Popping The Question: Can Take That Save Pop… Again?

If people think the mid-00s have been a bit barren in terms of poptasticness, look back to the early 90s. SAW were dying out, Kylie (and her old fans?) had gone indie, Madonna preferred acting, teenagers went to raves and no-one was really making great pop music – or if they were no-one was listening. The only big boyband were NKOTB and even their best singles wouldn’t have got onto an *N Sync album. Then came Take That, and what a relief – it took a few singles but the lack of fun in the charts meant there was a huge gap in the market for them and once they’d got a few fans it wasn’t long til they were so famous no-one could imagine life without Take That and although there still weren’t many other pop bands it couldn’t be denied that pop was back in a huge way.

I see Take That’s rise to stardom as the catalyst for the big wave of pop that my personal pop fandom has lived through. Of course it’s had its ups and downs and the sound has changed constantly depending on outer influences from other popular styles – everything from rave to rap to latino to electro have come in and out of vogue and pop has adapted itself accordingly. But since Take That, as far as I can tell (I was only 2 when the band formed, after all!), there hasn’t been a dip in pop quality and ubiquity as big as the one which was heightened in 2004/2005.

However, 2006 so far has been really quite poptastic. Many great songs have been hits, there have been many great no. 1s, Girls Aloud are more popular than ever, and most brilliant of all is the resurgence of some of the major pop acts of the 90s/early 00s pop wave – Backstreet Boys, All Saints, 5ive, East 17 and of course it is Take That, who ignited this pop wave in the first, who made the biggest and most glorious comeback of all. My only question is why they are releasing a single in November when it’s Christmas next month and Take That never had a Christmas no.1 before???

So, Take That have triggered a pop uprising before – can they do it again? My answer to that is yes and no – while their new music is not very poptastic (although Patience is very nice), the reminder of how they were at the beginning when there was something really exciting about them (and the latter years would not have happened if they hadn’t earned it by being ace and ridiculous in their early years) could well inspire a whole new era of pop. It’s not certain to happen, just as it’s far from certain that there can ever be an all-encompassing wave of pop or any musical style again, now that listeners have access to such varied music, making it more difficult for one band to be omnipresent and loved by all, but it is not impossible if people decide they want it.

Already the effects of Take That’s return to public consciousness is showing its effects. Eton Road on the X Factor are praised for having the spirit of early Take That, rather than criticised for not being original, although in fact that would be a very redundant claim as their individual quirks are original and in fact what makes them like Take That. The positive reaction to both Take That’s reunion and Eton Road’s recreation of their early style and energy, shows that there is a desire for new pop and what the audience wants, the audience gets, especially in a music world where pretty much everything is available.

All we need is a few great pop bands to be dangled in front of music buyers and soon enough one of them will take their fancy and they’ll be huge in minutes and pop will be back before we’ve even had time to analyse it. I don’t think Eton Road will be the new Take That and neither will any other band – as I have said countless times in these features, the next big thing will be nothing like any old big thing and we cannot predict it, but it won’t be another Take That or another Spice Girls, but something else entirely and I’m sure they’ll be just as great in their own way (although I probably won’t like them much, cos they’ll have to appeal to the current teenage market who have awful taste in everything).

It’s nice to feel positive about the future pop for a change. It’ll be just our luck that Eton Road will get voted out on Saturday for not having enough guitars or smiling too much. Until then enjoy them singing my favourite ABBA song on last week’s show, and imagine my slightly scary amounts of excitement when I heard they had chosen it…

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