From Shayne Ward’s Official Website
You’ve seen it all before and you know what to expect: out of nowhere, some kid scores a Number One single and album, travels the world selling million of records, then disappears off the face of the earth and returns having decided that for album number two it’s time to mature, to ‘grow up’, to leave behind those youthful follies and explore a Serious New Musical Direction. You could see it coming a million miles off with the new Shayne Ward album, right? Well, wrong. After the mature, adult balladeering of his debut this Manchester-born lad has decided that it’s actually time to act his age. “I’m 22,” he says, slumped comfortably in jeans, trainers and a hoodie. “Not 42.”
What do 22-year-old lads act like? Well, for one thing they listen to – and make – the sort of music on Shayne’s second album. It’s music for clubbing, dancing and drinking. “I’d rather give people a taste of my personality,” Shayne says, “instead of banging on about ‘my art’ or ‘my creation’. I listen to music for fun, so why wouldn’t I make it for the same reason?”
Recorded over the last twelve months in Sweden with legendary pop overlord Max Martin, the Brit-nominated singer’s new album – bursting with an energy few would have expected from his debut – is an unselfconscious and fruity collection of pop, R&B and electronica with world class production values taking influences from Shayne’s own iPod playlists – Prince, Ne-Yo, Justin. These are musical preferences already familiar to those who saw Shayne on his 2007 arena tour with its handful of well-chosen cover versions (‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’, ‘When Doves Cry’) nestling among Shayne’s own songs.
Comeback single ‘If That’s Okay With You’ is a funky, dancefloor-bound track about the end of one relationship and the first, tentative steps into another. “It’s a ‘would you like to move in with me, can I leave my toothbrush at your house’ kind of song,” Shayne laughs. “It’s a situation most of us have been in at some point – scary and exciting at the same time.” ‘If That’s Okay With You’ is the first glimpse of a second album destined to build on the phenomenal success of Shayne’s first. Debut single ‘That’s My Goal’ smashed the UK record for first day sales, debuting at Number One and selling more than 1.3 million copies, followed by the ‘Shayne Ward’ album which also shot straight to Number One and went platinum in a fortnight. Within six months Shayne was a waxwork in Madame Tussaud’s and bringing city centres to a standstill (his open air Manchester gig pulled in tens of thousands of fans) while the singles – ‘No Promises’, ‘Stand By Me’ – kept coming and tickets for his 18-date UK arena tour flew out of box offices across the country.
Though Shayne’s been absent from the UK charts for over a year – quite unusual in these days of whacking out an album every twelve months in the misguided belief that a high volume of shonky material will somehow maintain a fanbase – he has hardly been sitting around at home twiddling on his PlayStation. Travelling the globe he’s taken his music to Number One in Hong Kong, Sweden, Indonesia, Korea, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. In some countries his album went triple platinum, in others it charted higher than Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. He has, it is fair to say, done fairly well around the world. “It’s flattering to hit Number One in the UK,” Shayne says, but he adds that to hit it big in countries where he wasn’t ‘that bloke off the telly’, and where he stood or fell on the quality of his music, presents a very different sense of achievement. “Asia is one of those places where you have to put in the hard work to get something out,” he adds, “and I definitely did. I love the hard work and the support I got from all that was incredible. I started from scratch in different countries, and it was an amazing, very vindicating feeling when it worked out.”
As well as trotting those areas of the globe, Shayne spent a lot of time a little closer to home, in Sweden with Max Martin and his team of songwriters and producers. Max is the living pop legend whose talents propelled Britney, *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys to fame at the start of the decade then, with a reinvented guitar pop sound, worked magic on recent releases including Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’. Shayne says. “There’s a special feeling when he is in the room because you know something is going to be big. He’ll pop into the studio, make some suggestion which seems weird, then by the time he’s left the room the song has gone off in some amazing new direction.” Shayne adds that songs which make up this new album are not of the ‘pulled out of the tracks Britney rejected’ drawer variety favoured by so many of today’s tunesmiths; written either for or with Shayne the songs – like ‘You Hang Up’ and ‘You Make Me Wish’ – have an organic, bespoke feel which suits Shayne’s personality down to the ground. “These are all my songs,” Shayne beams, “and I needed to be proud of them because I’m going to be the one out there singing them! I can’t wait to show my fans what I’ve got up my sleeve.”
A stamp has been put on the imagery and the video for the first release from the album ‘If That’s Okay With You’. The line up of this superstar team only begins with Max Martin, As for the video, Syco recruited legendary director Wayne Isham who has brought songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, Ricky Martin and Bon Jovi to life with his innovative videography. For the creative Shayne has been photographed by Max Vadukul who has shot countless stars for the cover of Rolling Stone and Vogue as well as timeless campaigns for Armani and Express.
Back on an album otherwise surprisingly bereft of balladry there’s one song, ‘Breathless’, which completely hits the spot. “It really stands out as the best ballad I’ve ever done,” Shayne smiles, “but even then it doesn’t sound like you might expect. Just because a song’s down-tempo it doesn’t mean you can’t surprise people.” Think along the lines of ‘Umbrella’ or ‘Cry Me A River’ and you’ll pinpoint the kind of state-of-the-art ballads Shayne’s going for – ballads which don’t need gargantuan key changes or ‘standing up off the stool’ moments to get the job done. “As with a lot of the album I think you hear ‘Breathless’ and you hear something with a lot more depth – a lot more adventurousness – than I’ve had before,” Shayne says. “It’s been really important to get the sound of the songs, not just the tunes of those songs, just right.”
The album’s so well-realised that it’s easy to forget that just two years ago nobody knew Shayne Ward even existed. Having grown up with six brothers and sisters Shayne spent his teenage years performing at pubs, clubs, bars and weddings with two other singers. The money’s alright in that game, but it doesn’t do much for your self-esteem. Shayne was thinking bigger and, when his break on TV finally came, he was ready to go the whole way. Since winning X-Factor he’s grown up in the right ways but stayed exactly the same in all the right ways too – not an easy feat to pull off, but you’d be hard-pushed to find a guy with his feet so firmly on the ground as Shayne. One change you will notice this time around, however, is that he’s hung up his suit and the old image.
Behind the determination to succeed and a thirst for making great pop music, Shayne has a refreshingly laid back approach to his career. Eye-wateringly autobiographical lyrics about ‘my struggle’? “These things can come, I’m just enjoying myself for now.” Popstar strops re being ‘an artist’? “Fourth album, hopefully never.” Away from sloppy romance, Shayne’s stepping everything up a gear. “This is not a love album at all,” he states. “It’s about me being the lad that I am. I’m having fun, I’m showing my emotional side, I’m showing my sexy side and I’m unleashing the beast. With each album I’m going to make it the best that I can – every album is going to be different and better than the last. I want to see myself in the premiere league of British pop acts, and I’m enjoying working my arse off to get there.”