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In Ireland, the group has 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. They hold the record for the most shows played at The SSE Arena, Belfast and SSE Arena, Wembley. Westlife has received numerous accolades including one World Music Award, two Brit Awards, four MTV Awards, and four Record of the Year Awards.
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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.
In April 1999, the group released their first single, "Swear It Again" which immediately topped the charts in Ireland and in the UK for two weeks. It became the biggest-selling single in a week one by a debut artist. On the week of its release and its chart achievement announcement, Cowell's father Eric died. Their second single, "If I Let You Go" was released in August 1999, which established them as the first boy band to hit the No. 1 with its first two singles. They also performed for billions in 1999 at the Miss World telecast with this song. The third single was the highly acclaimed "Flying Without Wings" (their first 'Record of the Year' and their third No. 1 single), released in October the same year, also followed suit. It made them the only the second Irish act and fourth act to debut at No. 1 with their first three singles, B*Witched, Robson and Jerome, and Spice Girls being the other three. "Flying Without Wings" was also included on the soundtrack of the Warner Brothers film, Pokémon: The Movie 2000. Their first album, simply titled Westlife, was released in November 1999 and went to No. 2 in the UK and their first No. 1 in Ireland. The album was the biggest chart dropper on the top 40 in UK music history when, in its 58th week on the charts it leapt from No. 79 to No. 3 before falling to No. 37 the following week. Despite the history, the album successfully managed to peak at No. 1 in Scotland in the year 2001 after premiering at No. 6 at the Scottish Albums Chart in 1999.
In December 1999, a fourth and a double-side single was released, "I Have A Dream"/"Seasons in the Sun". It knocked Cliff Richard's "The Millennium Prayer" off the top spot and earned them the 1999 UK Christmas number-one single. It is also their fourth No. 1 single. It was the first official No. 1 single music act in the 2000s of UK Singles Chart and also the last official No. 1 single music act in the 1990s decade of UK Singles Chart. They are one of only five acts to achieve four number ones in the UK Singles Chart in one calendar year, the others being Elvis Presley, The Shadows, The Beatles and Spice Girls. The fifth and last single from the album, "Fool Again", also peaked at No. 1. With this, they broke records of being the only male band to have every singles released from an album to reach No. 1 in the UK and the only male group with most original songs in an album that went straight to No. 1 in the UK with multiple and/or with four original singles. Afterwards, Westlife signed to Arista Records for the North American territory after auditioning for the label's founder, Clive Davis. Then the group had a promotional tour in the United States for their "Swear It Again" single and peaked at No. 20 in the Billboard Hot 100. An Asian tour followed in support of their debut album before releasing a second album. On 1 July 2000, they were honored as Freemen of the Borough of Sligo.
Coast to Coast, their second album, was released a year later and was their first No. 1 UK album, beating the Spice Girls' Forever album by a large margin, the said chart battle was widely reported by British media. It became the country's 4th biggest selling album of 2000. This is their second No. 1 album in Ireland. The album was preceded by a duet with Mariah Carey singing "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" and the original song "My Love" (their second Record of the Year award). Both singles reached No. 1 on the UK charts, their sixth and seventh number ones respectively. With this, Westlife broke an unexpected record of the most consecutive No. 1 singles in the UK, having their first seven consecutive singles debut at the top by a debuting act and group, and by an act, a group, a male group, a pop act and a pop group in UK and became the fastest number one music act beating Elvis Presley's previous record of three years versus 23 months of Westlife getting each its first No. 1 singles and second music act to have the longest string of number ones in UK history. However, in December 2000, their eighth and an Ireland and UK exclusive single "What Makes a Man", only debuted at No. 2. The single "My Love" was controversially used by Central Intelligence Agency as part of a torture program in Afghanistan. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, "the music pounded constantly as part of a scheme to assault prisoners' senses". They survived the 2000 Mexico City major earthquake and lightning during this time. As the 2000 had ended, Westlife achieved four number one singles in a year for two straight years (1999, 2000) since Elvis Presley (1961, 1962).
Outside the UK and Ireland, they gained chart success with "I Lay My Love on You" and "When You're Looking Like That". This time as well, they were included in the top ten earners list of all acts in UK and Ireland and sold over 2.5 million units in Asia Pacific region. Also in this year, they launched their first world tour, "Where Dreams Come True Tour". A recording of a concert from the tour live from Dublin was released on 19 November 2001. Also in the same month and year, Westlife released their third album World of Our Own, their second No. 1 album in the UK and their third No. 1 album in Ireland.
The group sold more than 12 million records in a span of three years during this time. They released their eleventh UK No. 1 single, "Unbreakable" in 2002. Amidst rumours of a split, Westlife released their first greatest hits album in November that same year titled Unbreakable - The Greatest Hits Vol. 1, which zoomed all the way to No. 1 in the UK and Ireland. Their third No. 1 in the UK and the fourth one in Ireland. Also during that time, Westlife bagged another Guinness World Record for most public appearances by a pop group in a 36-hour period. The band made stop-offs in five different cities (Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, London and Manchester) to promote their then-new album. The release was followed by the double A-side single "Tonight"/"Miss You Nights", which debuted at No. 3 in the UK and No. 1 in Ireland. At this time, Because Films Inspire made a TV documentary titled "Wild Westlife", directed by Iain MacDonald and starred the group, featuring their daily life as musicians and their tour experiences. It was aired on BBC Choice. In 2003, Westlife went on their third world tour, the Unbreakable Tour and was invited to play at the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo, shrugging off rumours of a split which is what most of the pop bands do after a Greatest Hits album and tour. A recording of a concert from the tour, live from Manchester, was released in November 2003.
Back in September 2003, Westlife released "Hey Whatever", which peaked at No. 4 in the UK. Their fourth studio album, Turnaround, was then released in November, earning the group another UK No. 1 album, the fourth one. The album is also their fifth No. 1 in Ireland. "Mandy", was released a week before the album release. The band's twelfth No. 1 single. Their version won them their third Record of the Year award, in under five years. Their version of "Mandy" is also considered the single with the longest leap to the top (from No. 200 to No. 1) in UK music history. "Obvious" was released as the final single from the album, charting at No. 3.
On 9 March 2004, just three weeks prior to embarking on their fourth world tour, McFadden left the group to spend more time with his family and six months later to release solo music projects. On that day, a press conference was held where all the group's members were present, each giving emotional individual speeches. McFadden's final public performance as part of Westlife was at Newcastle upon Tyne's Powerhouse nightclub on 27 February 2004. McFadden attended the first day of the band's tour date as an audience. The last time the five had reunited in public was when McFadden acted in an Irish reality television show Anonymous where he disguised as a fan in an album signing event of the group in November 2005 and had a broadcast in January 2006. He subsequently began a solo career, and reverted the spelling of his first name back to its original 'Brian'. McFadden later released more albums and singles, but only with moderate success.
In September 2004, they performed on the World Music Awards, where they were recognised as the Best Irish Act of that year. They then released a Rat Pack-inspired album and fifth album ...Allow Us to Be Frank, which peaked at No. 3. No singles from this album were released in the UK but "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?", accompanied with a music video, was released as a digital download in the UK and peaked at No. 4 and as a physical single in other European countries. "Smile" and "Fly Me to the Moon", both with music videos as well, were released as digital downloads only.