Take that were way, way less of a big deal in North America than they were in the UK – like most if not all UK manufactured pop – and so I was barely aware they existed, except that “Back for Good” was an actual hit over here. But I basically only know they exist because of Robbie Williams, who is also not as well known over here…
It’s impressive that Barlow writes his material, good for him. And “Back for Good” is a legitimate ear-worm. I cannot think of an American boyband with the equivalent of someone as talented at songwriting as Barlow. That might speak to my ignorance of boybands – something that doesn’t bother me any – but I think it’s likely because most people who can write songs don’t join boybands. (Look at the credits of most American boyband releases: even when the members write songs, they nearly always co-write them with someone who is a professional.) But the remainder of Barlow’s songs are all inferior to “Back for Good”, some of them quite inferior. It’s possible that the professional songwriters who are all over US boyband releases might actually be helpful. I get he wants creative control, but he could use the help. (Wait a minute: this album sold six million copies? I guess he doesn’t need any help.)
The aesthetic is extremely safe and polished and slick. And it often lacks the vague dance and hip hop influences that US boybands adopted around the same time. This makes the whole thing sound pretty anemic. There are a few tracks that deviate from the formula, but not very much. It does really feel like a bunch of British white guys singing generic ’90s R&B (and missing various amounts of R or B depending on the song).
There’s not much to say about the actual record. It’s impressive that a member writes their songs. It’s crazy that the most talented person in the band is not the main singer-songwriter. (How crazy is that? What other boyband’s supporting singer went on to have a career like Robbie Williams’? It’s weird.) But the album itself is very dull.