This review is by our highly talented affiliate blogger Sarah Hamilton from Popledge UK. The new single “Stars” by Take That’s Mark Owen has been highly anticipated. Here is Sarah’s take on it!

Mark OwenThe rather surprising resurgence of Take That in 2006 took the music world by surprise. Boybands, by design, are not supposed to have a second go at success. The mass hysteria that propels them to stardom is not supposed to work when they become mature adults. Yet, in the case of Take That, it worked. Three number one singles and three number one albums later (since 2006), it is fair to say that their comeback just might be the biggest one in music history. It was a comeback against all odds – especially since for the first two post-reunion albums, the band’s breakout star Robbie Williams was NOT part of the fold (he joined in on the “Progress” album).  One of the  noteworthy effects of their surprising streak of success was a re-examination of the solo work of band-members Gary Barlow and Mark Owen. Their commercial success as solo artists started to dwindle with their sophomore efforts. A critical re-evaluation of the three band-members that went solo suggested that it was Mark Owen whose material was the strongest – if not the most commercially successful. Mark played all his cards right. Like Robbie Williams, he too reinvented himself (this is probably where Gary Barlow failed despite his competence as a songwriter). He unapologetically embraced the “Indie” in him and did not feel the need to fit the mold of the pop music scene around him at the time he went solo. Today, he is given a lot of kudos for that. Hence, it is not surprising that he wants to give his solo career a second shot – especially since his renewed fame and success as a member of Take That. His new album “The Art of Doing Nothing” is slated for a release on June 10 and the album’s lead single “Stars” definitely does quite the job of creating an appetite for the new album.

In some ways Owen’s single “Stars” lyrically borrows heavily from some of Take That’s ‘Progress’ era tracks which included talk of aliens, rocket ships and traveling through the dimensions. From a personal point of view it is hard not to listen to the lines ‘you want to get away…I’m taking you”  and “If I tell you I’m leaving just hang on” without thinking back to and referencing Mark’s drinking problems and subsequent affairs and difficulties within his marriage.  It also serves up a feeling that all of our lives are finite. He refers to the fact that we all end up where we started as stars.  Therefore lyrically there is a lot to look into within “Stars” and you can take the meanings and thoughts as far as you like.

The sound of the track can be described best as “light electronic pop track”. There are no synths or effects but rather a use of more traditional instruments such as violins and drums which adds a richness and a quality to the track.  The insistent and quite angry beat running through the track is especially noteworthy. Owen’s vocals can be a bit off-putting for some – since they are a bit nasal. But on this track, the  vocals are well-suited to the subject matter. There is also a nice moment near the end of the track where his vocals are ‘echoed’ into several layers.

The question of whether or not commercial radio will pick “Stars” up for rotation is a debatable one. As a solo star, Mark Owen is woefully ignored. He doesn’t have the media presence and ‘national treasure’ PR which Take That band-mate Gary Barlow trades on. Neither does he have the kind of fan-base/popular history that Robbie Williams does. What he does have on his side is the association with Take That which is never to be under-estimated. He will also fit well into radio stations such as Radio 2, Absolute Radio, and of course our own station Radio Creme Brulee!  He also has the opportunity through the art side of the album to pick up interest and critical acclaim from more ‘alternative’ blogs. Regardless of how the single fares commercially, it is still a noteworthy return for Take That’s most criminally under-rated band-member. That being said, here is the full-length music video (below) for “Stars“:

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RADIO ALERT: We might be one of the few American radio stations that plays Take That’ music regularly. We are definitely the ONLY radio station in the world that plays the solo material of Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams, and Mark Owen regularly. Currently, “Starsby Mark Owen is getting 5 plays a day on our radio station. You can listen to us online or on your smartphone from ANY part of the world. IF you are reading this on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.), CLICK HERE to listen to our radio station. If not, listen to our station from ANY part of the world by clicking on the button below.