they’re likely to mind. Still, neither tracks hinder the prior eight tightly-wound pop tracks. They’re quick on the uptake, hugely fun and grown up, too: just count the naughty words/bleeps for proof.

As for the bulk of this, ‘Loving You Is Easy’ is the killer dance track with a big heart – others with single potential are ‘Where Are You Now’ and the charming, cheeky and cheekily smug ‘Save The Last Dance’. These are the climax moments of the albums love for big workable dance drops.

This is club music for certain, but that said, everything on here could plausibly be heard in the playground, or at Fresher’s Fayre, and go down a treat.

And such is the mahoosive span of Union J’s debut. This is grown up pop. It’s range and sonic diversity will appeal to mums, sons and daughters – yet lying low, beneath some of the cutesy lyrical detailing and at its’ heart, this is a plush, piano-rinsed record with more tonal depth than the average tween would need.

That said, there’s plenty of boyband moments to cater for girly self-affirmation aside the loftier club beats. In second single ‘Beautiful Life’, for instance, the quintet go on about some make-up, big blue eyes and how it’s easy not to realize inner-beauty (sound familiar 1D?), but most of ‘Union J’ is about saving dances for each other, and then, subsequently, going home with one another:

‘This bassline controlling, the way that you’re moving/ You’re getting all your drinks – for free – but you’ll be coming home with me’

The best is that this is defiantly Union J, an X Factor band without Harry Styles in it that have, too, found their direction.

Union J's second single 'Beautiful Life' charted in the top ten this week, check out the video below

<object width="853" height="480"><param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/mE3v4Bv8NaY?version=3&amp;hl=en_GB"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/mE3v4Bv8NaY?version=3&amp;hl=en_GB" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="853" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>