In 2013, JLS—JB Gill, Marvin Humes, Aston Merrygold and Oritsé Williams—went on hiatus. The R’n’B-pop were runners-up on the 2008 series of The X Factor UK and parted after maintaining a dominant spell in the UK charts—helping to relight the great British pop-group renaissance. “We were very successful for a solid five or six years,” Humes tells Apple Music. “But we didn’t want to overstay our welcome. We felt like the timing was right to have a break. There was no scandal with us, there was no beef, it just felt right.”
The band insist the time also felt right for 2.0, their comeback album. Motivated to perform for the families they’ve had since the hiatus, they quartet also wanted to prove they’ve grown into themselves as artists. “We are our own A&Rs,” Williams says. “We are leading the way in terms of the sound. We don’t want to lose our identity, we don’t want to lose the sound that people know us for, but we still want to be progressive.” There’s evidence of that here—“Tango”, for example, is as fiery as its title suggests and “Looking At Me” harks back triumphantly to the ’90s R’n’B the group were reared on. “This has been the most finessed JLS album, because it’s been a blank canvas,” Gill says. Read on as the band takes us through 2.0, track by track.
“Eternal Love” Marvin Humes: “We first met Ed Sheeran in 2012 at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee [celebratory concert]. He said that he had written a song for us a few years before that never got to us, and that song was ‘Lego House’. And we were like, ‘Bruv, we never got that record. It never came to us!’ He thought that we didn’t like it! So when 2020 came and we started recording, we hit Ed up to see if he wanted to write for us. He sent ‘Eternal Love’ to us. It had that JLS pop anthem vibe to it, with Ed’s 2020, 2021 writing on it and the melodies. It just felt super fresh, even though ironically, it felt like an older JLS record.”
“Postcard” Aston Merrygold: “This is written by Lostboy, who has worked with the likes of Little Mix and Griff. When we first heard it, we were honestly on the fence, because the demo was only sung with one person, so it didn’t sound like a group record, but the end result came out as probably one of our favorite records in the album.”
“Priceless” JB Gill: “All our fans have a certain type of sound that they”re used to hearing. But at the same time, it’s a new market out there now and we don’t want to alienate any potentially new fans. So we were speaking about those processes and that’s how we come up with ‘Priceless’.”
“Changed” Oritsé Williams: “This is a powerful record. It comes from that JLS emotion. And we got into the studio, recorded it, and it just felt like a beautiful addition to the album. A song with a very powerful sentiment, and almost a first-person intimate conversation. It’s a very conversational chorus.”
“Audition” MH: “There’s a lot of swag on the tune, and it was perfect for us as a group. It’s called ‘Audition’, and obviously we auditioned on The X Factor, so there’s another little connection there for us. And it’s a very, very, very good record that one.” “Love Immortal” JBG: “This was part of a little writing camp that we put together. When you’re in that environment, there’s not much else to focus on. It’s a big breeding ground for quality, especially when you’re with people that you know and you’re comfortable with, and you’ve got a good relationship with. This has got a bit of a dance influence to it, which is something we’ve touched on in the past, but we haven’t overly focused on that. It pushed us.”
“Looking At Me” OW: “This brought in a bit of that R’n’B flavour that we love. We’re all R’n’B heads! It reminds me of [Brandy & Monica’s 1998 single] ‘The Boy Is Mine’—it’s got a little throwback sound. We recorded it at Metropolis Studios, every great artist has been through there, so it was an honor.
” “Nothing Without U” AM: “This is our most edgy record. It doesn’t sit very easily in the pop lane. It’s one of those records where you don’t know who’s singing it. I just think it’s just a sweet boy jam.”
“Feel Your Love” MH: “This is the only record on the album that is an update from the JLS 1.0 archives. There’s so many records that never saw the light of day for lots of different reasons. Political reasons, publishing reasons, it goes on. This song was written by Lemar [Obika, UK pop artist and songwriter], and it’s a song we always thought that we should have released. It’s more of a house record—it has dance tempo, with a great top line.”
“Day One” AM: “This was, I suppose, outside of the single, the first song that just dropped as JLS 2.0. And this is where, I suppose for us, the new era really kicks in. Just letting records, not let them go, but just letting them be out there in the atmosphere and just see what happens. This song’s definitely the more throwback era, leaning more towards your old schoolboy band types.”
“Tango” JBG: “The idea of the song came from one of the first sessions that we did. We weren’t allowed out of the house. So we kept on saying, “We want to actually be able to go out and just dance.” We didn’t want it to be gimmicky. If it’s going to be Latin, it's going to be Latin. if it’s going to be tango, let’s not just use the words and the sense of that, but actually let’s put tango into the song.” “DNA” OW: “This has that African/Caribbean flavour to it, with a pop/R’n’B edge. The sentiment of it feels a little ‘One Shot’ [2010 JLS single]. It’s that uplifting, encouragement, lyrical content that you get from us. We’re always willing to uplift our fans and uplift our listeners.”
“Glow” OW: “We’ve always envisioned having a record that had a gospel element to it. It sounds like a gospel choir stacked up in the whole record, but it’s really your boys singing! We’re hitting all kinds of high notes, and lower, real mandem notes, and then everything in between. So that was a real fun record to make. I feel like it’s a celebration record to your significant other.”