Lee Ryan

Studio Album by released in 2005

Lee Ryan review

It's easy to forget that Lee Ryan is still just 22 years of age. One quarter of Blue, one of the biggest boy bands of the last decade, Ryan's looks have won him a contract as a clothes horse for Dolce & Gabbana and admiring glances from girls of a certain age, Elton John and Robbie Williams. It is the latter's career since leaving Take That that Ryan perhaps hopes to mimic with his solo debut. He has the looks and, like Boyzone's Ronan Keating, he possesses the most distinctive voice of his ensemble. When a boy band splits up, the window of opportunity for ex-members is open for about as long as it takes to say "Didn't you used to be in Blue?" So Lee Ryan's recent absence from the tabloids can be explained by the fact that he's been busy making an album. Here, at a stroke, he manages both to be the first ex-Blue boy out of the trap, and to whip up something adults might actually like. The eponymously titled record showcases vocal prowess and amongst the credited writers are Martin Harrington and Ash Howes, who between them have helped Natalie Imbruglia and Dido's fledgling careers.

Single Army Of Lovers displays Ryan's undoubted talent for expressing emotion over some really rather sweet lyrics. Turn Your Car Around is one of several songs that call to mind Natalie Imbruglia – guitars and synths are combining. Miss My Everything – musically the most interesting track on the album – suggests a certain nod and wink in the direction of Marvin Gaye, while Daydreamer starts off sounding like The Spice Girls' Viva Forever before heading off to warble about "dreamtime". Ryan acquits himself further with Real Love, a soulful slice of catchy pop. As a whole it's all very mature and tasteful and cosmopolitan – obliterating all memories of the Loopy Lee of yore who stopped Blue from being just another bland band of pretty boys – and you can hear that serious money has been spent on it, rather than the label just hiring a bunch of hack musicians and programmers to pad out the background. Like James Blunt's marketing team, they've bought themselves a surefire hit album.

Though it is not always a pre-requisite in this business, Ryan can actually sing, nimbly soaring through a set of grown-up, sophisticated pop songs. Ryan is known to like fast cars and faster women, and all those late nights have helped to give his voice an attractively gritty quality. Given the right kind of pop-soul tune Ryan is more than capable of pulling out all the stops and producing performances that have 'hit' written all over them. Eschewing easy US R&B references for more classic soul influences from Marvin Gaye, Maxwell and Luther Vandross, and mingling this with acoustic instrumentation has produced a strong, unique sound that you can instantly imagine yourself humming along to on MTV or the radio. Accessible pop values are used to great effect, Lee's elegant but candid delivery takes the material straight to the heart. Place your bets... is Lee Ryan the Gary Barlow or Robbie Williams of Blue, the Ronan Keating or the Stephen Gately?