If you're American, you're probably wondering, "Who the heck is Gary Barlow?"
Over 35? If so, you might remember a little ditty called "Back for Good" (the song peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard charts back in 1995). Not ringing a bell? Barlow wrote that song -- and dozens of other smooth pop numbers with his vocal group, Take That.
If the catchy tunes the silver-tongued, six-time Ivor Novello Award recipient Barlow writes (recent gems include "Patience" and "Greatest Day") haven't yet made their way into your brain, his latest called "Sing" most definitely will.
Barlow and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber were commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II to pen the song as her Diamond Jubilee anthem, and Barlow traveled across the entire British Commonwealth to piece together what could have been a contrived hodgepodge of African choirs, Military Wives, bagpipes, the Sydney Symphony, a Jamaican guitarist and even Prince Harry on tambourine. Instead, "Sing" is a triumph in melody that even the grisliest music critic will have trouble shaking.
The "Sing" EP, which includes a solo studio version of the song by Barlow, hit No. 1 on the UK charts this past Sunday. "Sing" is available in the U.S. iTunes store.
If you hadn't heard "Sing" until now, you will no doubt hear it again tonight (June 5), if you tune into ABC's packaged coverage of the Diamond Jubilee Concert at 9 p.m. EST. The staggeringly good lineup, co-organized and curated by Barlow, performed last night (Monday) in front of Buckingham Palace and included Barlow's "Commonwealth Band," as well as Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Stevie Wonder and others. I watched the livestream on the BBC and it was right up there with other legendary events such as LiveAid and Knebworth. Add fireworks and a set from ska band Madness, who played "It Must Be Love" on the roof of the palace as a lighting display bathed the castle in dancing red hearts, and the whole thing was darn near perfect.
And guess who personally escorted the Queen herself to the stage to kickoff the fireworks and symphonic finale of the Diamond Jubilee Concert? Yep, Gary Barlow.
Will this be Barlow's big break into the hearts of American music fans?
Yes -- I hope so -- but only if U.S. audiences aren't too cynical to embrace Barlow's earnest brand of songwriting AND only if he insists on all future releases being licensed for sale at U.S. music retailers. It's interesting to note that, until "Sing," both Barlow's and Take That's recent catalogs have not been available for legal download in the U.S., in spite of the fact they sold millions of records in the UK and Europe. (In our global, digitally-connected world, why are there arcane laws restricting the sale of some music to certain parts of the world?)
Besides, doesn't EVERYONE love a song called, "Sing"?
If escorting the Queen isn't enough to impress Yanks, maybe the song itself will do the trick. Barlow and Webber join the ranks of Brits who've recently sung about the joys of singing, including Annie Lennox, Travis, Blur and others.
No matter how you feel about the British Monarchy politically, it's hard not to get at least a little swept up in the achievement of Elizabeth's lengthy reign -- and what better Jubilee anthem could there be than one about being happy to be alive? No treacly odes to her beauty or sentimental trips down memory lane (save those for future big screen biopics). Just a verse about the simple joy of opening mouths and doing the most human of tasks: singing.
There's a place, there's a time
in this life when you sing what you are feeling
find your feet, stand your ground
don't you see
right now the world is listening to what we say
Sing it louder, sing it clearer
knowing everyone will hear you
make some noise, find your voice tonight
sing it stronger, sing together
make this moment last forever
old and young
shouting love tonight
Thank you, Gary Barlow, for reminding us that "Sing" is something we were all born to do.