"Took my hand, touched my heart, held me close. you were always there, by my side, night and day, through it all, baby come what may. Swept away on a wave of emotion, we're caught in the eye of the storm..."
Yes, I like Westlife. Go ahead, judge me, I don’t really care. Yes, I’m a rock fan, but there’s just something about those little Irish boys that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. What, is there nothing from your childhood that you still hold dear? Perhaps a favourite teddy bear, or a comfort blanket? Well, Westlife is my comfort blanket. No matter what goes wrong in life, listening to them can make me feel like everything will be ok. Tonight, Westlife perform their last ever concert, meaning that I have to come to terms with the fact that my childhood is well and truly over. I am 21-years-old, after all, so technically I guess my childhood ended a while ago, but with the final note sung, when the curtain closes in Ireland tonight, and my four favourite lads troop off the stage, I will shed my final tear as a child, and face the world with the knowledge that nothing is as simple as a Westlife song anymore.
Damn, that was dramatic. Moving along then…
I was a huge Boyzone fan as a seven-year-old, and getting to know Westlife’s music was the next natural step. I’m not sure how old I was when ‘Swear It Again’ was tearing up the charts, but I was young enough for the song to be branded upon my mind forever more. I listened to this band so much that each of their albums defines an era in my life. Their first saw me through two years in a foreign country, and when I returned to South Africa ‘Coast To Coast’ had just come out, and this has remained my favourite Westlife album. The second half of 2001 was when I was the happiest I’d ever been: the last time that everything was simple, there was nothing to worry about, and happiness was an easy state to achieve. Yes, it may have been because I was only 10, and too young to worry about much, but I don’t think that’s the case, and when I reminisce, that’s not how I see it. The skies above my hometown were blue, the smell of the sea was in the air, and everywhere I went, Westlife’s ‘My Love’ was on the radio. And it was so appropriate: “overseas from coast to coast, to find the place I love the most, where the skies are blue…” Perhaps that’s why this song reminds me so much of home. To this day, if I’m sad or homesick, this is the song I’ll turn to. Last weekend I visited my hometown for the first time in half a year, and ‘My Love’ was on repeat all the way to the airport. Unfortunately the song evokes some sadness in me and can make me feel even more homesick…sometimes I think I’m just a sucker for punishment.
I started grade seven in 2002, Westlife still making my little world go round. ‘Bop Bop Baby’, ‘Queen of My Heart’… I played ‘Seasons in the Sun’ as my favourite song in class. I don’t know why it reminds me of going to the library and borrowing books, but it does. “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun…” we did. We did. The whole year was spent sitting in the car waiting for school to start, the ‘World of Our Own’ album in the car’s tape deck. The car’s still going, and it still has a tape deck. Some things never change, but others do.
2004 was grade 9, and I was slowly starting to think that liking Westlife was uncool. All my friends liked Usher, so I simply didn’t tell me that every weekend on the way home I listened to Westlife’s ‘Turnaround’ album in the new car, the car that had a CD player. Whatever. I’d rather have been in the old car. The car with the tape deck. Life would have simpler, but I still had Westlife, and nothing could touch me when I closed my eyes and sang along.
I barely remember the Westlife concert I went to in 2005. I was 14, but my friends were 16 and they sure weren’t listening to Westlife. In fact, I didn’t even tell anyone where I was going. Adolescence had obviously gotten to me, and I regret that now. Anyway, I remember standing even though I had a seat, and singing along all night. It was beautiful. A dream come true, although I’m sure I’d appreciate it more now.
My love for Westlife slowed down a bit after that, I bought most of their new albums, but hardly listened to them. The old ones, however, remained as a standby for long road trips. Eventually I got over trying to be cool, and embraced how much I love Westlife. I found out that many of my friends love them too. But it’s still difficult to explain the way their songs make me feel. I’d do anything to be in Ireland tonight, screaming my lungs out at that stadium, but more than that, I’d do anything to be 10-years-old again, strolling with my family through my local shopping centre, ‘My Love’ playing on the radio.