For anyone that has been a Take That fan since the early 90s, Wednesday evening (September 24, 2014) must have presented its fair share of deja vu moments. In a rather surprising and unfortunate twist in the Take That story, band-member Jason Orange made a formal statement announcing his departure from Take That – one of Britain’s most successful music groups of all time. The moment was probably reminiscent of that time back in 1995 when the group’s official “bad boy” Robbie Williams announced his exit from Take That. Helplines were set up for fans in the UK and there was a lot of shedding of tears for the band. This time, with Jason’s exit, there has been no helpline action despite the levels of sadness and surprise across Take That’s global fanbase. There is no point trying to speculate over the reasons for the departure of the intensely private Jason Orange. For a pop star, he has done an amazing job of being extremely tight-lipped about key elements of his life – which seem to have been shrouded in mystery for what seems like ever. That dynamic is unlikely to change any time soon. The members of Take That are reasonably good at keeping their secrets concealed. The bigger and more pertinent question here is – what does Jason’s exit mean for Take That and their future as a musical and commercial entity?
In the 90s, Jason’s inclusion into Take That stemmed primarily from his competence as a breakdancer and his chiseled good looks. In the band, he was, without a doubt, a healthier alternative to Robbie Williams when it came to mass female adulation. It was no secret that he did not have any creative input into the music. It was well known that Gary Barlow was the heart and soul of the band from a purely musical perspective. But Take That was bigger than their music. They were a pop band composed of classically good-looking men with great voices and who together had an immaculate stage presence. Their live shows were quite the spectacle. But they were still very much a band. While the music was pretty top-notch (especially with the release of the “Everything Changes” album), the commercial power of the band still revolved around the fact that they were a band with a dynamic that had an intensely magnetic lure. Gary Barlow did all the writing and most of the singing but this did NOT change the fact that the mass adulation was towards the band as a cohesive unit.
Take That started to look a lot less like a “Gary Barlow and the rest” entity when they successfully returned to the pop music landscape in 2006 becoming the biggest comeback act in the history of pop music. What was initially a solo endeavor (i.e. Gary Barlow being the creative nucleus of Take That) had morphed into a musical democracy. All members (sans Robbie Williams) contributed to the songwriting process. The band changed from a pop/soul act to more of an Adult Alternative act. They also donned a style that was well suited to them and that was commercially viable. But they were still a band. They had not necessarily returned with their strongest material to date but they knew how to leverage their “brand appeal” – which stemmed from the band dynamic that the four Manchester lads shared. It was a dynamic that worked well even without Robbie Williams.
In 2010, with the release of “Progress” and the “larger than life” stadium tour that followed, Take That appeared more like a supergroup (two huge acts being fused into one) even though they had just returned to their original formation as a quintet which included Robbie Williams. Not only were they riding the wave of a successful comeback but they were taking a true “deep dive” into nostalgia, which while limited in its shelf life has a very strong lure. “Progress” by itself was a fantastic album that showcased quite the creative foray for the band into uncharted territory from a sonic perspective. We personally think this is when the band should have called it quits. They always wanted to exit on a high – and they were fortunate to be one of the few bands (if not the only one) to have two dizzyingly high commercial zeniths.
Now, with Take That being months away from the release of a new album, and them being reduced to a three-piece, it is hard to dismiss the fact that the brand appeal of a diluted band dynamic (sans Orange and Williams) will undoubtedly be diminished. How could they possibly go from being a 5-piece to a 3-piece?
Musically, the band will sound almost exactly like Take That 2.0 (i.e. without Robbie Williams). Jason Orange was by no means a key vocalist. Besides tracks such as “Wooden Boat” and “Flowerbed”, not a single song showcases his vocal ability. Hence, nothing will change in terms of the musical output. That being said, the halo that emanates from the Take That brand will undoubtedly get tarnished. The brand dilution will become obvious when the band starts to do promotional activities such as performance on television and interviews. The “half glass empty” syndrome will be most obvious when the band goes on tour. However great the music is, the fans will have only one thing on their minds – the fact that the band is incomplete. What they will see is a shadow of a band that once was. Going from a 5-piece to a 3-piece in a situation wherein band dynamic is key to commercial success is tough. While we applaud Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Howard Donald for being gracious about Jason Orange’s departure, they might be underestimating the forces at play here.
Take That has been successful against all odds in the past. Hence, it is very possible that they might overcome their latest setback but it is highly unlikely that they will do so. While we believe that Robbie Williams infused new life into a Take That sound that was starting to get stale on the “Circus” album, we never believed that Take That needed Williams – not until now. It would be a fine gesture on the part of Robbie Williams if he returned to Take That. His return would eclipse Jason Orange’s departure and the four of them could easily turn this ship around. It might be wishful thinking but it is worth a mention.
Last, but not least, we wish Jason Orange the absolute best for all future endeavors.
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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