Eight weeks later, and Let it Shine, the hit BBC One series looking to find a new boyband to star in a new stage show called ‘The Band’, based on the songs of Take That, has found its winners. But more than that, in Five to Five, as they are now called, Gary Barlow has found something that has potential way beyond the confines of the show they’ve been newly formed on.
A bit of back history first though, before we reflect on the present. When Take That Mk I first emerged in 1991, leather jackets and cod pieces a-go-go in the borderline hilarious video for debut waxing ‘Do What U Like’, they were launching when straight ahead pop music had all but hit the buffers.
This was the year of faceless dance acts and rave outfits like Bomb the Bass, Urban Hype, Heavy D and the Boys. It was a year when Kylie Minogue, in the twilight years of working with S/A/W but dating Michael Hutchence, started to struggle to get top 10 singles (hello to you, ‘Word is Out’, complete with its pre-fame cameo from one Davina McCall). Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was perched atop the UK singles chart for 16 – SIXTEEN – weeks with blockbuster power ballad ‘Everything I Do (I Do it for You)’. And perhaps worst of all, old dreadlocks himself, Mick Hucknall and Simply Red had the biggest selling album of that year with ‘Stars’.
25 years on, and there are undoubtedly, parallels. Drake spent an equally tiresome 15 weeks at number one last summer with ‘One Dance’. Acts like Clean Bandit and The Chainsmokers, with their moody and tense ‘tropical house’ stylings are fine on the ever self consciously cool Radio 1 and Capital, but are utterly dull to write about. In fact it says a lot that last year, an old hat I may be, but the two new albums I was most excited by were All Saints and Rick Astley, both of whom haven’t troubled the singles chart in decades.
And as for the boyband itself – the proper, old school, all harmonising, all co-ordinated, all high energy dancing variety, as opposed to the corporate ‘stand in a line and look moody in varsity jackets’ five man soap opera stylings of the currently dormant One Direction – the stock for that has never been lower. Which makes the Five to Five lads – AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Nick Carsberg, Curtis Johns and Sario Solomon – something of a revelation.
Admittedly, it’s easy when there’s a drought commercially and critically for certain styles of music, for fans of that to cling desperately to any new act that’s trying to keep it moderately alive. More so when that act has been formed on a TV talent show to an audience of millions like they have. But though Five to Five were formed in the manner they were, it’s clear to see from the get go that there was a natural chemistry betweem them, and strength as potential new stars in their performances then say, Drive or Neon Panda (God I would love have to been a fly on the wall in that meeting brainstorming the final group’s names).
The same was true, and reminds me at a pang, of JLS, the last boyband to be launched from a TV talent show that actually did what they said on the tin, harmonies, backflips and all – and were bloody good at it into the bargain, and also had a genuine brotherly bond between them that few in their wake – yes, including One Direction – failed to possess even when they split in 2013.
Obviously, the immediate focus for the guys now will be the intense rehearsals for The Band stage show that they have won, which opens for a national tour in September. But already several record labels are clamouring to sign them and release their own material outside the stage show.
If Gary plays his cards right – which he already has with them as the winners – and hooks them up with top quality writers and producers, we could potentially be looking at the launch of something very exciting indeed.
Five to Five will star in ‘The Band’ which opens at the Manchester Opera House on 8th September, then tours nationwide. Tickets go on sale from 12pm on 3rd April at www.thebandmusical.com. Twitter: @FivetoFiveFans