A third album in as many years – for all that they were an honest phenomenon now, for all the still-spiralling popularity, Take That kept their workrate brutally high. Invisiblity is death in pop, and in the pre-net era visibility meant product. Commercially, said product would be as close to a cert as one could want, so even amidst the Stakhanovite grinning and flexing there might be room for experiment. Namely, a seven-minute video to show off the boys’ comedic talents (which proved feeble) and a chance for Gary to do an R&B number.
Alas! R&B and Barlow were uneasy bedfellows. For a few seconds “Sure” keeps its footing, sounds excitingly on-trend even – a confident whomp of a beat with producers Brothers In Rhythm doing a decent Teddy Riley impression. But then comes Gary, whose voice is all wrong for this – too bluff and needy, hectoring where it should plead, plodding where it should cajole. The backing vocalists (“Sure! So Sure!”) carry all the hook – Gary roams aimlessly in between, a street dancer in wellington boots, issuing his list of tedious requirements to a returning honey. “It’s gotta be social, compatible, sexual, irresistible” – is there a less sexual word than “social”, a more resistible one than “compatible”?
Perhaps they felt the need to act grown up – something their next singles would try more convincingly. By this time Take That no longer had the field to themselves – their rivalry, or rather brand differentiation, with East 17 added a necessary twist to the story. But maybe it irked that East 17 were the bad boys, the streetwise boys, the dirty ones. (Their “Deep” is preposterous, but still sexier than this.) Maybe Take That wanted to show they could still play that game, too. But they couldn’t. They made duller singles, but not worse ones.