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In the late ’90s, with the UK music industry still struggling to fill the void left by the breakup of Take That, a group of five unlikely lads from Ireland were preparing to change the world of pop forever.
Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden – collectively known as Westlife – released their debut single Swear It Again on 19 April 1999, shooting straight to No.1 and catapulting the fivesome to superstardom.
Here’s what you need to know about the band:
Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, and Shane Filan met each other at school in Sligo, Ireland. Bonding over a shared love of music, the trio -along with three other school friends – would start their first boyband together under the name Six As One, before changing it to IOYOU.
Showing great potential, IOYOU quickly caught the attention of Boyzone’s manager Louis Walsh, who approached record labels in London.
Simon Cowell, who was then working at BMG, showed interest in the band but insisted that Walsh replace half of them.
Taking Cowell’s advice, three of the group’s original members left, leaving only Egan, Feehily and Filan.
To bolster the groups’s numbers, tryouts were held in Dublin, where Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden successfully auditioned, making them a five-piece.
The group officially changed their name to Westlife in 1998, and with their new line-up secured a huge recording contract with RCA.
They released their first single Swear It Again in 1999, which soared to the top of the charts and made the group the hottest new boyband in the UK and Ireland.
Westlife current line-up consists of Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, and Nicky Byrne. Brian McFadden parted ways with the band in 2004.
Although they’ve celebrated a staggering 14 UK No.1 singles, Westlife’s biggest hit in the UK is undoubtedly their cover of Billie Joe’s track Uptown Girl.
Uptown Girl was released as the official single for the 2001 Comic Relief campaign, with its profits raising vital funds for the charity.
The track has now sold over 920,000 copies in the UK alone, and also topped the charts in Mexico and Ireland.
Loads! Although many will know them for their Billy Joel cover, Westlife have achieved multiple No.1 hits with original tracks such as Swear It Again, If I Let You Go, Flying Without Wings, Fool Again, and My Love.
For their latest album, 2019’s Spectrum, the band enlisted the help of pop megastars Ed Sheeran, Ryan Tedder and James Bay to write tracks for them.
In 2011, Westlife stunned fans by announcing that they would announce they would split up following one last world tour, with all band members agreeing that it was amicable, and that the band had run its course.
In the days following the announcement, their longtime manager Louis Walsh stated that Westlife are “one of the biggest boybands in the world and they’re leaving on top”.
A few years after their split, Nicky Byrne revealed in an interview with RTÉ that being in the band had “become untenable, we really couldn’t function together as a band anymore. Nobody was happy, nobody could agree on anything, how could you be in a band like that”?
After months of speculation, including bookies suspending odds on them getting back together, Westlife officially announced their reunion in 2018 with a run of UK and Ireland dates.
The band also delighted fans by announcing that they were working on new music, with an album scheduled to be released the following year.
Brian McFadden left the group in 2004, wanting to pursue other projects as well as spending more time with his family.
When the news broke in 2018 that the band were getting back together again, speculation was rife that McFadden would rejoin for their reunion tour. However, fans hopes were dashed as McFadden revealed in an interview with Lorraine Kelly that he had never been asked, and he was quite happy doing his own thing.
The band have since revealed in interviews that since McFadden left the band in 2004 they didn’t consider him to be a member of Westlife anymore, so it wasn’t worth asking the question.
Amongst their millions of fans across the globe, a whole host of famous faces have also declared their love of the band.
One famous Westlife fan is former England captain Wayne Rooney, who hired Westlife to perform at his and his bride Colleen’s wedding reception in 2008, reportedly paying them £400,000 to do so.
Other famous Westlife fans include Pope John Paul II, Elton John, Mike Tyson, Niall Horan, Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Calvin Harris, and The Queen.
Westlife have confirmed a huge show at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium on Saturday 21 August 2021.
Westlife will be supporting at Wembley Stadium by James Morrison and All Saints.
21 August 2021 – Wembley Stadium, London
Tickets to see Westlife are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.