Browsing Tag

Take That

Career Killers: “Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya” by Boyz II Men

We’ve seen how splitting from hit-making songwriters or producers in an ill-fated bid for creative control can kill an artist’s or band’s careers. We’ve seen how record label politics can kill an artist’s or band’s careers. We’ve seen how failed musical makeovers in the face of changing times can kill an artist’s or band’s careers. We’ve seen how deteriorating personal relationships can fester and kill an artist’s or band’s careers.

What happens when all of those things happen at once? You get Boyz II Men.

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Career Killers: “Schizophrenic” by J.C. Chasez

When it comes to transitioning from a boyband to a successful solo career, the rule of Highlander is typically in effect: There can be only one.

In other words, boybands rarely produce multiple solo stars. For instance, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen both launched solo careers after the first Take That breakup, but neither of them made much of an impact – at least not compared to their fired colleague, Robbie Williams, who became one of the biggest pop stars of the 00’s. Nick Lachey and Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees both released solo albums, but whereas the former had one big hit and one theme song that became fairly ubiquitous, I had to look up Wikipedia to remember the latter. Meanwhile, it might be too early to write One Direction’s epitaph, but it looks like Harry Styles is going to be the only real star to emerge from that group (sorry Zayn).

A couple of bands have bucked this rule. New Edition spawned multiple successful solo careers, but even then, only one member had more than one successful album. And of course, Michael Jackson completely eclipsed his brothers, something that, apparently, stuck in Jermaine’s craw – despite the fact that Jermaine managed a couple of gold albums and a handful of Top Ten singles.

So J.C. Chasez was already behind the 8-ball when he embarked on his solo career following NSYNC’s breakup. Bandmate Justin Timberlake had beaten him to the punch, releasing the popular and well-regarded Justified in 2002. That album, which would go on to be certified triple-platinum by the RIAA, was filled with infectious pop/R&B hits, funky beats and ear worms that allowed Timberlake to immediately establish himself as a solo superstar.

But if anyone could rise to the occasion, it was Chasez. The best singer in NSYNC and, possibly, out of all of the late 90’s/early 00’s boybands (Timberlake even admitted as much), Chasez had charisma, good looks, dancing chops and a proven track record. All he needed was to link up with the right producers and songwriters the way Timberlake had when he worked with the Neptunes and Timbaland for Justified and Chasez would be well-placed to break the Highlander curse.

Unfortunately for him, he recorded Schizophrenic.

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Album Review: “Odyssey” by Take That

Kudos to Take That for trying something (a little) different.

To commemorate its 30th anniversary as a band, Take That decided to run the old “greatest hits + tour” play that has served many top artists and bands well over the years. Recognizing that their fans didn’t want (yet) another greatest hits collection, England’s premiere man-band decided to put a different spin on the old anthology game.

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“Urban Hymns” Turns 20.

1997 was a banner year in British music. Radiohead gave us “O.K. Computer,” one of the best albums ever made and one whose central theme of being consumed by technology seems prescient given the world we live in today. The Blur/Oasis war entered a transitional phase, as Blur took a step back and released its low-fi, American style self-titled album while Oasis charged full-steam into pretension and excess with “Be Here Now.” The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy both released successful electronic albums, while one of their forerunners, Depeche Mode, made a nice comeback with “Ultra” (arguably, the band’s last good album). It was a good year for British pop, too, as the Spice Girls had two albums hit #1 on the charts, and Gary Barlow had his last solo chart-topper before reuniting with Take That.

But one album towered above the rest.

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Album Review: “Wonderland” by Take That.

I love Take That.

Not as much as my wife loves them. And definitely not as much as James Corden loves them. But I’m definitely a “Thatter.”

That being said, I had a feeling the band’s latest album, Wonderland was going to suck. Lead single “Giants” did nothing for me (although the parts where they sing “We are giants!” made me laugh – it reminded me of the scene in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” where the evil nerd trio imagine themselves as Gods), and the few songs I had heard in advance of Wonderland’s release didn’t fill me with a whole lot of optimism. The band has seemed to be on downward trajectory ever since the end of the “Progress” tour, what with Robbie Williams’s decision to re-start his solo career and Jason Orange’s decision to take his dancing shoes home. 2014’s III had a few good songs on it, but the other songs on the album, to say nothing of sales, were lackluster.

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So, I Guess I’m a “Thatter” Then…

When I was in London covering Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, I could have gone to see Take That at the O2 Arena, but decided not to. I had several reasons that sounded good to me at the time. The tickets were really expensive. My wife would have killed me for going without her. It’s not the same band without Robbie (and Jason, I guess).

Oh, who am I kidding? I should have gone. Anyway, I saw this in the Manchester Evening News after I got back. According to a study (yeah, people study this kind of stuff), Thatters are more likely to be married (check!), own their own home (check!) and drink wine (well, two out of three ain’t bad).

They’re also more likely to be female. I guess Take That’s original fanbase is still upset about the band turning its backs on them all those years ago…

London Calling

I recently went to London to cover the 800th anniversary celebration of the sealing (no, King John never signed it- but I bet he still had that sourpuss expression on his face) of the Magna Carta for the ABA Journal. I may have also made a detour to Manchester to see Old Trafford (I also had the chance to see Take That in concert, but my wife never would have forgiven me for going without her). Anyway, here are the stories that came out of it:

Album Review: “Sucker” by Charli XCX

Charli XCX was in danger of becoming the millennial version of Nate Dogg- an artist known more for being featured on (and often, the best part of) other people’s songs. Her work singing the catchy hooks on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It” was so good that she actually overshadowed the lead artists.

With the release of “Sucker,” Charli XCX should finally get some attention as a solo artist. “Sucker,” the England native’s third album, is an entertaining affair that proves her ability to come up with catchy hooks that will stay in your head for days is no fluke. It’s an album full of potential radio hits and should turn Charli XCX into a gigantic pop star. I enjoyed this album thoroughly and was happy to see it get lots of love from music critics (Rolling Stone had it as the sixth-best album of 2014 – “Songs of Innocence” was #1 – I actually think “Sucker” was a lot better and I am a huge U2 fan). To paraphrase- remember her name, it’s about to blow.

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Not So Bitter, Definitely Sweet – A Concert Review of The Verve at MSG

This is an old favorite of mine. I originally wrote it for my Livejournal blog and decided it was time to import it over here. Still holds up, except for the fact that the Verve broke up shortly afterwards. That and the Robbie Williams line about not wanting to rejoin Take That.

Concert Review:

The Verve

April 29, 2008

WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden

When the Verve released “Urban Hymns” in 1997, they seemed poised to become the biggest of all the British pop bands that were invading America from across the Atlantic during the mid-90’s. Oasis had great hooks, but they were about as likeable as smallpox. Blur couldn’t escape from the shadows of their biggest U.S. hit, the ubiquitous “Song 2” (currently playing at some sporting event somewhere in this country). Radiohead were too esoteric and were about as interested in promoting themselves as Robbie Williams was in rejoining Take That. The Verve, however, had great songs, a unique psychedelic/rock sound, a loyal and devoted fan base, and a charismatic frontman in Richard Ashcroft.

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