Ronan Keating's been through a lot the past six years since he last released an album containing original material Bring You Home. After reuniting with his band Boyzone, his bandmate and friend Stephen Gately passed away in 2009; following which, his 13-year marriage fell apart in 2011.
So it only makes sense that this ninth studio album would be Keating's way of coping with and expressing the intensity of emotions, from anger, hurt, regret, love, loss etc. I for one cannot fathom how difficult those events must have been to deal with, but through his latest album Fires, one can experience those emotions indirectly, although that depth I was expecting from the album doesn't really seem to come through.
Kicking things off with title track Fires, the Dublin-born singer certainly knows his target audience, who have grown up with him from his boyband days till today. A balanced mixture of boyband charm and positive messaging, Fires is exceptionally easy to listen to, and makes Keating all the more endearing, to fans and non-fans alike. If you like The Script's hit singles, this track has a similar feel with banging drums and piano chord progressions.
Next, Keating takes us back into the pre-millennium with songs like Nineteen Again and NYC Girl, that easily capture the 90s' boyband groove that got many a fangirl squealing back then. Ah, good times. Again, with the infectious choruses that will have you humming the tune after a few listens, it's radio-friendly and almost seem like fan service.
A surprising number was Wasted Light, which I think could be one of my favorites off the album. It's probably one of the songs that comes closest to a connection with Keating himself, as he croons about a lost love and it definitely has a Celtic feel to the melody and beats. "And though the sun shines on even after you're gone, I feel sorry for the wasted light", could be referenced to his breakdown of his 11-year relationship/marriage.
Although the album's set of songs have over-metaphorical lyrics like "I'll be lighting fires, fires for you", "You make me feel like we're dancing in bed and the night never ends" or "I'm in love with you, cause I have to be, you're my oxygen", I admit I can close one eye to it all because the tunes are simply too hard to resist. It's both nostalgic yet somewhat original. Vocally, Keating doesn't disappoint as well, seemingly charming as always.
Keating plays it safe with Fires (ironically) by sticking to stuff he knows best, but he ends up sacrificing a depth in personality and characteristic in his songs that I knew had potential for more. As a listener, it feels hard to connect emotionally with an artiste if I don't feel any heartfelt emotion bleeding from the song, so, as an album, I'd say it's great for easy listening, but if I were looking for a connection, unfortunately this wouldn't be my choice.
Track Cuts: Wasted Light, Fires, I've Got You, Nineteen Again.