Noel

Hearts on Fire

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    6
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Noel's sophomore album succeeds more than it fails, but it takes a few listens to get past his colorless voice to appreciate it. He sounds bored through most of the productions, and though that can work to great advantage (think Bananarama), it usually just inspires yawns. However, sharing co-writing credits on all but two of the tracks, Noel shows his true strength is as a writer of love songs: the hopeful "We'll Make It Through"; "Valentine's Day," about a man finding his lover with another man on the holiday of love; the romantic, danceable title track; and the slowly evolving awakening of "You Stole My Heart." To his credit, Noel also does a fine cover of Richie Valens' "Donna" and pulls off the sexual-driven "Ride" and "Hey Little Pretty Please" with more panache than most of the boy bands that came after.

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