Released: 18th February 2002
Writers: Steve Mac / Wayne Hector
Peak position: #1
Chart run: 1-6-7-14-22-30-42-47-46-47-48-60-74
Having spent the duration of their first two albums performing ballads from atop those infamous stools, Westlife certainly made up for it on their third album World Of Our Own.
After releasing When You’re Looking Like That as a double-A side (in all but name) as the lead single from the campaign – and no doubt buoyed by the earlier success of Uptown Girl – it seemed that Westlife were hungry to continue defying expectations. And what better way to do that than with the title track, which, incidentally, was one of the best songs they ever recorded.
World Of Our Own could not have been a more perfect name for the album; if any group deserved to give themselves a pat on the back, then it was Westlife. Their success was unparalleled – with nine of their first ten singles reaching #1 – and it was hard to see where it would end, such was the unrelenting consistency with which they chalked up their hits. However, it’s only the title of the track which is self-referential to the group’s status; lyrically this is a love song (of course). But even if Westlife were treading over familiar ground, World Of Our Own is laced with a degree of triumphant euphoria that wasn’t exactly commonplace within their material.
Considering the group was not exactly known for its uptempo efforts, this is an assured performance which oozes swagger right from the off. It’s nowhere near as brash as When You’re Looking Like That, but then again, few songs were. Nonetheless, there’s a punchy lilt to the track that fuses jangly guitar riffs (like the instrumental melody after the first chorus) with more traditional processed pop beats. World Of Our Own feels big, although, in a sense, that was inevitable by Westlife’s usually tranquil standards. Perhaps then it is better to consider the wider context, and yes, even by any other measure of pop music in 2002, this track packs a punch. With its punctuated, emphasised delivery, it doesn’t take long for some urgency to set in during the pre-chorus: “Oh! Took for granted, every-thing we had as if I’d find some-one, who’s just like you”.
It’s perhaps not immediately evident just how HUGE World Of Our Own is because it only really becomes unmistakably clear when the track breaks into, what else, but a climactic key-change. The build-up is perfect; the middle-eight (“Well it’s feeling right now, so let’s do it right now, praying that somehow, you will understand the way”) opens out into a sunny, uplifting melody and then with a thud, things shift up a gear. The whole track evolves, and suddenly there are more audible orchestral elements, while Shane and Mark’s vocals feel more like a live performance contained within a studio recording. The stratospheric: “World of our O-W-W-N” ad-libs are utterly life-affirming and the last minute of the track is all the sweeter for the fact that it had been such a long time coming, both in the context of the song and within Westlife’s career as a whole.
The music video for World Of Our Own doesn’t necessarily fit the sound of the track, at least, not initially. It opens with the group underground in a car park(!) being pursued by female police officers. It’s not entirely clear what Westlife’s crime is, but the concept does at least present a unique opportunity for a barking dog to be integrated into the instrumental opening of the song (why wasn’t that in the radio edit?). Never ones to fear recycling of idea, the latter half of the video sees the group performing on a rooftop as they had done in the video for Fool Again. This time though, they’re in a futuristic (mostly) computer-generated city. Aesthetically this part of the video feels more to scale; it’s as epic in perspective as World Of Our Own is in its sound, even if Westlife don’t really do anything with their surroundings. Perhaps it was cheaper than doing an actual rooftop shot again.
There was also a second music video filmed for America, with a plan to re-launch Westlife there. Re-launch, you might ask? It’s often overlooked, but the group had scored a top 20 hit with Swear It Again on the Billboard Hot 100. They never capitalised on it, though. And one cannot fault the effort they went to; there’s a considerable investment in World Of Our Own. The track received a remix specifically for US radio; the rockier elements of the track are amped up a little bit, and there’s an interesting metallic-sounding reverb applied to the vocals. Evidently, with boybands now facing an uphill climb in terms of airplay, the aim was to try and distance Westlife from that demographic. Nowhere is that clearer than in the visuals; their image is about as far removed from that of a boyband as you can get…for a video featuring a boyband. Instead, the presentation is all a bit singer-songwriter; the styling is a more casual and there’s even some gratuitous nudity (not involving Westlife). It’s vastly different from the original, but dare we say, we prefer it. Needless to say, the re-launch didn’t manage to consolidate the success of Swear It Again, but that’s little reflection on World Of Our Own; realistically the window of opportunity had passed as pop music fell out of favour in America.
The story was quite different back in the UK; the song duly became Westlife’s tenth #1 single in less than three years. It was an astonishing chart record, and nothing can diminish that achievement. But inevitably there came the point where greater worth was attached to some of the group’s chart-toppers more than others: which would have earned that status on their own merit, and which were the fortunate beneficiaries of a slow sales week? World Of Our Own is curious in that sense, because judging the track on its initial commercial performance alone, it most certainly belongs in the latter category. The track debuted at #1 with 75,183 copies; not a meagre total by any means, but the smallest first-week sale for a Westlife single (at that point), and one that would not have been enough to top the chart on many other weeks of the year. Yet, the track has had a much stronger legacy than most of those that originally outperformed it, having consistently been among the group’s most-streamed releases. Deservedly so.
World Of Our Own felt like the perfect summation for this era of Westlife’s career; they were trying something a little different and breaking the shackles of the balladry that once defined them. And, as it turns out, they were rather good at it!