Unfortunate for The Wanted might be the fact they are squarely in the shadows of fellow, more youthful boy-band One Direction. Their U.S. Debut, not necessarily their proper one at that, trails the release of One Direction's Up All Night, a consistent top-ten fixture on the Billboard Albums chart. Regardless, The Wanted's EP, entitled simply The Wanted or referred to colloquially as `The EP' serves as an introduction of the band the United States as it combines singles from their British released albums to one `buzz' EP. The `Special Edition' version adds three more songs, making the effort more of an `album.' Unsurprisingly, the pre-released singles are all highlights, making The Wanted EP an enjoyable listen for the most part.
Hailed #3 pop single "Glad You Came" opens the effort brilliantly. Piano supports the lyrics of the hook at the onset before the cut ascends into a mix of pop and techno-dance sensibilities. Well produced and perhaps even more endearing because of the overt British accent (One Direction's is much less apparent), "Glad You Came" may be corny and schmaltzy, but it is fun. The refrain is definitely well penned: "The sun goes down/the stars come out/and all that counts is here and now/my universe will never be the same/I'm glad you came."
"Chasing the Sun" is a smart follow-up to "Glad You Came," staying in line with the dance-style. The four-on-the-floor beat is effective, regardless of being predictable. The vocal production is particularly notable. If "Chasing the Sun" has any flaw, it is the mere fact that it is incredibly similar to "Glad You Came." "All Time Low" and "Satellite" follow but fail to be as captivating as either "Glad You Came" or "Chasing the Sun." "All Time Low" features pointed string synths at the onset, a change of pace from its predecessors. By the second verse, those same strings have transformed into a more driving, dance-savvy groove. The results aren't too shabby, but not necessarily the `second coming.' On "Satellite," while Ryan Tedder and Noel Zancanella's production is solid, though does not tread from the dance-oriented sound of the other cuts. Vocally, the group sounds as solid as it has the entire EP, British accent and all. The songwriting itself is well structured and the refrain as `hooky' as all other cuts: "Like a satellite/I don't wanna come down, I just want your love now..."
"Lightning," produced by Steve Mac features interesting synths to open the cut and yet another four-on-the-floor styled beat. The refrain is nothing short of schmaltzy, though it is a bit more overt than what territory fellow boy-band One Direction might try: "When your lips touch mine, it's the kiss of life/I know, I know that it's a little bit frightenin'/we might as well be playing with lightening/we touch like, like it's our first time/oh oh I know that it's a little bit frightening/we might as well be playing with lightening now." Overall, "Lightening" is in the `top 3' of The Wanted EP.
"Heart Vacancy" contrasts the dance-savvy of "Lightening" in favor of a ballad. While the first verse features no percussion finding the group supported by acoustic guitar and tasteful synthetic splashes, the drums drop in full fruition on the refrain. Positively, the guys show great range on the nuanced refrain, which makes "Heart Vacancy" another strong showing. "Gold Forever" is a dance-pop cut, but does feature some distinct differences from "Glad You Came," "Chasing the Sun," and "Lightening." Predictably, the cut opens with no percussive accompaniment, finding the boys accompanied by a mysterious pad. A highlight of the production would definitely be the piano ostinato a la Coldplay's "Clocks" or "Speed of Sound." By the 1:20 mark, the pounding four-on-the-floor beat takes over and the cut has evolved into full fruition. "Gold Forever" does not quite compare to the very best dance-oriented cuts, but it works.
"Lose My Mind" follows `the same script,' noted for The Wanted singing heavily processes "oh's" against distant, mysterious sounding pad (again without percussive accompaniment). Predictable, "Lose My Mind" may be enjoyable enough, but certainly is not much different than anything else. "Warzone" is well produced and does provide some contrast to the boys' repertoire, if only slightly. Opening with a piano ostinato that Adele would fancy, there is instantly a slightly different feel about this cut, perhaps one that hearkens back to what made "Heart Vacancy" work so well. The cut is dramatic (well ok melodramatic) and shows off the best in the group's vocals. Once the beat enters in it opts for more of a `dub-step' approach than standard four-on-the-floor fare, which is a welcome contrasts at this point. What makes "Warzone" a bit more special is that it shows more `range' for the group than just dance. "Rocket," a song penned by Dianne Warren and produced by Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and Mike Green proves less effective than the dance-oriented cuts or the ballads. No disrespect to the team assembling he cut, but it does not quite achieve the ranks of the best.
Overall, The Wanted is a solid introduction to the British pop band. There is nothing `revolutionary' that will `knock your socks off,' but the band does do a sound job of resurrecting the pop sub-genre and updating the sound from say 2000 to 2012. The biggest quibble if you can get past the schmaltz is the fact that too many of the records are patterned after each others. That said, U.S. Listeners must remember this is a `compilation,' not a debut album. How do they stack up against One Direction? That's for you to decide!!!