Single Review: Joe McElderry – ‘Ambitions’

The entire medium of entertainment has certain, naturally flowing rules that just ‘are’; like all things, an unbiased person’s likeness to anything from such media is down to two fundamental things: expectations, and how well your expectations are met.

If your all-time favourite artist were to release an album of sub-par material, yet it manages to go on to sell in the high reaches of the multi-millions, would you personally call it a success? Probably not; it’s success rate is determined by each individual listener themselves; like Madonna’s ‘American Life’ album – her lowest-selling by a considerable margin – yet managed to shift a healthy 4 million copies, plus many say it’s still better than anything Britney or Lady GaGa will ever release. It’s all down to expectation, because at the end of the day, this was Madonna, and after albums like ‘Like A Virgin’ and particularly ‘Ray Of Light’, ‘American Life’ was a bit of a mis-step.

When it comes to my expectations, I have never held any high hopes for anyone in particular, especially if they came from the X Factor. Hence why I can now state:

“I am not in and way, shape or form disappointed with Cheryl Cole’s new single, ‘Promise This'”.

The reason being that I never expected much from Cheryl, in fact ‘Promise This’ falls even shorter than my already-rock-bottom expectations. I’m aware this is not a review of Cheryl’s new single though, you’ll be treated to that scathe in a few days time, for now this is Joe McElderry’s real début single, the one that let’s us know who he is; that shows us what kind of music he’s into, and what we can expect from him in the future. Enough italics? Okay, let’s move on.

So, a few minutes before I actually heard this amazing, trend-setting, career-defining, personality-filled, unique and fun and all amazing-like début pop record, I heard something that made my heart sink: “It’s a cover”.

OH, HELL TO THE NO!? Why would you do that Joe? Moreover, why would you let Syco do that to you?

Well, because the cover is quite frankly – considering you have the ability to get off your high horse about that fact it isn’t an original song – very good. The cover in question is of a song that was released last year or so ago in Scandinavia by a fairly unknown band called Donkeyboy. They’ve been trying to release it over here for months nd now along comes Syco, with it’s deviously good but very annoying marketing skills and makes the song into a smash hit thanks to a poppier make-over.

But who cares that Joe is releasing a cover!? Fat Boy Slim has built his career out of taking underground hits from yonks ago, re-twiddling them and selling them under his own name and look at him! So, Joe’s record label may have tried to pull a fast one and give the song a different name (they originally titled it ‘Somebody’) to try a make the link less obvious but to be perfectly honest, the very fact it’s anthemic production and overall catchiness soars stories above my expectation makes it worthy of being more successful than that slack-jawed pin-prick of a ‘popstar’, Olly Murs. It’s got everything the good pop single needs – an explosively catchy chorus, sing-along appeal, a radio-friendly sound, semi-inaudible lyrics and a dash of falsetto. Ta-dah! The perfect début single. Where’s my cheque?

However, this is Syco. So the pop goodness does come at a price. Once again Simon Cowell and his production team have made Joe into someone completely different to the Joe we saw on the X Factor. Maybe it’s the coming out that did it (Hey, it apparently did it for Ricki Martin. Expect an album early next year…) and Joe came out of his shell, allowing more personality through or stimulating more creative juices, but I can’t help but think it’s because Simon once again fails to realise his signed acts are actually human, and may have their own personality. He’s moulded Joe into this falsetto-shrieking temp who doesn’t quite have the song-writing talents of Mika or the sex appeal of Jake Shears.

In regards to the original, well I must say Joe’s cover is nowhere near as emotive as Donkeyboy’s original version; the song is meant to be about giving up on your ambitions; a melancholy pop song. Syco’s production team have made it sound a bit too happy, considering the lyrical context. But if you ask me, all that’s wrong with this record is Simon Cowell’s fault: Joe doesn’t put a foot wrong.

Despite the song’s quality, the video is trying to be’‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Glee’, combined with a primary school performance of something like… a Same Difference song. It’s clear ‘Ambitions’ is one of those songs that’s best listened to without the video because, as nice as it is, I can’t help but get the feeling there’s a bit too much focus on Joe, if you get what I mean… like, obviously it’s his video but it’s kind of like… they wanted him to have as many close-ups of him as possible, as if they thought the public wouldn’t remember his face after nine long months, y’know?


He’s not exactly a natural dancer is he?

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, because the fact of the matter is, when the cows have finally come home and Bo Peep actually started looking for her sheep, Joe may have flaws; his début single may have flaws, it may also be flawed that the song is going to get it’s promotion mainly from The X Factor, but the one thing that is obvious is, no matter how long he’s around for – could be two years, could be two months – ‘Ambitions’ is sky-high compared to my original expectations.

Final note: I have sadly come to the conclusion that it sadly WILL drive you mad when it’s sadly over-played by Radio 1 though, sadly.

Rating: 4.0 STARS

Download: October 11, 2010 (OUT NOW)

Featured Album: ‘Wide Awake’

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  1. Gerard McGarry


    Did I say Same Difference in connection with this before? Because that’s exactly the comparison I was drawing.

    Most people don’t know why they’re thinking of Same Difference. Here’s why. The hyper-polished production is a given. But watch the video, just as the group dancing begins outside the temple thingy. Joe does this skipping backwards while gesturing upwards with his arms. FREEZE! That’s it. That’s a STOLEN dance move from Same Difference! Right there!

    Moving away from video, which is beyond bland, I have to applaud Syco for at least attempting to make Joe sound young and relevant. They’re clearly learning the lessons from trying to package teenage boys as rat pack singers. Two years in a row – first with Ray Quinn and then with Leon Jackson. It’s still gonna be an uphill struggle – and I think Simon Cowell’s shift of focus away from “bland and boring” singers is almost a vote of no confidence for folk like Joe.

    Based on Ambitions, I’m not that keen on the single itself, but could they move Joe into a Scissor Sisters type of vibe? Maybe not. He’s the most non-threatening, non-charismatic guy I’ve ever witnessed. They need to do something about that. The single’s passable fare from my point of view. After more then 5 listens this week, I still can’t remember the chorus.

  2. Ageing tart

    Well having listened to the song a few times, its catchy and the age group that will buy this will be around 11 – 15 years of age. 

    I personally like the stuff Joe did on the X factor better.

    But it could be that what with three previous winners who have not done so well with traditional covers the record company have adopted a different approach for Joe.


    Ageing tart

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