For some of us, it has been over six weeks since stay-at-home orders were issued. Never has our collective need for hope, optimism, and positivity been greater – as we continue to come to terms with the seemingly moving target that is the Covid19 pandemic. Job losses have run in the millions. Marriage ceremonies have been indefinitely postponed. Parenting for working professionals has turned into a herculean task. Grocery shopping has become a strategy game. Social distancing has felt like a death sentence to single folks attempting to re-script the narratives of their personal lives – in addition to the social isolation that they need to battle under the present circumstances. An atmosphere characterized by adversity calls for empathy with not even a hint of opportunism. Many brands have either retreated from promotional/advertising endeavors or have retooled their messaging. The general consensus is that this a time to build relationships with audiences and NOT to try and monetize them. Oddly enough, the brand that seems to have pulled this off the best is the man at the forefront of one of the greatest comebacks in pop music history – and that man is Gary Barlow. Some might think of him as the frontman or the “captain” of Manchester boyband-turned-manband Take That. I undoubtedly think of him as a brand with distinguishing attributes. The Daily Crooner sessions videos (broadcast on Instagram at 5pm UK time daily during the week) might be one of his grandest gestures to the masses (especially his fans).
The Crooner sessions started off with Gary Barlow doing a duet with a different artist every single day via a Video chat software. These sessions have now come to include fans that happen to be skilled musicians. The duet partner roster is beyond impressive and includes artists such as Sir Cliff Richard, Brian May from Queen, Tony Hadley (former frontman of Spandau Ballet), Rick Astley, JC Chasez of N Sync, Ronan Keating, Peter Andre, Beverly Knight, Tim Rice-Oxley from Keane, and his Take That bandmates Mark Owen, Howard Donald, and Robbie Williams. The song selection includes songs from his own solo catalog, Take That catalog, as well as those of his duet partners.
Several artists have taken it upon themselves to touch base with fans on a daily basis but there is something unique in what Gary Barlow’s Crooner sessions stand for and what this concept inspires. This uniqueness stems from a combination of the following ideas:
- The power of technology to counter the seemingly insurmountable challenge of social distancing:
Social distancing can feel like a death blow to those of us (me included) that draw energy from the people around us. That being said, physical distance does NOT need to be a barrier for us to draw energy from our friends, peers, and those we admire. Gary Barlow proves this by playing the keyboard live while some of his partners play another instrument as an accompaniment – and it absolutely works!
- A commitment to discipline on a daily basis when the notion of structure feels almost non-existent.
With many of us working remotely, and rarely ever leaving home, the idea of a structure to our day has become quite vague. A lack of structure can have a rather debilitating effect on our motivation levels and psyche. Discipline and an unwavering commitment to something that adds value to our lives on a daily basis is critical at times like this. Gary Barlow’s child-like enthusiasm as he works on a new collaboration every day with a dogged perseverance is infectious and has the capacity to force us towards an almost militant ethic in our creative endeavors. We’ve posted a couple of amateurish piano covers on our Instagram page – and we attribute the inspiration for these completely to Gary Barlow.
- Tough times offer a great opportunity for us to tap into goodwill and reconnect with peers:
Take That’s comeback against all odds in 2006 meant that Gary Barlow had shed his “faded popstar” image. He was, for all practical purposes, a member of music royalty all over again. This meant that he had his pick in terms of collaborators (as can be seen on the impressive roster of duet partners in the Crooner Sessions videos). Many cynics view collaborations as opportunistic and a money grab but Gary Barlow has proved that collaborations can be a force for altruism through his Crooner sessions videos.
- Tough times offer an opportunity to heal old wounds and rekindle relationships that might have lost their way.
The widely publicized rekindled brotherhood over a decade ago between Gary Barlow and former Take That bandmate Robbie Williams was a necessary precursor for the latter rejoining Take That for their hit album “Progress”. Their duet and hit single “Shame” was the sonic pathway to a catharsis from their ugly past. Their performance of “Shame” on Crooner Sessions is yet another reminder that life is too short to hold a grudge and that tough times call for us to let go of our respective egos and reconnect with those that have been important to us.
- Adversity often presents hidden opportunities
The friendship between Gary Barlow and JC Chasez of N Sync is an unlikely one. Take That and N Sync were not considered contemporaries by any stretch – and yet they occupied a similar place in the world of music albeit at different times. While N Sync benefited from heavy promotion in the US, Take That was held at bay by American conglomerate-owned terrestrial radio with only one of their signature tracks “Back for good” cracking the US top 10 in the Billboard Singles chart in the mid-90s. Take That still remains relatively obscure in the US despite being one of the most successful bands in the world. While American music listeners are largely unaware of Take That’s artistry and commercial success, American musicians are well aware of the credibility that the Manchester lads bring to the table. The collaboration between JC Chasez and Gary Barlow on Crooner sessions wherein they sing “Back for Good” could coax the musically curious in the US to revisit Take That beyond their one hit in the US. This is undoubtedly an opportunity for Gary Barlow and Take That.
- Tough times can be a catalyst for novelty.
For those of us that like to capture moments of our lives for sharing on social media (especially on Instagram), it might appear that our only options are throwback photos from the past – especially at a time during which new photo-worthy experiences feel like a distant dream as we stay confined within our homes. The experiences that we create (in an atmosphere of social scarcity) as opposed to the ones we consume from an external source are new and worthy of sharing. Social distancing guidelines are a pause button for certain types of experiences but NOT for all experiences. Gary Barlow’s collaborations are new (even though the songs are old and familiar). They are a reminder that adversity can be a ripe moment for new experiences that we can be the sole orchestrators of.
We will emerge from this global crisis one day – hopefully not too far out in the future. Many of us will look back to the sights and sounds that defined this period in our lives. Many of us will cherish strengthened and new relationships that are forged during this time. This period of life will have a soundtrack for many of us. Gary Barlow’s Crooner sessions will undoubtedly be an essential ingredient of the video montage for the Covid19 chapter of music history. Its value will stem not just from the entertainment factor but also from the discipline, sense of commitment, positivity, hope, and optimism that radiate from it. To say this is Gary Barlow’s finest moment in the limelight would be an understatement.
UPDATE – April 26,2020: We just heard from Gary Barlow. This was his response to this article:
Aw thank you guys xxx https://t.co/FQV61cAc7y— Gary Barlow (@GaryBarlow) April 26, 2020
We play a LOT of music by Gary Barlow & Take That on our internet radio station and you can listen to us from ANYWHERE in the world on ANY device. In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Gary Barlow & Take That (both old and new) is a regular staple on our radio station. We don’t restrict ourselves solely to the singles. We also feature “rare for radio” Take That songs such as “Amazing” and “Wasting my time“. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s and the 90s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Suede, The Corrs, Jamiroquai,Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!