Adhering to the proverb "It's not winning that counts, it's the taking part," four-piece boy band JLS, runners-up in the 2008 X-Factor final, have not only surpassed the success of winner Alexandra Burke, but bar Leona Lewis, every other contestant in the show's six-year history. Their million-selling self-titled debut album managed to deny Robbie Williams' comeback the top spot last year and four of their five singles have reached number one in 18 months, while earlier in the year they found themselves in the center of a U.S. major-label bidding war, resulting in a contract with the home of Britney Spears, Jive Records. Now no longer the underdogs, they face the difficult challenge of sustaining their initial colossal success with their follow-up, Outta This World. Taking a more active role the second time around, JB, Marvin, Aston, and Oritsé have co-written all but one of their sophomore album's 14 tracks with the likes of Danish production teams Stargate and DEEKAY, alongside regular collaborator Steve Mac and Billboard chart-topper Jay Sean. But despite their heavier involvement, Outta This World isn't exactly a huge departure from its predecessor, focusing on both the ubiquitous urban-electro sound that has dominated the charts over the previous two years and schmaltzy acoustic R&B balladry inspired by '90s acts Boyz II Men and Jodeci. It's a safe move that will undoubtedly cement their position as one of the U.K.'s biggest acts, but halfway through its heavily Auto-Tuned, formulaic synth-heavy sound, you're praying for a flash of "Beat Again"-style inspiration or at least something that isn't afraid to move even slightly outside their comfort zone. Unfortunately, that never occurs. As glossily produced and energetic as the likes of "That's My Girl," "Better for You," and "Superhero" are, their repetitive nature renders them pretty much indistinguishable from one another. Indeed, the only distinctive moments on the entire album appear on the rather bizarre sampling of The Sound of Music on the derivative Usher-esque "The Club Is Alive" and the laughably contrived lyrics of "Work" ("To be honest, she's a goddess"). The Faithless-style trance riffs of the title track, the slick soulful Children in Need single "Love You More," and the techno-led stomper "Eyes Wide Shut" (which borrows heavily from Calvin Harris' "I'm Not Alone") provide the album's few highlights. But overall, Outta This World feels like a calculated and cynical attempt to re-create the success of their debut, and it pales in comparison with the inventive recent efforts from fellow boy bands Take That, the Wanted, and McFly.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien