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Boyzone Hungry For U.S. Success

From Billboard On Line

LONDON -- It's taken four years to happen, but red-hot Irish pop quintet Boyzone is finally getting a shot at the U.S. with a reconfigured version of its current album, "Where We Belong."

Signed to PolyGram worldwide via a deal with Polydor U.K., the group is now set for a concerted U.S. launch by Jim Steinman's new Mercury-distributed label, Ravenous. The imprint took the disc's first single, "All The Time In The World," to top 40 and hot AC radio Oct. 5, with the new version of "Where We Belong" set for a Nov. 17 retail release.

Ravenous/Mercury has some catching up to do, as the act's Dublin-based War Management puts international sales of Boyzone's three albums at roughly 7 million units. The act recently scored its fourth U.K. No. 1 and 12th straight top five hit with "No Matter What," written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steinman for their current London stage production of "Whistle Down The Wind."

The single has taken Boyzone to new peaks in the U.K., where the group has sold more than 700,000 copies in its first month, according to the label. "Where We Belong," which debuted at the top of the British charts in June, soared back to No. 1 last month in a new edition containing "No Matter What."

Yet for all of this success in Europe and Asia, Boyzone has yet to make a mark in the States. The group scored precisely one single in the U.S., "Mystical Experience," which was issued on PolyGram Latino.

Boyzone lead singer Ronan Keating is understandably disappointed that other so-called "boy bands" have jumped the queue to stateside success. "It is frustrating. Especially when you see bands that started after us having top 10 hits, and you think, 'We were there before them,' " he says, referring to RCA U.K.'s teen-oriented group Five and its current U.S. hit on Arista, "When The Lights Go Out."

Boyzone's "All The Time In The World" is one of three new songs on the U.S. edition of "Where We Belong," which will also sport the Diane Warren composition "I'll Never Not Love You" and "Walk On (So They Told Me)," penned by Mercury senior VP/head of A&R Steve Greenberg with Mark Hudson.

Boyzone signed to Polydor in 1994. Following the demise of Take That in 1996, it inherited that act's crown in the U.K.'s crowded boy-band market. The act's debut hit was a cover of the Osmonds' "Love Me For A Reason," and unbroken success has been maintained since with a clever mixture of original songs (mostly credited to the PolyGram Island-published act and collaborator Ray Hedges) and other carefully chosen covers, including Cat Stevens' "Father & Son" and the Bee Gees' "Words."

"Everything they touch turns to gold," says Liz Laskowski, London-based director of programming for music video channel the Box. "And they have as many older viewers as younger ones; they're right across the 12-34 range. It isn't the Spice Girls fans, who are 10-12. They've already got themselves across as men."

For this latest U.S. campaign, Boyzone's only foreseeable stumbling block is the group's seemingly endless string of international commitments. The act started a British arena tour Sept. 26, and plans to release another domestic single in autumn, a version of John Michael Montgomery's "I Love The Way You Love Me." A greatest-hits album is planned for next March, probably including the additional U.S. tracks, and writing has started for the next studio album.

In addition, vocalist Keating is much in demand for TV work, and -- says Louis Walsh of WAR Management -- a film vehicle for Boyzone is also under consideration. Walsh describes the project as "somewhere between 'The Commitments,' 'The Full Monty,' and 'A Hard Day's Night,' with lots of Irish humor."

Ravenous Records