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.

Contributor

Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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