Are Victoria Beckham and Jason Orange the best members of their bands?

From the Spice Girls and Take That’s more subdued individuals to Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh, it’s the so-called quiet ones who are often the most astute

“My biggest insecurity has always been, what do I contribute to the band?” mused Jason Orange in 2005, ahead of Take That’s lucrative reunion. His lack of clarity vis-a-vis his day job was subsequently reflected by Twitter wags, who marked his eventual departure in 2014 with variations on “Who?”. But as Take That stumble on as a trio – a reworked greatest hits album is out now – and with the Victoria Beckham-less Spice Girls reunion causing a similar wave of “Wow, what a huge vocal loss” sarcasm, it is time to reiterate the obvious: a great pop group is not just about vocals, dance moves or even the songs; it’s all about chemistry.

What Jason Orange and Victoria Beckham had in common is that both understood the importance of bringing self-awareness to groups featuring earnest, self-proclaimed leaders (Gary Barlow, Geri Halliwell); loose cannons (Robbie Williams, Mel B); steady third-tier recruits (Howard Donald, Mel C) and cute, quirky types (Mark Owen, Emma Bunton). Without them, the all-important balance is thrown off. Sure, Victoria’s main dance move was the point and pout, but the fact that you’re picturing her doing it right now means that she left her mark. The Posh Spice moniker may have defined her as smile-free, but you can’t eschew a solo spot, as she did during the Spice Girls’ first reunion tour in 2007, in favour of sashaying down a catwalk to RuPaul’s Supermodel (You Better Work) and not have a sense of humour.

Spice Girls in 1996 (clockwise from left): Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell’ Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton.
The Spice Girls in 1996: (clockwise from left) Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell’ Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton. Photograph: Tim Roney/Getty

Imagine a group made up of five Robbie Williamses. It wouldn’t work. In the same way, having five Gary Barlows would make a Tory party conference, not a pop band. Jason Orange was the solid structure around which Take That was built, a seemingly decent man (he quit shortly after Howard, Mark and Gary were embroiled in a tax-avoidance controversy) who was fully aware of pop’s ridiculousness. When he left, his bandmates released a statement citing his energy and belief in the band as huge reasons for their success, two often unheralded traits that have been sorely lacking from their subsequent records. Also, every band has, and does, need a Jason or a Victoria. One Direction? Niall Horan. Girls Aloud? Kimberley Walsh. Sugababes? Actually, that’s more complicated.

One other key element is that both Mr Orange and Ms Beckham exited at pivotal moments. Jason followed an already departed Robbie, leaving the band hobbled as a trio and showing up their desire to milk the Take That brand as even more craven. Having already done one reunion tour, Victoria decided against another trip on the Spice Bus. With the Girls’ Theresa May-supporting rebrand of “Girl Power” (now “People Power”), it’s more evidence that the so-called quiet ones are often the most astute.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The 30 best boyband members – ranked!
From the Osmonds’ Donny to BTS’s Jimin, boybands have produced some brilliant performers behind the hair gel. Ahead of the release of Zayn Malik’s new album, we list the greatest

Michael Cragg

13, Dec, 2018 @1:00 PM

Article image
Spice Girls announce reunion tour – without Victoria Beckham
Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Geri Horner and Melanie Chisholm will tour the UK in 2019

Laura Snapes

05, Nov, 2018 @12:20 PM

Article image
Stool samples: a history of chairs in pop, from Westlife to Britney
To mark the return of the key change-loving Irish balladeers, here’s a celebration of music’s most comfortable accessory

Hannah Verdier

30, Oct, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
Robbie Williams: Take the Crown – review
Robbie Williams is back! With the big pop album we've all been waiting for! But hang on, isn't that what he did last time, asks Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

01, Nov, 2012 @3:29 PM

Article image
The Spice Girls showed us how to party. In dark times, they’re back to remind us | Alex Clark
Take a night off the stockpiling to have some fun, says freelance journalist Alex Clark

Alex Clark

12, Nov, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
'Oh, it's you!' said Geri: my quest to meet the Spice Girls
Mel C was friendly, Mel B less so... and Posh Spice had to get the perfect selfie

Joe Stone

05, May, 2017 @12:00 PM

Article image
All 43 Spice Girls songs – ranked!
As the Spice Girls reconvene without Easy V (she don’t come for free) for a string of 2019 stadium shows, we sift their catalogue to decide what’s best

Alexis Petridis

08, Nov, 2018 @1:11 PM

Article image
Need to spice up the reunion tour? You can rely on Mel B
This week’s revelations from Spice World could almost make you think the girls are intent on extreme self-sabotage

Joel Golby

28, Mar, 2019 @5:05 PM

Article image
The 1990s are back! But they’re much more depressing this time around | Joe Stone
Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls are on the agenda again. It’s tarnishing the decade that made me, says journalist Joe Stone

Joe Stone

06, Sep, 2018 @11:39 AM

Article image
Geri's 90s: Ginger Spice's nostalgia show will drive you to distraction
The former pop star may seem like a good fit for a cultural survey of the decade but her show My Drive To Freedom turns out to be a tonally confusing ride

Stuart Heritage

11, Mar, 2017 @10:00 AM