Album in Depth: Whenever You Need Somebody by Rick Astley

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Well, we reach April, and for this month, I decided to do an Internet Soundtrack themed month, using only albums that populate mostly because of the internet. And, since it was just recently April Fool’s day, I thought of making a review on this album in particular, since everyone in the world has already clicked on a link that directed them straightly to this album’s first single. The first time I got to hear him was with a promise of Chrono Trigger being released on the Game Cube.This album was actually a little bit tricky to find, since he wasn’t popular down here and most stores I search for are metal stores or book stores with only the popular stuff, so I had to track on some stranger venues and ask for friends that could possibly have it. Most of them never heard of Rick Astley outside of the whole Rick Roll gag, but finally, I found this copy on the shelf of a friend that never even realized that Rick Astley was the guy that Rick Rolls everyone. But even knowing that, who the hell is he, anyway? A little background is required:

The year is 1987. The Last Emperor gets the Academy Award for best movie and Good Morning Vietnam is made as well, proving that Robin Williams was a more talented actor than anyone could’ve foreseen. Sam and Max see the shelves in comic form, thus populating my childhood (and making this review stop while I read some old comics) and Street Fighter is released on the arcades (stopping this review once more). U2’s Joshua Tree is released and the Smiths disbands after four studio albums leaving a lot of fans to this day.

Two years earlier, Rick Astley was a drummer in an English band called FBI, but when the lead singer left the band, FBI fall apart. After that, Rick Astley went to record “When You Gonna” with Lisa Carter (meh, bad song with a catchy tune and a annoying electronic beat) and after two major singles that ran worldwide (Never Gonna Give You Up and Whenever You Need Somebody), an album was obviously on the way.

From the outside of the album, hey, it’s Rick Astley. Really: that guy is, undeniably, Rick Astley. And I don’t think it would be a stupid move if you would to bet that the picture of the cover was shot on the same set and day of the recording of the “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video, since the movie only took one day to shoot and all. The elapsed time of the entire album is 37:16, which is decent for an album; it’s what you expect for an one disc album, with the shortest tune being 3:03 and the longest being 4:21. For a pop album, it’s cool because it shows that the author was thinking of radio time and all, which plays an important part in any pop singer life.

The album got really great reviews and a excellent chart position, getting four platinum albums in Canada and the UK, two platinum on the US territory and first place on the Australian Album Chart, as well as a 10th place on the US’s Billboard 200. So, with that being said, let’s get this over with: Whenever You Need Somebody by Rick Astley.

1st track: “Never Gonna Give You Up”: Of course, why not? Rick Roll. Okay: do I really need to talk about this track? Raise your hand if you haven’t been rick rolled. The tune is catchy, the lyrics are silly but pop lyrics usually are. The only big problem that I have with this song is the electronic bass and drum kit that really annoy the hell out of me: why not get a drum and a bass? Well, the song is, overall, a good song and it was the track that made Rick Astley the huge success that he was and is, to some extent.

2nd track: “Whenever You Need Somebody”: …what the fuck, Never Gonna Give You Up again? Have I been rick rolled by Rick Astley? Ah, just the intro is the same. Even though the electronic bass is still with great strength, there is a nice guitar and some interesting back vocals, even with some points of keyboards here and there. Actually, this song is better than Never Gonna Give You Up in my opinion… strange, I thought that this album would be Never Gonna Give You Up plus filler, but so far so good.

3rd track: “Together Forever”: Whoa… all of the songs are this format? I don’t think that it is product of the times, because this was after Michael Jackson revolution of pop, so this was a step backward. Really: the songs really sound the same. The review that I can give to this song is that: the electronic bass and drum kit annoys me; the vocal is pretty good actually, with some good usage of back vocals, a catchy melody that will follow you to the grave, as every song already on this album. But as the second track, this one is also better than Never Gonna Give You Up… maybe Never Gonna Give You Up was the filler one, strangely enough.

4th track: “It Would Take A Strong Strong Man”: Finally, the song drastically changes it style and… fuck it, it’s genuine quality. This guy is really, really talented. It is now a cute ballad with excellent vocals, great back vocals, the bass and drum are much more natural and the whole atmosphere is completely different, even going to the length of having a somewhat acoustic guitar solo (a bad one, but hey, it is still a solo). To some extent, this is really a great track, and may be my favorite track among the album. And seriously, three tracks that are better than the single shows a huge problem in the pop of the time.

5th track: “The Love Has Gone”: Another ballad, but the previous one was such a great one that this one falls short: it sounds generic as can be, probably because it’s worse, even by the slightest, than “It Would Take a Strong Strong Man”. It’s the first song that I consider to be worse than the lead single on this album, and it’s the uses the most out of the electric guitar. It just that the fucking drums and fucking bass annoys the hell out of me: that beat is completely electronic, it’s no fun. Rick Astley was the drummer of FBI, why he can’t be the drummer again?

6th track: “Don’t Say Goodbye”: This song has a stronger R&B feel to it, making me remind of some works by Earth, Wind and Fire, even though it is still really pop. The synthesizer, this time around, works it on the background and even has a moment of its own and it is perfect. The back vocals shine again, with the guitars working it all the time, with the bass, even though completely electronic, staying so downplayed on the background that don’t even bother me on the slightest. This is a pretty great song, still better than Never Gonna Give You Up.

7th track: “Slipping Away”: Even though not bad, this one is the one that displeased me the most of the bunch till now. Something of the “genericness” of the song and the lack of rhyme and reason just not clicks with me. The melody is boring, the guitar is boring, and even with the bass and drum completely masked in the background, and it lacks personality. Even the strong point of the deep bass vocals of Rick isn’t well used in this one. Honestly, an album like this couldn’t go on completely without flaws, but this one is just boring.

8th track: “No More Looking For Love”: This is more of a synth pop that has a really interesting intro but then goes back to the generic of the previous one: So sad that this album has a generic spot on it after some pretty interesting tidbits here and there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible in any way, it’s just not creative and downplays everything that he was doing well until The Love Has Gone. It may rock your boat, but it sure as hell doesn’t rock mine.

9th track: “You Move Me”: Heh, I read the move as in love. Even though the intro is sort of promising, the song is generic, with the least inspired vocals so far: great, at least it is at the end of the album: if it was at the beginning, I would’ve been very afraid. The lyrics are dumb as in most of the album, but that doesn’t care in a pop album. This song is not bad, it’s just average, and that’s not exactly great.

10th track: “When I Fall In Love”: …really? The last song is When I Fall in Love? That song is great, but I didn’t imagine that he, of all people, would make a version. He didn’t try to innovate it by doing a pop version, just the same beat and melody already proved right. It is not the best rendition of the song in any way of the word, but as the first song to have classical instruments, it works well. His deep voice makes the song really enjoyable (Even though it isn’t as remarkable as Nat King Cole’s voice) and since the song is already great, his version ends up being a good one.

So how does it all hold up? I was expecting more fail, I really was. My intention was to get an album that everyone just knew a song, like this one, and bash over the silly pop tunes, but in reality, this album excelled my expectations. If you like the Rick Roll song, please, go after this album. If you enjoy pop of the late eighties, go after these songs, above all others “Whenever You Need Somebody” and “It Would Take a Strong Strong Man”. However, the second half of it isn’t exactly great and it doesn’t work as a novelty album, like “The album that spawned the joke”, because after all, this album is pretty damn good and doesn’t have any incredibly silly pop songs outside of “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “You Move Me”.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

Follow me on twitter @jotakapf

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