Westlife is an Irish pop vocal group formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1998. The group currently consists of members Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, and Nicky Byrne. The group temporarily disbanded in 2012 after 14 years of success and later reunited in 2018.
The group has released twelve studio albums: four as a five-piece and eight as a four-piece. They rose to fame with their debut international self-titled studio album, Westlife (1999). It was followed by Coast to Coast (2000), World of Our Own (2001), Unbreakable – The Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (2002), and Turnaround (2003), which continued the group's success worldwide. The group released their cover albums Allow Us to Be Frank (2004) and The Love Album (2006) and the studio albums Face to Face (2005) and Back Home (2007). After a hiatus of studio recording for almost one year in 2008, they released the studio albums Where We Are (2009), and Gravity (2010), and the compilation album Greatest Hits (2011). After eight years, the quartet group released their eleventh studio album, Spectrum, in 2019, followed by their twelfth studio album, Wild Dreams, in 2021.
Westlife is the act with the most Number 1 debuts on the UK Singles Chart, with all 14 of their chart-toppers landing there in their first week. They have the most singles certifications for a pop band on the UK number one singles artists chart since The Beatles. According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Westlife has been certified for 13.2 million albums, 1.3 million video albums, and 10.6 million singles, with a total of more than 25 million combined sales in the UK. They are also currently ranked 19th with the most number-one albums of all time and sixth-highest band in the list. The group has accumulated 14 number-one singles as a lead artist as well as having eight number-one albums in the United Kingdom, making them Ireland's and non-British act's (since Elvis Presley) most prolific chart-toppers. In 2012, the Official Charts Company listed Westlife 34th among the biggest-selling singles artist, 16th amongst the biggest selling groups, and 14th with most top ten hits—all the highest for a boy band and a pop group in British music history. They are also the biggest selling album group of the 2000s, and three of their studio albums were part of the 50 fastest-selling albums of all time in the UK.
The group has the most consecutive number-one studio albums in a decade in the UK and Ireland for a band, since the Beatles, and for a pop band and act since ABBA. Also in Ireland, they have 11 number-one albums with a total of 13 top two albums, 16 number-one singles, as well as 34 top-fifty singles. They have sold over 55 million records. and are holders of the following Guinness World Records: first to achieve seven consecutive number-one singles in the UK; most public appearances in 36 hours by a pop group; most singles to debut at number one on the UK chart; and top-selling album group in the United Kingdom in the 21st century. Westlife is one of the most successful music groups of all time, among the highest-profile acts in 2000s popular culture in most territories worldwide, and one of the few boy bands to have continued success after their commercial peak. On the best-selling boy bands of all time list, they are currently tenth worldwide along with the biggest-selling boy band from Ireland in history globally. They have received numerous accolades including one World Music Award, two Brit Awards, four MTV Awards, and four Record of the Year Awards. As a live act, Westlife has sold 5.5 million concert tickets worldwide from their fourteen concert tours so far. They hold the record for the most shows played at The SSE Arena, Belfast and SSE Arena, Wembley; this makes them the biggest arena act of all-time in the United Kingdom. They sold out Croke Park Stadium in their home country in a record-breaking five minutes. Their fourteenth, and latest concert tour is called The Wild Dreams Tour.
Origin: Byrne, Egan, Feehily, Filan and McFadden's beginnings
Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Shane Filan, all schoolmates in Summerhill College in Sligo, Ireland, participated in a school production of Grease with fellow Sligo men Derrick Lacey, Graham Keighron, and Michael Garrett. They considered it as the start of Westlife. The sextet formed a pop vocal group called Six as One in 1997, which they later renamed IOYOU. Before this, Egan was part of a punk-rock bands called Skrod, and Pyromania. The group, managed by choreographer Mary McDonagh and two other informal managers, released a single titled "Together Girl Forever" under Sound Records which was written by Feehily and Filan with fellow Irish Those Nervous Animals and The Strong are Lonely band members Padraig Meehan and Daragh Connolly. Another song "Everlasting Love" included in the single was written by Feehily, Keighron, Meehan, and Connolly. There is also an unreleased song called "Good Thing". McDonagh first encountered Egan as a six-year-old student at her weekly dance classes, and came to know Filan and Feehily in their early teens as they starred in shows such as Oliver! and Godspell for Sligo Fun Company.
Louis Walsh, the manager of fellow Irish boy band Boyzone, came to know the group after Filan's mother Mae contacted him, but the group failed to secure a BMG record deal with Simon Cowell. Cowell told Walsh: "You are going to have to fire at least three of them. They have great voices, but they are the ugliest band I have ever seen in my life." Lacey, Keighron, and Garrett were told they would not be part of the new group, and auditions were held in Dublin where Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden were recruited. McFadden was part of an R&B group called Cartel before this.
The new group, formed on 3 July 1998, was originally named Westside, but as another band was already using that name, the group was renamed Westlife. It was revealed that Walsh was already calling them Westlife before the Westside name came along. In Westlife – Our Story, Byrne revealed that, unlike the others in the group, he was keen to change the name to West High. McFadden also changed the spelling of his name to Bryan to facilitate signing autographs. They managed to secure a major record deal the second time around under BMG with all other record labels competed. They signed a four million pound record deal with RCA Records. Westlife's first big break came in 1998 when they opened for Boyzone and Backstreet Boys' concerts in Dublin. Boyzone singer Ronan Keating was brought in to co-manage the group with Walsh. Later, they won a special Smash Hits Roadshow award at that year's Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. Their first live television performance as a group in Ireland and worldwide was on the Irish TV series and the world's second longest-running late-night talk show, The Late Late Show that had its broadcast on 13 November 1998. They performed "Flying Without Wings". The band then released an EP titled Swear It Again afterwards. Both recorded songs under Westside were produced by Steve Mac and written by Mac and Wayne Hector. Cowell chose the debut extended play and single with the guidance of his father, Eric Cowell, who stated then, "I think they will be big".