Posted by Laura
Before reality TV, before MP3 players and before they scrapped cassettes, the climate in Britain was ripe for a musical phenomenon. The early 1990s was a time when soap stars were becoming pop stars and the single-buying British public sent Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do to number one for a record-breaking 16 weeks. Big international artists from across the pond were making huge assaults on the UK charts and it was about time home-grown artists fought back.
The unlikely pretenders to the nation’s musical throne were five lads from the north, who went on to prove that whatever the Americans could do with their New Kids on the Block and their Boys II Men, the UK could do better. Take That were born and the British boy band was back.
The crowds of teary-eyed, screaming girls that followed them around smacked of 1960s Beatlemania, and the band notched up 15 UK hits, including Relight My Fire, Could It Be Magic and Back For Good. But, in February 1996, to the sound of teenage hearts breaking everywhere, the boys announced they were to split. Despite the loss of Robbie Williams, Take That as a foursome were still on a high, having accrued 10 million album sales.
The only real phoenix to rise from the ashes of Take That’s demise was Robbie. The remaining band members enjoyed limited success with singing, writing and even acting projects. But it seemed the sum of the individual parts didn’t quite equal the whole and the legend of Take That was to be relegated to the bin of nostalgia documentaries and old Just Seventeen annuals. Until now, that is.
They’re back in the number one chart slot with the single Patience – more than 10 years after they split. Granted, they’re a bit rougher around the edges now, and perhaps comfort eating during the darker days of obscurity could account for the fact they won’t be as scantily clad as they were previously, but Take That have captured the very essence of a successful comeback; they have a great song.
Here on the homepage, where none of us were true TT fans the first time round, we’ve become converts to the track. They’ve evolved, without doubt, but the essence of what so many loved about them is still there. And judging by the response to our coverage of the boys (or, rather, 30-something guys), you, our users, can’t get enough of it either. Patience is top of MSN Music’s download chart (download it here) and our featured video interview with the band got many of you clicking.
So, in a music market now saturated with boy bands, reality TV stars and has-beens clinging to their last threads of fame for dear life (Upper Street, anyone?), how have Take That emerged from the background to explode back on to the scene and trounce them all?
My theory is that, despite the Simon Cowells and the Louis Walshes of the world trying to convince us otherwise, the music-buying public has got so wise to the manufactured, one-song-fits-all approach of the reality TV transient star-making machine that they’re not interested in what it has to offer anymore. Talent hunters have trawled the country so many times surely they’ve found all the people worth making famous for 15 minutes now anyway?
The CD and download-buying public’s love affair with the gameshow pop star is waning. There’s only so many times the rags-to-riches tale of undiscovered talent turns teen idol can be retold. Louis Walsh may be 100 per cent behind X Factor reject band Eton Road now, but how long, realistically, will it be before they’re subsumed into the cover-record and cabaret-circuit abyss? (Read all about their exit on our X Factor blog).
Perhaps Louis should tell the youngsters to go away and come back in 10 years. A decade’s absence seems to have made Take That’s appeal just as strong, if not stronger, than it ever was. Perhaps the timing is perfect for them; Robbie’s bizarre take on rap-meets-electro-meets-I’ve-made-my-cash-and-can’t-be-bothered-anymore seems to be falling deaf ears. And the fact Take That came about in the early 90s makes them slightly retro – and we all know that retro, in music terms, means cool.
This is a band who posed pasty-white and naked, before most men were comfortable with sunbed use, with cardboard letters spelling out their band name stuck to their bottoms. And the public forgave them. They managed to make ageing singer Lulu the envy of every teenage girl in Britain. The loss of their youngest member prompted one of the biggest solo careers of the 21st century while the remaining four failed to live up to the hype. Yet still they managed to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and bring out a number one record with all their self-respect intact.
10 years ago, when my peers and I were too immersed in Britpop and trying to look cool in shrink-fit Adidas to admit we liked Take That, we missed out on one of the best pop acts of the decade. Now, 10 years on, and the Britpop hellraisers have turned into the middle-class Primrose Hill set, liking Take That doesn’t have a stigma attached to it any more. Go on, admit it, the boys are back… but is it for good? (Download the new album, Beautiful World, here for just £5)
What do you think about Take That’s comeback?