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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 December 2005, 00:38 GMT
Westlife's story of pop survival
By Michael Osborn
BBC News entertainment reporter

Westlife recently performed at the Nobel Peace prize concert in Oslo
Irish boy band Westlife have packed more chart-topping singles into their career than Madonna has in the last 20 years.

The foursome have not been around for as long as the queen of pop, but a run of more than six years has defied the short shelf-life of most boy bands.

Their tally of number ones currently stands at 13 and they recently scooped their fourth Record of the Year accolade - so what is the secret of their success?


During their career, the group's penchant for soaring ballads has won over both the teen market and middle-of-the-road listeners - a sales-grabbing formula which they are reluctant to depart from.

"I think we should stay where we are," says Shane Filan. "This year has really proven that when you have the right song, everything else falls into place."

Westlife's Mark Feehily
We are in no position to look for another sound. It is like asking U2 to go off and make a rave album
Mark Feehily

The singer admits that they were worried before the release of their latest album, but the swift sales of single You Raise Me Up allayed any fears of a decline, or the need to find a new direction.

"We don't take ourselves to be a really serious act. We know what we are, we know what we do," says Mark Feehily, who revealed he is gay earlier this year.

"We like singing good pop songs, and luckily that is what our audience wants. We're in no position to look for a different sound.

"It is like asking U2 to go off and make a rave album."

"It is what we do best - give them what they want. Why give them something they don't want?" adds Filan.

'Not talented'

The vocalist, who performs many of the band's lead vocals, says that Westlife principally relies on a team of songwriters to provide their material, while many of their hits - including Mandy and I Have A Dream - are cover versions.

Filan says that he, along with Nicky Byrne and Kian Egan, are "not talented" at penning new tunes.

Feehily enjoys songwriting in his own time, but considers it an extra-curricular activity to being a member of Westlife.

Westlife's latest album Face To Face was their fifth chart-topper

"As a band we have a sound and an image. The producers can be really hard on you. Songwriting is a way of rebelling," he says.

The 25-year-old adds that in six years of working cheek by jowl, the Irishmen have become increasingly cohesive.

"We have had a chance to develop ourselves and our voices," he says. "But our first gigs were excrutiatingly painful to do."

According to Filan, they are not taking their future for granted. Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, Lionel Ritchie and Robbie Williams are all on their duet wish-list, after making another hit single with Motown legend Diana Ross.

"It depends on us. It depends on a lot of things. We take it one year at a time - 2005 has been a brilliant one," he says.

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