Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Head-to-head: Take That and Britney

Take That
Both artists have announced major tours for summer 2009

By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

It's either a huge mistake or a brilliantly contrived piece of PR, but Britney Spears and Take That are both releasing an album called Circus (or The Circus) on the same day.

There won't be a Blur vs Oasis-style chart battle - Take That's album has already broken pre-order records, ensuring that it will go to number one by the end of the week.

But, as any chart historian knows, securing the top spot is no guarantee of quality - just ask Elvis, whose Suspicious Minds was robbed of chart glory by Rolf Harris's Two Little Boys.

So, who has constructed a better big top - Take That or Britney Spears?

THE GREAT CIRCUS STAND-OFF

TAKE THAT

The UK's most popular boy band present the second album since their hugely successful reunion.

BRITNEY SPEARS

Britney's sixth studio record follows a tempestuous year for the former mouseketeer.

PREVIOUS FORM
Take That's last album, Beautiful World, sold 2.5 million in the UK.

Britney Spears' last album, Blackout, sold 250,000 in the UK.

HOW WILL I RECOGNISE THE NEW ALBUM IN A SHOP?
Take That
Britney Spears
NUMBER OF WRITERS
Nine

37 (yes, 37)

BALLAD RATIO
Eight out of 13 tracks - 62%

Three out of 14 tracks - 21%

OPENING TRACK
The Garden: A typically rousing Take That ballad, set against the unlikely backdrop of a major ecological disaster ("the scent of burning oil was in the air")

Womanizer: Britney's latest hit single is a flawless piece of 21st Century robo-pop with a tongue-twister chorus. Also contains sirens.

DOES IT INCLUDE A SONG CALLED THE CIRCUS?
Yes. It's practically a Gary Barlow solo track, with a sparse piano-vocal arrangement.

Lyrically, it's the tale of a lover spurned, with Gary cast as the circus clown for loving a lady who has abandoned him. A thousand hearts will break.

Yes. In it, Britney claims to be the "ringleader" (we think she means ringmaster) of a circus which may or may not be a metaphor for the music industry. Key lyric: "When I crack that whip, everybody's gonna trip, just like a circus"

DOES THE ARTIST PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF GENUINE CIRCUS SKILLS?
Howard Donald

Yes

Britney Spears

Yes

BEST SONG
Throwaway bonus track She Said is a delightful hula shuffle which promises to be a highlight of the group's sold out stadium tour.

Nothing quite matches the magnificent Womanizer, but the stuttering groove of Mannequin and the flirty Radar come close.

WORST SONG
Mark Owen's tale of domestic bliss, Hello. Set to a rolling music hall piano, it aims to match the towering grandeur of Shine, but ends up sounding a little bit like When I'm Cleaning Windows.

Every Britney album has a tedious song about getting naked or being a "freak" in the bedroom. Here it is the slap bass-powered Lace And Leather. Even Britney sounds bored.

BEST LYRIC
"I met this girl last night and she said 'why won't you marry me?' Well, I'm too young for that, too dumb for that, too broke for that, too tired for that... But would you like to come back to my flat?" (Up All Night)


A brilliant moment of comic misdirection from Mark Owen.

"Can't remember what I did last night. Everything is still a blur. Can you calmly hand me all my things? I think I need an aspirin." (Blur)


A woozy recollection of the morning after the night before, and the only allusion to Britney's "lost year" on the album.

WORST LYRIC
"Just the other day somebody said to me, 'hey maybe you're oh-so-slightly OCD'... I said, 'yes, that's partly true but it's just my way of compartmentalising all the things I see.'"
(How Did It Come To This)


Jason Orange lets us into his latest psychotherapy session.

"Say what you want about me, but all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy." (If You Seek Amy)


It looks like nonsense, but in Britney's southern drawl those last four words sound incredibly smutty. A desperate attempt to shock.

LYRIC DISPLAYING MOST AWARENESS OF CURRENT SOCIO-ECONOMIC CLIMATE
"Looks like the cost of houses are falling, but I don't notice." (Hello)

"All we had is shattered like broken glass" (Shattered Glass)
DURATION (ACTUAL)
50mins 58secs

50mins 10secs

DURATION (PERCEIVED)
A cozy sixty minutes reading the Sunday papers beside a roaring fire with a stack of hot, buttered toast and a mug of cocoa.

Half-an-hour of wild abandon in a sweaty nightclub, followed by three days reflecting on your inexcusable behaviour.

STRANGEST ARTWORK MOMENT
Gary Barlow

Gary Barlow looks terribly uncomfortable swinging on a trapeze.
Britney Spears

While dressed as Heidi, Britney is served a cake by a circus performer.

BEST THANK YOU OR INLAY CREDIT
"Take That performed all their own stunts throughout the making of The Circus."

"Thank you, Brett Miller AKA Snowflake - for getting my ass out of bed."

NUMBER OF INTERNET "FRIENDS"
Myspace: 56,947
Facebook: 58,228
Bebo: 34,456


Total: 149,631

Myspace: 462,732
Facebook: 356,956
Bebo: 2,117


Total: 824,544

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL EVENT
Fans have been invited to wave the group off as they catch the Eurostar to Paris on Monday. Four of them will win tickets to join them on the train. If they've remembered their passports.

MTV and Sky One will broadcast a warts-and-all documentary, Britney: For The Record, detailing the troubled last 12 months in the singer's life. Contains such insights as "I'm a smart person".

THE CRITICS SAY
"Gary Barlow can't spot a cliche like without stepping eagerly into it."


"They bring a fallible human quality to an album which is all about gilding their strong bond with their original fans."

"Spears, never the most emotive vocalist, frequently sounds disconnected, even a bit bored"


"She confronts issues of fame, broken relationships and motherhood against a masterfully engineered soundscape."

WE SAY
A confident, accomplished record that's precision-targeted at their fanbase. The lush orchestration gives a cinematic sweep to ballads like Greatest Day and The Garden, but it also disguises the occasional weak vocal.

There are some classic Britney tracks here but sonically and lyrically she is treading water. It's a shame that the Princess of Pop hasn't been able to channel the turmoil of the last 12 months into her music.

OUR MUM SAYS
"I like the single. It's very sing-along-ish. I'm looking forward to seeing them in June."

"She looks really well compared to what she looked like last year. Do you think that's her real hair?"

FINAL SCORES
7.5/10 6/10



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SEE ALSO
Take That set to spar with Spears
14 Oct 08 |  Entertainment
Britney will 'womanize' X Factor
29 Nov 08 |  Entertainment
Britney comeback reaches Germany
28 Nov 08 |  Entertainment
Britney confirms UK concert dates
26 Nov 08 |  Entertainment
Second US number one for Spears
16 Oct 08 |  Entertainment
Take That lead music ticket boom
31 Oct 08 |  Entertainment
New daughter for Take That's Owen
25 Nov 08 |  Arts & Culture

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