The Music Videos of Take That: Promises (1991)

Last week, we looked at the music video of Take That’s debut single, “Do What You Like”.

After hitting the music scene with a force during the summer of 1991, their second single dropped November of the same year.

While “Do What You Like” is a fairly straight-forward video, “Promises” is structured as a behind-the-scenes sneak peak into the lives of the band. Much of the footage is taken from what looks to be a dance rehearsal with intercut editing between interviews, fan craziness and mischievous boyish antics.

In the time which passed between the first and the second video, the personalities/statuses of there various band members begin to shine through in “Promises”. Perhaps most notable is the gradual establishment of Gary Barlow as the front-man.  This video (like the previous single) is very dance heavy; however, “Promises” shows Barlow (who was also writing on the songs) beginning to step to the front of the group. He also is carrying a bigger vocal work load. The director crafts the video almost as it were a concert. Things are manic, there is dancing and lots of quick cuts. However, as soon as Gary Barlow opens his mouth to sing (using a soda bottle as a microphone), things slow down. The cuts stop and for a few seconds we simply watch him sing. If this video makes anything clear, the group is officially Barlow’s by this point.

We also see Robbie Williams beginning to step forward a bit as well. While he doesn’t sing any solos during this particular song, Williams has a knack for getting himself into shots. His charisma and the beginnings of his mischievous personality are starting to shine through, showing just a hint of the performer he would morph into during the following decades. To compare, fellow Take That members Mark Owen and Jason Orange are only the focus of a few shots and Howard Donald is seemingly relegated to the background.

Meanwhile, the sexualization in this video continues to feel quite overt, though of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. The editing on “Promises” is quickly paced and there are a number (fairly out of place) shots integrated throughout the music video which show the band with a sexualization which feels uncommon, especially in boy bands. This begins quickly with a surprisingly gaze-ey shot of a shirtless Gary Barlow laying on his back getting a a rubdown over his chest. The camera seems to mimic the gaze of the unseen masseuse. His eyes are closed, almost unaware of the camera. Later, there is similar massage scene, but the body is so fragmented that its difficult to tell just who is the focus. Finally, there are three different shots featuring a (still barely-legal) Robbie Williams at a swimming pool. In the first he twists as the camera gazes over his dripping, muscular torso. In the other two, he leaps out of the water playfully, showing a rear view of a pair of barely-there underwear.

Finally, “Promises” has seemingly righted its problems with the gaze from “Do What You Like”. The action assumes the gaze of the (traditionally female) fans watching the band rehearse. Furthermore, the shots of the massage and the swimming pool come from an unseen eye, allowing the audience (once again, traditionally female) to step into these roles.

“Promises” is an interesting follow-up to Take That’s dynamic debut, “Do What You Like”. While the video is structured with a fairly uninteresting behind-the-scenes narrative, it shows the creative team around the boy-band already taking steps to craft the musical dynamo which Take That would become in the early 1990s music industry.

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