As 2009 winner Joe McElderry's debut, Wide Awake, crawled slowly across the 100,000 sales mark, the odds on him becoming the first X-Factor contestant to achieve four consecutive Top 20 albums would probably have been as likely as him headlining the Download Festival. And yet, three years later, with a little help from his victory on Popstar to Operastar, he's done just that. But whereas his last two efforts have capitalized on his unexpected classical pop second wind, Here's What I Believe sees him return to the safe and inoffensive MOR balladry that everybody expected him to emerge with in the first place. Pitching himself as a one-man Westlife, the three self-penned numbers proves the South Shields singer knows his audience. The arms-aloft title track, co-written with former Shakespeare's Sister diva Marcella Detroit, the theatrical torch song "Your Voice," and the Bublé-lite "What Have I Done" are all aimed solely at the housewives/grandmothers who wanted to pinch his cheeks during his triumphant talent show run. But they're positively thrilling compared to the plethora of dreary karaoke cover versions that could have been plucked from any one of Steve Brookstein, Andy Abraham, and Journey South's equally tedious cash-ins. Gene Pitney's "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," Leo Sayer's "When I Need You," and Queen's "Love of My Life" all receive the same anodyne treatment, as do more contemporary offerings such as Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" and Whitney Houston's "I Look to You." And while McElderry tries his best to pour some emotion into proceedings, his over-earnest delivery backs up the argument that his talents are certainly far more suited to the West End than the pop charts.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien