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It's 2003 and the band known as S Club 7 [then S Club] have officially split. The group had dominated the charts since 1999 scoring an array of chart topping singles and albums and spawning a successful TV series and feature length movie.
Many people believed the band's big lunged, lead singer Jo O'meara would go on to have the most successful solo career of the group though she remained fairly quiet instead letting bandmate Rachel Stevens cause a stir with her catchy blend of pop and dance.
Finally in Autumn 2005 Jo releases her long awaited solo album 'Relentless' and whilst most artists are expected to evolve over the course of their career it seems as if Jo hasn't really moved away from the safe sanctuary created for her back in S Club.
And that's it really. 'Relentless' is just an S Club 7 album but without any of the trademark catchy pop and harmonies from the other six that made the group so huge. What replaces them are replicas of 'Never Had A Dream Come True' and 'Have You Ever' two of trhe group's biggest ballads alongside a few attempts to sound a bit like KT Tunstall. The fact the album cover comes complete with 'The debut solo album from the unmistakeable voice of S Club 7' doesn't really help matters.
Title track 'Relentless' and single 'What Hurts The Most' kick off the record and from then on it all starts to go downhill.
Starting with 'Relentless' Jo captures her emotions perfectly and that's the recurring theme here. There's big vocal after big vocal. There's no denying there's a heck of a lot of talent here but after 14 tracks worth it starts to grate.
'What Hurts The Most' has probably the most poppiest feel to it. A track originally recorded by Irish girlgroup Bellefire but has since been covered from everyone to Rascall Flatts and Cascada.
'Wish I Was Over You' is an upbeat, swing influenced track with a catchy beat and a bit more of an uptempo feel to it whilst 'Let's Love;' has a soaring chorus that sounds like a bad Ronan Keating song but actually becomes one of the standout tracks on the CD.
Despite these attempts to create something more lively 'love' is the key theme throughout and eventually the big ballads reign supreme.
The lyrics are also nice to listen to but if you're the type of person that needs something to tap your feet to then this definately isn't the CD for you. Some of the slower songers however are nice to listren to and argueably strong pop songs such as 'You Didn't Know' which has a nice, simple theme but a beautiful melody and yet again a stunning vocal.
For me final track 'Rainbow's End' couldn't come quickly enough but I rather enjoyed this one. I could go into detail with every track but would end up saying the same things about every one.
I realise I have been very harsh here but it is a very bland album and I rarely regret buying a CD. Whilst one or two tracks stand out it's not really a step forward in any direction
and not an album that is going to have that much appeal to many people and there's really not enough here to warrant another album.
The name Jo OMeara may well ring a couple of bells in a few heads and quite rightly so, she first found fame back in 1999 with S Club 7 and their first hit Bring It All Back. Although the group was arguably a seven piece band Jo OMeara easily made up half the band when it came to singing, having the most powerful voice of the entire group. With her previous group she received several Brit awards including Best Newcomers, Best Single and Record of the Year also. At the older age now of 26 shes finally made the move to go solo, as have several of her other band members, and one must wonder whether the sheer strength and vitality of her voice can make her a success.
Her first album Relentless was released back in October 2005 and followed the release of her first single What Hurts the Most in September 2005. The album does consist of typical pop music, it feels quite reminiscent of some of the slower S Club 7 ballads although it does have a slightly more mature sound. In a sense we can see that since 1999 and the cheesy pop S Club 7 produced Jo has certainly changed her direction in music. Rather than producing an album full of cringe worthy, slightly too upbeat lyrics she instead has created a more developed, grown up and refined album. The album features 14 tracks in total and each is worthy of a mention.
The first track is the title track for the album, Relentless. Its a smooth ballad, with some heart rendering lyrics thrown in for good measure. The opening is very mellow, allowing her voice to shine through with its slightly sexy rasping sound before moving into an angelic sounding chorus with very soft lyrics. Throughout the album she has the ability to go from quiet and soft singing to huge crescendos within a matter of seconds which really adds life and emotion to the album. This song is typically about how she cant stop loving someone and the pain she feels is too much, I cant stop these feelings, tearing me to pieces, hiding everything away, but cant you see my face, my tears are relentless. Its a great song to start the album off on as her voice shines through and the song is arguably quite catchy despite being a low key ballad. The second track follows on with the same sort of mood from the previous song, What Hurts the Most is a brilliant, emotive ballad. The song starts off fairly softly again before a huge crescendo towards the chorus which adds such an energised feel to the track. The essence of the meaning of the first track is in a sense, echoed within this one as its about the end of a relationship and having to watch someone walk away, Its hard to deal with the pain of loosing you everywhere I go, but Im doing it, its hard to force that smile when I see our old friends and Im alone, still harder, getting up getting dressed dealing with this regret.
Next up is Wish I Was Over You which has a quirky, 60s feel to it almost and is much more upbeat than the previous two tracks. Its much more reminiscent of some of the S Club 7 tracks that were optimistic, upbeat and a little too full of life. All in all its not a bad track despite the incessant beat throughout and the quirky du du du lyrics at the end of each of the chorus which give a cheap disco feel to it. The title of the track is pretty self explanatory and it is refreshing to have an upbeat track on this topic rather than the somewhat monotone ballads that are often produced, Safe in my madness, look at me Im dressed up messed up, and totally crumbling at the thought of seeing you here. However I do always end up singing along to this one when Im in my car so it cant be that bad! To Ease Your Pain is next up and returns us to the slower ballads that opened the album and I have to say I was relieved. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album, its alluring in a non-sexy way and is sung wonderfully I did think of Charlotte Church and some of her ballads when I first heard this. The song is about how she wants to help someone who is struggling with life at the moment, Cant move on if youre stuck in the past, and now its time for you to let it go, but if you want to make love that will last oh baby, you know I need you to tell me so.
The fifth song on the album is You Didnt Know and again is quite a sombre ballad but if Im honest it does sort of blend in to the previous track. Its a sensitive and quite touching song lyrics wise but the whole mood is rather downbeat and the pace just a little too slow. At nearly 5 minutes long it does take a while to get through and doesnt really get any better than the opening Oh baby how can I make it up to you now, cos I feel its not too late to show I love you, so I guess you didnt know cos I didnt say. The general meaning behind the track is quite poignant though, how someone may not know you love them if you dont tell them a word of encouragement for us all there! This is followed by yet another ballad Never Felt Like This but its actually one of my favourite tracks on the album. Its sweetly sung and full of emotion and its actually a hit in my books, one of those ballads about love that will I will never tire of listening to, Oh what can I do, never felt like this with anyone before, I just want to jump right in, I cant stop no no, someones touched my heart, and I dont feel like Im drifting anymore. Next up is Lets Love, the first proper upbeat track on the album and is certainly similar to some of S Club 7s material including Reach and Natural. Its much more teen pop as well with simple lyrics and just a simple feel to it overall. Im still not sure if this is a hit in my mind though, Baby I was so wrong, I ask for your forgiveness, weak when I should be strong, now give me a chance to prove this. Baby Im A Fool returns to the ballads field but it does sound different to previous tracks. The backing music has a distinct jazz feel to it while her voice has a certain hollowness to it and leads to a welcome upbeat chorus in my opinion. Its basically about how shes messed up a relationship and now her man has left her, Things I promised, birthdays I missed, so many wasted opportunities, times that you try, crying inside, to open up the door and get through to me.
The next few tracks on the album all sort of merge into one another in my opinion, theyre all ballads about love that start off quietly and then crescendo towards the middle, get the picture? Track 9 is I Believe In You which is followed by the honestly sung Never Meant To Break Your Heart and then Its Your Love. Theyre all remarkably similar in beat, tone and lyrical meaning also yet they do have some quite emotive ideas, Cos I believe in you, Ill take you through your darkest hour, I have been there too but you pulled me through, Ill do the same for you. Track 12 brings about a change in mood and we find the optimistic and upbeat It Felt Like Love which is surprisingly similar to any upbeat S Club 7 song you can even picture the dance routine as you listen! But you know what, I really like it! Its cheerful and you wont be able to resist humming along to it, I know its wrong Im quite aware but youre talking straight to my heart, I know that life can be unfair and its tearing my world apart, but baby you can call me anytime you want you know Ill be waiting for you. The penultimate track is Thats Where I Belong, another slightly wishy washy ballad which will suit you down to the ground if, like me, you enjoy your soft ballads. Finally we reach the end of the album with Rainbows End which is quite a hypnotic sounding track that rounds the album off nicely.
So what do I think then?
I personally really like this album, despite it being slightly overloaded with ballads, she does manage to pull it off and create some truly emotive tracks. I find I have to be in the right, mellow mood to listen to this album track to track and find is immensely easy to listen to and relaxing also. If you liked the sound of her voice in S Club 7 and are fans of similar sounds to Delta Goodrem, Charlotte Church and Natalie Imbruglia then this is one you should try. The outer cover of the CD suggests she has matured since her S Club 7 days and this is certainly shown within her music. The album, on the whole, is professional and slick and in my opinion, a far better debut album than her other previous band mates. Her voice has a sexy element to it and is constant throughout; that she can sing is beyond any doubt!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 What Hurts The Most
3 Wish I Was Over You
4 To Ease Your Pain
5 You Didn't Know
6 Never Felt Like This
7 Let's Love
8 Baby I'm A Fool
9 I Believe In You
10 Never Meant To Break Your Heart
11 It's Your Love
12 It Felt Like Love
13 That's Where I'll Belong
14 Rainbows End