“Friday’s Child”: A retrospective review of Will Young’s 2003 album.
Will Young had come to prominence by winning the first UK talent show to find a new pop star in 2002, Pop Idol, the forerunner of today’s X Factor. His first album “From Now On” was released in October that year and was a surefire hit peaking at No.1 in the UK and selling over 800,000 copies there, aided by his winning track “Evergreen” that topped the chart for three weeks and sold over 1.7 million copies there.
With a batch of chart hits and a double Platinum selling album in the bag, Young spent most of 2003 writing and recording its follow up, that would be a much more refined and grown up affair, exemplified by the lead single “Leave Right Now” that was released in November that year and once again topped the UK singles chart selling over 620,000 copies there. It also broke Young out of his UK safety zone, charting high across Europe and entering the US singles chart at No.81. Almost immediately the confidence and ‘seasoned’ nature of the new Will Young was apparent in both the single and its accompanying video that see’s the then 24 year old striding away from his reality TV confines and becoming a bona-fide pop star and respectable artist in his own right.
The album, called “Friday’s Child” (so called because Young was born on a Friday in January (as was your writer!)) came the following month, December 2003 and with 11 tracks, most of them over five minutes in length, it becomes apparent that this is not a hastily clubbed together package of throw-away pop dittys. Epic numbers include the title track, “Stronger” and “Very Kind” that are all musically and artistically miles away from the ‘winning’ formula of his debut. With the success of “Leave Right Now”, it was hardly surprising that “Friday’s Child” was an enormous success. Entering the album chart at number one and spending all Christmas and new year there. It would go on to sell over 1.7 million copies in the UK and gain five Platinum discs as a result.
The album’s second single, the showy “Your Game”, was released in March 2004 and clearly Young enjoyed the nature of the song in the video which sees him on stage with a considerable array of musicians and singers behind him (maybe a taster of his later appearance in the film ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’ (2005)). The song climbed to No.3 in the UK and won the Best British Single award at the 2005 Brit music Award ceremony.
Aside from the long, classy numbers, Young also throws into the mix any number of differing and accommodating tunes to suit all tastes and situations. The album begins with his version of Stephen Stills 1970 hit “Love The One You’re With” which sees him venture into gospel territory complete with a choral collective of backing singers. “Dance The Night Away” is more 70’s funk than in any other genre but certainly welcome amid the long players. “Free” is R&B tinged and set against a backdrop of simplistic strings and the bare minimum of programming. “Going My Way” is jazz through and through and ‘smokey’ in both outlook and execution. Even the pop-y “Out Of My Mind” has a 90’s US hitmaker feel to it.
“Leave Right Now” may be classed as the big ballad of the album but there’s another, more intimate song secreted among the masses, one more heartfelt and delicate in presentation. The gorgeous acoustics and sincere vocals of “Love Is A Matter Of Distance” coupled with its short, yet poignant duration need attention. Whether a lost love or an impossible love, lyrics like “love is a matter of distance, but you are just too far away” resonate and hit where it hurts the most.
The title track, the sombre and sublime “Friday’s Child”, served as the third and final single in the Summer of 2004 with its adventurous video of Young in a swimming pool, displaying…ahem…all of his talents together for the first time! The single reached No.4 in the UK in a reduced, edited form from the majesty of its album closer.
Will Young has released, to date, four albums since “Friday’s Child” with varying degrees of success. His third “Keep On” in 2005 is triple Platinum certified in the UK, and while to date he has yet to equal or better the performance of “Friday’s Child”, what he did prove was that ‘that difficult second album’ need not be inferior to a successful debut. Instead with “Friday’s Child”, sales doubled and exceeded his first on every level, most notably inwardly and outwardly artistically, a modern day classic for future listings of the best British album and one you have to hear before you are just too far away to.