Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 12/21/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/21/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Boyzone

It's not the British rock invasion of the 1960s, but be forewarned: With the Spice Girls barely out of sight after their 11-week U.S. tour this year, here comes Boyzone. The heavily hyped, working-class Irish vocal group (Ronan Keating, 21, Keith Duffy, 24, Stephen Gately, 22, Shane Lynch, 22, and Mikey Graham, 26) hope a one-week tour of U.S. radio stations this month will pave the way for bigger, Spice-size things. "There is a very large Irish contingent in America," says Keating, the group's videogenic front man (and onetime Dublin shoe salesman), "so that's a great foundation."

Like the Spice Girls, the Boyz honed their singing and stage steps before going public. Now, after 12 Top 5 singles and three hit albums in the U.K. since 1994, they are banking on U.S. audiences to grab their latest CD, Where We Belong, and to welcome a 1999 tour. Also in the plans: Boyzone: The Movie.

The Boyz, however, may face one risk not known to the Spice Girls: that of being taken seriously. Keating won a prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award last May for "Picture of You." Married to an Irish model, he will also soon be the group's third member to become a father. But with experience, perhaps, comes wisdom. "We don't believe the hype or the press," says Keating of the growing hoopla. "I think that's the Irishness in us."

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