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Take That bounce back with “These Days”

10 October 2014 17 Comments
This blog belongs to Radio Creme Brulee – an internet music radio station that broadcasts globally.

takethat-IIICrisis management is a key ability for a leader of an organization. It appears to also be a key ability for an arts and entertainment brand. There are two elements to “damage control” for an entertainment brand – a sense of urgency and potentially the ability to surprise. Our favorite example of this phenomenon is Madonna. Back in 2003, she released a lackluster album titled “American Life“. This album was the successor to another “not so impressive” album of hers titled “Music“. It felt like her star was waning and if she did not do something stellar she would become irrelevant very quickly. Quite unsurprisingly, she triumphed and went on tour but NOT to promote “American Life“. Instead, her “Reinvention Tour” showcased almost all phases (except the early 90s era) of her stellar legacy and it reminded people of the unstoppable force she was in the music industry. “American Life” was forgotten but Madonna was back in the limelight. Two weeks ago, Manchester boyband-turned-manband Take That faced a similar challenge when member Jason Orange unexpectedly (at least to the public) left the band after two successful stints with them – the first being in the 90s and then again from 2006-2011. There were a lot of questions raised about the future of Take That and their commercial viability as a three-piece with Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Howard Donald. In our article titled “The implications of Jason Orange’s exit from Take That“, we suggested that the band’s brand value ran the credible risk of dilution with the exit of Jason. The jury is still out as to whether or not this is true. Only time will tell. But as far as the band’s ability to have their finger tightly on the pulse of commercial music, there is no ambiguity there. The Take That brand understands the elements of crisis management and have a strong grasp of its key elements. Less than a month after Jason Orange’s exit, they have returned with a new single titled “These Days” that looks forward musically rather than backward. Fortunately, for Take That, that move works. It is quite the antithesis lyrically and stylistically to “Never Forget” – the single that was released when Robbie Williams quit the band back in 1995.

In 2010, many fans and critics viewed Take That’s “Progress” album as a second stylistic reinvention for the Manchester band. With Robbie Williams back in the fold for that album, it seemed inevitable that there would be a marriage of songwriting competencies and an amalgamation of ideas when it comes to the treatment of the songs. The results were spectacular to say the least. There was also a lingering curiosity as to where Take That would go next stylistically. Many (us included) assumed that they would return to their safe adult alternative sound that dominated albums such as “Beautiful World” and “Circus” but with  the new single titled “These Days“, it looks like Take That has 2014 specifically in mind in terms of musical style. This time around, they’re walking the line that divides indie dance music from commercial dance music – and they do so with relative ease.

One of the first observations that comes through is the unusual structure of the song. It opens with a relatively down-tempo take on its Middle 8 section before quickly skipping to its beat-driven verse featuring slightly processed vocals by Gary Barlow and Mark Owen. On “These Days“, the band sings about living in the moment and making memories now as opposed to in the future. There is a sense that the song is sung from the perspective of someone whose love saga has been derailed by circumstance and he wants to go back to where things began and lay the foundation for new memories before it is too late. The lyric isn’t wistful though. Instead, it radiates a sense of optimism and urgency. This shines through best on the song’s insanely addictive pre-chorus:

Take me back
Before we all explode
Before we turn to stone
Before the light is gone
Take me back
To where it all began
To where our memories grow
Before the day goes off

The processed vocals do make it seem like the song could have been performed by absolutely any act – especially the catchy “Oh Oh Oh” bits at the end of the track. There is nothing quintessentially “Take That” about this track – especially since nothing they have released in the past sounds even remotely similar to “These Days“. Greg Kurstin’s production has definitely placed the band’s sound comfortably in the context of the current mainstream. This definitely cements the band’s immediate relevance but whether or not this song will be an essential in Take That’s legacy is something only time will tell. Either way, Take That has triumphed over their recent loss of Jason Orange from the band. “These Days” is a great example of swift and effective crisis management. It is also the lead single for “III” – the new Take That album slated for release on December 1. We love the fact that Take That has used their unfortunate reality of being reduced to a three piece and have put a positive spin on it by cleverly naming their new album “III“.  One can only hope that this is the beginning of yet another glorious chapter in the Take That story. We have a full-length audio clip of the track below:

 


 

STAR RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS

CLICK TO VOTE for “These Days” by Take That in our ANNUAL “Song Of The Year” poll (closes on December 7, 2014)!

 

Broadcasting Worldwide

We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Take That is a regular staple on our radio station – even though we are an American radio station. We were the first US-based station to feature “The Flood” when it released in 2010. In addition to Take That singles and singles by members such as Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Robbie Williams, we also feature album tracks and b-sides by these artists fairly regularly on our 24/7 global broadcast. Right now, “These Days” by Take That is getting 5 plays a day on our station.

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17 Responses to "Take That bounce back with “These Days”"

  1. Ellie says:

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this site. I’ve read a couple of your blog bits on Take That and I’ve found that they explained quite a lot to me. I’m from Scotland, now living in the US. I’m going through the all too familiar bittersweet emotions that stem from my favourite group of lads being on the cusp of releasing another highly anticipated record and being so far away. It’s worse this time around because I’m on Twitter! From the perspective of a long time fan in a location where Take That is literally unheard of, I can tell you that it is difficult and frustrating and it is impossible not to feel left out. The idea of missing another tour is gut-wrenching.

    But with regards to your review of ‘These Days’ I found much that I agree with. I woke at 1:30 am to stream BBCRadio2 so I could hear them play the new track and I was shamelessly squirming with excitement. A woman my age shouldn’t be such a fangirl, but that’s just the effect that TT has on their fans, I’m afraid. I do like the song, quite a lot despite what I’m about to say. I was expecting upbeat from the info leaked about the new single on Twitter, but other than that I don’t know what I was expecting. What I can tell you is that if I’d heard the song without knowing who it was I don’t know that I would have recognised it as TT at first. Not until I heard Gary’s familiar passaggio type hitch in the first verse after the intro. The sound of the lad’s voices was unfamiliarly processed. Of course listening to it for the nth time in a day I can clearly hear Gary but a lot of times I have to concentrate, they are so blended.(I should pause to clarify that I will be coming at this with the bias of being a shamelessly devoted Gary Barlow fan. I do see the merits of the others and the chemistry between all of them that makes TT the juggernaut they are, but again, I am a bit biased.) However, the way Gary’s voice is processed makes him sound more generic and I don’t like that. I met it with ambivalence for that reason, just as I did with Gary’s recent duet with Smokey Robinson. His vocals were heavily processed to match him closer to Smokey’s tone and the use of auto-tune on his pitch perfect voice was off-putting. Needless to say, I didn’t buy the single of ‘Get Ready’. I’m not overly fond of the vocal blending that they’ve achieved in ‘These Days’. There is too much warring between Gary and Marks voices in ‘These Days’ and it takes a bit of the shine off it for me. I agree with you that with the over-processed vocals the song isn’t immediately recognisable as Take That. Anyone could be singing it. There is much in the style of the song that I recognise lyrically and stylistically however, and were the vocals produced differently I think it would be more ‘genuine’ Take That.

    If the blended vocals present in ‘These Days’ are a thing throughout the new record it will take some getting used to for me. That being said I will of course love it because it’s them. I’ve never hated anything they’ve done, there are simply things that I don’t favour as much.
    I had issues with Progress because it was far too much Rob and too little of Gary. As a result I’ve left most of the tracks of that record off my MP3 player. It was certainly different and there is much about it to love, and I understand why they did it that way given the past with Rob and Gary. I get it. But now, in the eyes of this particular fan, one solo, possibly two each for Mark and Howard is more than sufficient. They are adequate singers but they just don’t have what Gary has. I know that they do things more equally after their comeback but there should be a limit. Gary is their lead singer and should be carrying the bulk of the lead vocals and not be blended to oblivion.

    I understand that more than ever they have something to prove. This has been a tough year for the lads, without question. Jason’s decision to retire, whilst not being unexpected for them was a shock for the fans and I know there are many that are still reeling from it. Still others that doubt that they will work as a 3-piece. I’m not one of them. I know they will be fine. The three strongest vocalists in the 4-piece incarnation are indeed Gary, Howard and Mark. The remaining three are the dedicated heart of the group and the title of the album is simple and perfect. If the bulk of the record has the same upbeat tone it will certainly be a hit by virtue alone of the second generation of Take That fans, let alone all us old-schoolers. It is completely relevant for 2014. This band has survived and endured because of their ability to constantly reinvent themselves and change with time and circumstance. It’s what makes them so well-loved and it inspires the massive, unique fanbase that they have. We will love anything that TT does. They will most certainly endure as long as they desire to continue on, of that I have no doubt. Because of our ridiculously devoted fanbase, I expect III to spend some time at #1 and become their 7th album to reside there. Loads of us have already pre-ordered, myself included. Not an easy feat when one is in the US, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    I’ll end by saying that these are solely my opinions. I don’t profess to speak for anyone else. Thanks for allowing me to stand on my soapbox for a bit 😉

  2. @Ellie: Thank you so much for taking the time to write this thoughtful and insightful comment. The absence of Take That on American airwaves is a symptom of a much larger problem that dates back to the mid-90s in the US. Take That is one of MANY acts with no traction in the US thanks to the geocentric focus of centralized playlist programming (i.e. DJs do not get to pick the playlist for their own shows). Like you, I too lived overseas for a long time. I lived in Asia right through the 90s before moving back to the US in late 1999. Music became a highly anti-social experience for me when I moved back here. I was shocked at just how narrow the mainstream was in the US. I know what it is to feel left out. It is how I’ve felt from a musical perspective for the last 15 years. That was part of the reason we launched Radio Crème Brulee back in 2007. You will get your fill of Take That and Robbie Williams on there. You will also find yourself discovering a lot of major label acts that have virtually no footprint in the US even though they are massive overseas.

    The vocals are one big blur on this track. I don’t know where Gary finishes and Mark begins. That is odd given just how different and distinct their voices are. An entire album like this would definitely be a letdown for TT fans although they might cross over to a new audience with material like this – especially if they get airplay on BBC Radio 1.

    I have to admit Progress took me back many years. I was back in school when “The Flood” released and I was in Chicago at the time. I had to wake up early morning (at 4:00 a.m. or so) to hear the digitally watermarked track that Universal Music sent me for radio airplay. Hearing Gary and Rob on vocals was absolute bliss. Songs like “Wait” and “Eight Letters” always trigger a euphoric feeling in me. Missing the Progress tour is one of my biggest regrets.

    I have no doubt that III will go to #1. Sadly, Take That continue to make the same mistake of having a 5 week lag between the radio debut of their lead singles and the release date of that single. That has hurt their ability to get their singles to make it to #1. I figured they would have learned their lesson after “The Flood” but I guess they have not. A five-week lag for an album is acceptable but for a single that is downright stupid – especially in this age of “flavor of the moment” instant gratification.

    Thank you once again for adding your own flavor to the content in the blog post above. I truly appreciate it!

  3. Esther says:

    I just wanted to nuance a comment Ellie has made. I mostly agree with all her comments, except for the one about Progress, when she says it was too much Rob and too little of Gary. I guess she’s referring to the vocal part, in which case I agree, but if she’s referring to the musical part, I disagree, since Gary wrote 11 of the 18 backing tracks before they even started to write and record the album, that is, he wrote the backing tracks on which the rest worked, changing, adding… but having that as the basis from which the rest developed. This means the sound was not dictated by Rob. They just adapted their music to a new situation and to the presence of different types of artists and styles. The result, in my opinion, was something that was not TT as we had known them till them, not Rob either, but something different, which was probably what the band needed at the time and the logical consequence of putting together artists with different career paths, tastes and styles.

    Other than that, I quite agree with everything that’s been said. “These Days” doesn’t sound like them, it was difficult to recognize their voices (Gary has explained that they were trying to unify their voices but I totally agree with what you said: it’s a letdown because I love Gary’s voice the way it is and shouldn’t be processed, that’s why I share Ellie’s opinion about his duet with Smokey) but facing a new and difficult situation like the one their going through required a new approach to music. They’ve made a brave move and they seem to have favoured charts to quality. Having said all this, despite the fact I expected and expect more from them, I do love the tune, I do think it’s a wise move and I hope it does well in the charts, though I’m a bit worried about the 5 week lag between the debut and the single, as you pointed out too. I wish them the best and hope they are around many more years; they still have a lot to offer and I’m curious to know what path their music will take in the future. Thanks for allowing to comment on all this.

  4. Ellie says:

    I’m going to answer both of these comments in one post if that’s all right. I’ll answer Esther first. I was indeed referring to the vocal part of Progress. Again, there was much that I love about the record. Allow me to reiterate that I don’t expect everyone to agree with what I say, that these are my personal feelings and I in no way speak for other TT fans. However, I do stand by my original comments although I should expand a bit. When I was speaking of Progress my feelings about the tour were tied into that wee critique as well. I was commenting on the Progress endeavour as a whole, record and tour. For me, much of the tour DVD seemed like ‘the Robbie Show’ rather than a Take That concert. I’m not a Robbie hater. Far from it. But at this stage of the game he is fully established as a solo artist and will always lean towards that, rather than being part of a group full-time. His personality is far too big and it serves him quite well as a solo artist. But ‘Progress’ gave many fans from before the split something that they had been longing for and that was a reunion of the original five. It was marvelous to see it happen and good on all of them for making it come together after everything that happened back in the day. Whilst I wasn’t fond of the way it was laid out, i.e. TT4 performing, then Robbie doing a mini-concert before they finally reunited as a five-piece again on stage, there were many true moments of brilliance in that tour for any Take That fan, regardless of which incarnation is your favourite. And I dearly loved hearing Gary and Rob singing together.

    I mentioned in my first post that I am a Gary Barlow fan. He was what lured me to Take That in the very beginning. He is a massive inspiration to me for many reasons, but I won’t go into them here. But the fact is, I don’t care if he wrote a song or not. I want to hear him sing in his own band and not take so much of a back seat. He is the lead singer. There are many songs out there that Gary wrote for other artists that I have no interest in because it’s not him singing it. That was the point I was making regarding Progress. It’s my personal feeling on it and you can take it for what it’s worth. Or not. I really don’t mind! ;). The way that they tied it all together and made it work was inspired and Progress was deservedly massive. It was very Muse-ish in places and I am a huge lover of Muse as well. I think it’s admirable the way Gary stepped back and let the others take much of the lead vocals, but for me he was sorely missed.

    (As an aside, if you’ve not seen it I highly recommend watching ‘Look Back, Don’t Stare’. It’s illuminating and is fully loaded with the extra footage on YouTube. It sheds more light on how they came together again and how Progress began.)

    I did hear Gary make a comment on one of the radio shows Thursday morning that the merged vocals were going to be a ‘thing’ throughout III. How much of a thing remains to be seen but it’s certainly a potential issue with me. Since ‘These Days’ was played the other morning and I captured it I’ve listened to it at least every few hours each day. I’m in love with it, no question. Knowing that it’s them makes my heart soar and makes me feel like a teenager again. Each time I’ve listened to it I’ve found more and more things in it. I love the way it begins and suddenly begins to build the tempo, I love the message of hope and intent in the lyrics. My own take on the song is that it’s not necessarily about love or a relationship, but rather a message to anyone who has been in a dark place, be it in a relationship or life in general. It might even have a bit to do with their feelings over the impending loss of Jason. But it urges us to step into the light, to look back enough to remember and reaffirm our dreams and goals and move forward whilst cutting our losses. Grab on and seize the day. Live in the moment and look to the future with renewed hope and determination. That’s what I get out of it, anyway. I can certainly relate and quite possibly that is why I read the song that particular way. It’s the blurring and almost indistinctness of the vocals that keeps me from being completely mad for ‘These Days’. In the background of the last chorus I can hear someone shouting ‘Yeah’ and I still can’t pick out who it is. It could be Howard or it could be all of them. There is no delineation of their voices. Yet to be fair to the lads I do understand what they are doing and why. It’s a gutsy decision they made to move forward and reinvent themselves yet again and I’m excited for what’s ahead. I do believe the song will do very well and quite possibly nail a #1 spot for awhile. And the album as well. The TT fan base is massive and we’ve waited four years between records. I regularly check my Twitter feed and for the last two days #TheseDays is all over my timeline. The tune is getting a lot of buzz and like I predicted, the younger, second generation fans are mad for it.

    However, I’m with both of you on that five week lag. I don’t understand the point of it. By the time it’s released, especially in this era of YouTube and social media,
    ‘These Days’ will be played out for the most part and fans will already be itching for something new. Flavour of the moment, indeed.

    Anyway, thanks again. If I’ve been a bit here and there the morning, forgive me. I began writing just after I opened my eyes and didn’t have sufficient caffeine! Thanks for your answers and for letting me post. 😉

  5. Esther says:

    I wasn’t sure you were referring to the vocals or not, that’s why I made that comment. My intention was not to discuss likes or dislikes, since everybody is entitled to their tastes.
    I was referring to the fact that music-wise there was a lot of Gary in Progress for the reason I’ve explained, and I didn’t know if you or the people reading this were aware of it. I thought it was important to point it out.
    Since you were referring to the vocals and not to the writing of music and lyrics, my argumentation is pointless but, nevertheless, some people might not know it so that’s why I decided to post the comment.

    I have indeed seen LBDS and everything to do with Take That etc. I do recommend it as well.

  6. G!e says:

    Like or dislikes. With too much Robby or less Gary! Modern Songs or not! For me, This is now TAKE THAT III ( Gary, Howad and Mark ). I hope the Boys continue to be successful, even if they’re only three! And no more Robbie and Jason. It’s so unfair! Robbie only come back when he needs the help of the Boys. Robbie Williams Fans love to see their idol as solo artist ,anyway. He can remain solo!
    And Jason?…i don’t understand his reason! Robbie and Jason left the Band TAKE THAT. So, they’re Ex-Take That. It’s nothing to do with this ex-member anymore!
    This my opinion.

  7. Frannie says:

    As a Madonna fan, I have to comment on some things in here that are incorrect. It may not be her most commercial record, but American Life is a cult favorite among her fans and some consider it a work of genius. It’s quite a different record for her and is more acoustic and slower and less dance. So I think the fact she didn’t perform more of it in her Reinvention Tour also had a lot to do it didn’t fit in with her usual format of having a lot of dancers and doing more uptempo music. While American Life maybe is forgotten by the general public, it’s one of her most loved albums among a certain cult group of her fans.
    Music was very critically acclaimed and spawned one of her biggest hits, the title track, which she has performed on a lot of her tours and always gets the crowd dancing. A lot of Music was performed on her Drowned World Tour. So I would hardly call that album lackluster.

  8. nirvanamusic says:

    Take That’s albums are FINALLY on US iTunes after all these years!!! Hopefully the new album will get a digital release at least!! No more importing!

  9. @Esther: One of the interesting lines in LBBDS was Robbie’s comment in which he explicitly stated “Gary is the still the captain of the ship and I am fortunate to benefits from his tutelage”. That is a strong indication that Gary was instrumental in the overall sound of Progress even though he took a backseat vocally.

  10. @Ellie; If I indeed the merged vocals are going to be a think across the album, that might not bode well for the trio. In the endeavor to sound current, they might just merge with the rest and lose any sense of musical identity – and that would be unfortunate for Take That. Merged vocals in part is good but it being the standard for the album would be a huge mistake. Thank you so much for expanding on the content of our core post. The discussion on here is even more important than the post itself.

  11. @G!e: I too hope that the trio is successful. Personally, I’d rather have some incarnation of Take That than no Take That at all. A part of me still hopes Robbie rejoins Take That though.

  12. @Frannie: I actually attended one of the Drowned World tour concerts at Bercy stadium in Paris back in 2001 while doing my semester abroad in France. I actually did not like the show at all – for its overemphasis on the “Music” album even though I know the tour was meant to promote it. I missed the orchestral sound that dominated Madonna’s catalog from 1984-1996. I later became aware that “American Life” was a cult favorite.

  13. @nirvanamusic: That took a while didn’t it? I wonder how much the record label lost due to piracy before they discovered that releasing it in the US was a good idea. Region-specific publishing rights are one of the most stupid and antiquated elements of the music industry.

  14. G!e says:

    Good for Robbie that his Solo career still going well! And at some point when his career go down slowly. Then he needs the boys again…and come by itself!
    By the way, thank you that you’re promoting Take That in your country. But, somehow you critised them more than promoting the lads. Unlike, with Robbie you write mostly good about him! That’s what i think!

  15. G!e says:

    Besides, Take That with Robbie is not the same anymore. The 4 Machester Boys have harmony and a real friendship formed in good and in bad days, but not with Robbie! Robbie’ fans are not tolerant enough, when it comes to their idol. They think, when Robbie working with Take That, their idol must always stand in the middle, the lead singer, etc. Take That don’t actually need Robbie. They managed to be successful without Robbie. No matter how they perform it’s always look like “Take That featuring Robbie Williams and not ” The original Take That!”

  16. G!e: We love Take That and I’ve been a fan since hearing them on the radio in Asia for the first time in late 1993. We will always promote their music. We are generally harsher about the artists we like more. We tend to hold them to a higher standard – and that might reflect in some of our writing on the blog. Our only real criticism of Take That stems from their business decisions – in particular with respect to the US in the digital age. Musically, we still think they’re top notch without a doubt. Take That definitely do not need Robbie. I don’t know if you remember this line from the “Look back don’t stare” documentary. It was a thought-provoking comment from Gary Barlow. He said that “the success of Take That as a 4-piece was critical to the reconciliation with Robbie. We had to meet as equals” – and I think we both know they truly met as equal entities when they reunited for “Progress”.

  17. Ellie says:

    @radiocremebrulee Bingo. That’s one of my concerns. For any fan of Take That the thing that sets them apart is that they are just different. It’s hard to explain why but they have their own special essence that separates them from being merely another ‘pop’ band and it certainly explains their longevity and the devotion they inspire in their fan base. There really isn’t an easy way to define them and you can’t pigeon-hole them. They have their own ‘box’. They’ve always stood out, as any devotee of theirs can attest. I’m not particularly into pop music as a rule. That’s how Take That are classified, but the genre is not my first choice. I’m much more alternative-leaning and have never had an interest in any ‘boy-bands’ or anyone who tries to be similar to Take That. It’s not my style of music. But I’ve been hooked on these guys from the start. Something makes them special. So I do share the concern that the melded vocals are going to take away from who they are and make them more generic.

    This was a big week for Take That interviews and in particular for Gary himself. He closed his SISYL Tour in Dubai last night. I’ve been culling the web for streams and links to gather as much info as I can in my free time and it all started to merge into one in my mind after a bit! I did record most of them, however. Whilst I can’t name the particular interview at the moment, earlier this week I did hear Gary again mention that the blended vocals are a theme in the new record. Also, there is apparently only one ballad. The rest of the record is rumoured to be very uptempo throughout. Depending on the quality of the music, I don’t think the lack of ballads will be an issue, but Take That are KNOWN for them. This is a whole different direction they are taking and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

    Being in the US, I won’t be able to get a digital download when III is released, so I’ll have to wait for the CD I pre-ordered. Sucks, but there you have it. However when I do finally receive it I will be immersing myself in it and forming an honest opinion. These are my lads and I love them, but I also hold them to a very high standard and expect a certain level from them. If I don’t find it, I will certainly be honest about it.

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