Monday, August 23, 2010
Music Video Monday: Take That
In honour of Glenn Beck's Saturday "Historical Revisionism" rally in Washington, D.C. this Saturday, this week, my blog is going shallow! How shallow? Boy Band Shallow!!! That's right. This week is "Boy Band Week." All week long, my posts will feature a music video by one Boy Band and my thoughts about the group.
What is it about Boy Bands? They get no respect. While it might appear to be any teenage boy's dream to be in a Boy Band, this is actually not the case in "guy culture." Guys derogatorily put down Boy Bands as GAY! With the five part harmonies, dance steps in unison, the hand thing (they all have to do something with their hands...usually the grand gestures), none of them playing instruments, the 24 / 7 lifestyle of always being together on a tour bus, and the scary young fanbase, these all add up to the idea that Boy Bands are gayer than a groom at a Liza Minelli wedding. Why is it that the guys in Boy Bands tend to be late teens / early 20s, but most of the fans are tweenage girls? Shouldn't the police be looking into this?
Seriously, Boy Bands don't get any respect at all. Guys who admit to liking them will often set off speculation about his allegiances. Guys aren't supposed to like pop music. Its hard rock, classic rock, country, or misogynistic rap. Boy Bands are pretty much fabricated and calibrated, designed not only to sell records, but all kinds of product. Tweenage girls tend to be the biggest consumers of fads. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen made most of their wealth on selling products with their images on them and they had a running start since toddlerhood. These are the kind of products that one is embarrassed to have owned once they reach a certain age, after money has long been spent and you can't get your refund.
As far as Boy Bands go, I think Take That is the best. They were a group of British guys that emerged on European radio in the summer of 1993 with the infectious song "Pray." I thought of featuring that music video for today's post, but I do not like that video at all. If any music video by a Boy Band screams "GAY!", its "Pray." Oooh, and those words rhyme! Anyhow, in the summer of 1993, you simply could not escape this song in all the bars of all the resort towns all over the Mediterranean (where I was at the time). Take That had a string of hits with their second album, Everything Changes. It was a pretty good album. Other singles included "Babe", "Everything Changes", "Why Can't I Wake Up With You", and "Love Ain't Here Anymore."
Take That came about because a British music producer wanted to create a British version of New Kids on the Block. He actually found a young aspiring singer / songwriter in Gary Barlow, who became the lead. Amazingly enough, Gary did write some of the biggest hits for the band, including "Pray." Auditions were held and by fortunate luck, the ultra-talented Robbie Williams found his way into the band (though his bad boy antics would cause a mutual decision for him to leave in 1995). The other band members include Mark, Jason, and Howard. They became a huge sensation all over Europe and started eyeing the American music market, which all good musicians do.
However, they only managed to score one hit in the U.S. "Back for Good" played a lot on the radio in the summer of 1995, from their follow-up album Nobody Else. I loved this song and bought the CD and played it often, surprised when one of my best friends Nathan and a buddy of his both took a liking to this Boy Band album. If you listen to the music and not worry about things, you can appreciate highly addictive, feel-good pop music. My favourite song on this album was (and still is) the musically brilliant "Never Forget." It works on so many levels: lyrically, musically, harmonically. I love the melody shifts and the high charging chorus, along with the children's choir. Its, as the Brits would say, "absolutely brilliant" as the perfect pop song. The lyrics are just incredible. Its written with a complete self-awareness about the short shelf-life of a Boy Band. Its quite Buddhist in its outlook. And yes, Gary Barlow wrote this song as well.
I especially love these lines: "There's a road going down the other side of this hill / Never forget where you're coming from / Never pretend that it's all real / Some day this will all be someone else's dream." I also love the way the guys sing "We're not invincible." For a group of young guys caught in the machine of materialism, with hoards of screaming young female fans, they show remarkable self-awareness with this song. I never get tired of hearing "Never Forget." I think you can apply it to anything in your life. Its important to not get carried away by success, fame, good times...because what will you do when the inevitable "crash" comes? Its far healthier to embrace the Buddhist view of nonattachment. The video shows clips of moments to give you a glimpse of what life was like in a Boy Band. It looks like a fun, fraternal experience that all guys should experience on the way to adulthood (mine was the Navy). As you watch, I wanted to have dreadlocks in the late 80s like one of the band members has in the video. I have never seen a white guy with dreadlocks before. It looks pretty cool.
With the most popular member gone from the band, the rest of the group disbanded in 1996 with the release of a Greatest Hits album, featuring a remake of the Bee Gees "How Deep Is Your Love." Lead singer and the songwriter, Gary Barlow, went on to a solo career to modest success, while bad boy Robbie Williams became the solo superstar. I think it was probably hard to share the spotlight, so Robbie Williams made a better solo artist. His songs dripped with irony and wit. He wanted to find success on American radio, but only his "Millennium" found radioplay (the song samples a classic James Bond theme song, "You Only Live Twice") in 1999. It was the perfect song for the Turn of the Millennium. He's had plenty of great songs since then, but only cool people in America have heard of him. In fact, if you have heard of him and like him and you're an American, consider yourself a hipster!
Take That reformed a few years ago and look like they are aiming to be a young version of U2 or something. The latest news is that Robbie Williams has agreed to record a new album with his former bandmates (due this year) and tour with them. That should be interesting. However, don't expect them to tour the U.S. None of the new songs by Take That in the past few years got any radio play on this side of the Atlantic. American music seems to be in some kind of lame limbo right now. Our loss.