Monday, 12 April 2010

2003 Westlife: Mandy

Westlife's Xth number one (I forget which, but there's been so many I think it should be written as Roman numerals regardless), 'Mandy' is a cover version of Barry Manilow's 1975 signature tune. And yes, before you start, I'm well aware that this itself was a cover of Scott English's 1971 song 'Brandy' (Manilow changed the name to avoid confusion with Looking Glass's 'Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)'), but while English has a voice that, if not exactly soulful, has chewy quirk enough to provide traction enough to make the song memorable (albeit not the most famous version), Manilow smoothes out the template with added piano and string arrangement to transform it into a show stopping ballad with all the roughness of a bag of marshmallows.

By keeping the change of name and arrangement, Westlife faithfully recreate Manilow's version by rote, but in then applying a mugging sincerity that possesses none of the personality of Manilow's interpretation, Westlife reduces the sentiment to the regurgitated platitudes of a bland, Mills & Boon tearjerker. In their hands 'Mandy' is the risk free and passionless equivalent of a shot at an open goal; for all its gloss and swish, this 'Mandy' tries no harder than it needs to, and all it needs to do is let the "And you kissed me and stopped me from shaking. And I need you today, oh Mandy" lyric do all the work. It might cut across generations in a way that fellow boybanders Busted don't, but it's tasteless gruel that makes for both a thankless listen and an incredibly dull number one.

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