Gary Barlow indulges the folk in him on
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Gary Barlow indulges the folk in him on “Let Me Go”

28 September 2013 18 Comments
This blog belongs to Radio Creme Brulee – an internet music radio station that broadcasts globally.

This blog is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an internet music radio station that broadcasts globally.

garybarlowReunions have a way of building momentary excitement and fizzling soon after – more so in today’s day and age – wherein gratification is instantaneous and ephemeral. Manchester quartet (a quintet with Robbie Williams) Take That gave a whole new meaning to the concept of a “successful reunion” – returning for three UK #1 albums, four stadium tours, and three UK #1 singles. In doing so, they have become the biggest comeback act in music history against all odds. More importantly, it cleaned the slate for two of the four band-members that flirted with solo careers soon after the first chapter of Take That ended in 1996. The success story of Robbie Williams is widely known and does not require much introduction. Mark Owen had some success but was unable to sustain it. Howard Donald recorded the beautiful “Speak without words” but the single never saw the light of day as an official release. It was widely known that in the first chapter of Take That, Gary Barlow was the band’s creative core. He was also the one poised for the greatest success. Many music experts had predicted that Barlow would be an Elton John or George Michael-like figure. Unfortunately, his solo music, though pleasant enough, was too mellow and adult contemporary for pop at the time – thus forcing Gary Barlow to be dropped from his label. He also relegated himself to a “behind the scenes” role in music.

The resurgence of Take That as a force to be reckoned with in today’s music landscape has freed Gary Barlow from the shackles of his past and has put him right back in the limelight where he belongs. This time around, he does not have to battle Robbie Williams in the media or try to prove himself. Some of that ease and relaxation appears to have translated to the lead single of his new album (slated for release in November 2013).

Gary Barlow‘s “Let Me Go” showcases him making an audacious foray into “folk” territory – a sound that is very different from anything he has indulged in sonically in the past. The song has a “live” sound and seems quite divorced from any of the standard production techniques that embellish the overall feel of a pop song. The song opens with a sparse acoustic guitar arrangement. The lyrics and the sonic aspects of the single reveal an inherent dichotomy. Barlow sings with remorse about a relationship having gone sour but he does so with more than just a hint of optimism. Instead of delving into the elements of what went wrong, he looks forward at the life after this relationship. The folky upbeat harmony-driven chorus of the track is almost a celebration of freedom post the relationship and a motivation for the people involved to let each other go.

Fly high, let me go
The sky will save your soul
When you pass by, then you know

That this is going to take a bit of getting used to
but i know it’s right for you.
Let me go!

This song does not feature intricate harmonies or particularly memorable hooks. It has a simplistic and light-hearted melody. Barlow’s sense of comfort and ease is one of the best aspects of the song. He comes across as someone that is not trying too hard to please. Furthermore, he has finally got solo reinvention right. His failure to get this right back in the 90s had more than a little to do with his inability to rise to the expectations that the masses and critics had of him when he moved on from Take That back in 1996. “Let Me Go” undoubtedly has Gary Barlow moving into “Mumford and Sons” territory – which is not necessarily a bad thing  – especially for those that like a folky singer-songwriter sound. Folk music has rarely ever been a part of the musical mainstream. Mumford and Sons changed that in 2010 but they did not necessarily pave the way for more acts like them in the mainstream. Gary Barlow does not need a path to be paved for him but the question still remains as to whether his new incarnation will be embraced by ardent and casual fans. Given the fickle nature of people’s acceptance of folk, the commercial viability of “Let me go” is by no means a guarantee. That being said, hopefully it serves as yet another opportunity for listeners to appreciate Barlow’s increasing versatility as an artist.



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18 Responses to "Gary Barlow indulges the folk in him on “Let Me Go”"

  1. mily says:

    I disagree with the fact that the song doesn’t have memorable hooks. On the contrary, I think it thrives on them.
    Why only 3.5/5? The song definitely deserves at least 4/5.

  2. @mily: Thanks so much for the comment. To be perfect honest, I wavered between 3.5 and 4 out of 5. The thing is, we hold Gary Barlow to a high standard. Songs like “Pray”, “Back for good” and “Eight Letters” are absolute 5/5 tracks. By giving “Let Me Go” a 4 out of 5, we’d be saying it is a close second to those amazing tracks which we really don’t believe it is. We totally respect the subjectivity when it comes to music and we probably have an absurdly high benchmark for melodic components of songs – based on what we feature on our station. That being said, we will most likely feature this song on our high-rotation playlist when we can get our hands on a legal version of it. Thanks once again for the comment!

  3. kerry says:

    Oooooh 3.5 seems harsh RCB. I agree it isn’t pray or back for good but you gave Boy George 4 for a song (which I quite like by the way)that isn’t Karma Chameleon either and is also VERY MOR (something I suspect you would have heavily criticised GB for!) I agree with Mily in that it does have memorable hooks it is really catchy. I found it grabbed instantly. I agree with your comments about how commercial it is. This type of music sells but it is real singer/songwriter stuff and a lot of the music snobs out there will not in principle buy a GB record because he is known for pop. I’m not a particular fan of Mumford and Son’s but my Album of the moment is Passenger’s all the little lights so I’m not upset at this musical direction. I can’t imagine this doing anything major in the singles chart though(Mumfords sell albums rather than singles) but I think the point of this being the lead single is to pique peoples interest in the new album rather than having them assume it will be typical GB. I doubt the whole album will be in this style. I reckon it is going to be experimental with a mix of different styles (though probably including a few ballads!)

  4. @Kerry: Thanks so much for the comment. Some great points here! I might be one of the few folks here that is not particularly carried away by “Karma Chameleon”. Songs by Boy George/Culture Club that I consider top notch are songs like “See Thru”, “Cold Shoulder”, and “Victims”. I know! Really unusual choices. I probably would not have given Karma Chameleon a 5 out of 5 either. It is kinda MOR but Boy George’s voice compensates for it. I actually think Gary Barlow shines on the not-so-MOR tracks of his – songs like “Wondering”, “Love won’t wait” or even the slow ballad “Are you ready now”. But you are spot on – I would have totally criticized GB for something MOR. I am not a Mumford fan either. I think the downside of a radio broadcaster like us writing reviews is that we also look at music from a lens for radio-worthiness – especially for acts like GB that practically churn out music for radio. If this sound had been Barlow’s typical sound, that would have anchored my expectations. We’re not opposed to reinvention – which he clearly has done here. I really hope the album is a “mixed bag” stylistically speaking. I actually don’t have a problem with the ballads at all. I like them personally. I just think a heavy overdose of them is a bad career move. Thanks once again for the comment. More importantly, thanks so much for reading the other posts too. We always love “Cross over” in the types of artists our listeners and blog readers warm up to through our site/broadcast.

  5. Lucy says:

    Very average a very poor mans Mumford and sons. His voice bland it has no strength in it which leads to poor delivery and no conviction in what he is singing.
    Folk has gained strength in the last few years and Gary clearly thinks he will cash in on it, Such a shame he couldn’t think of something new. He will never appeal to the cool kids who listen to the real deal his fans only buy what is drip fed to them by the media they would never go into independent music shops and expand their minds.

  6. Colin says:

    I agree with you Lucy. The song sounds soulless without a shred of credibility and the vocals sound as though he couldn’t be bothered. A folk song for people who don’t like folk songs if you will. Kinda like people who like Nickelback and think it’s real rock music. The sad things is, he can be so much better than this trend following dross.

  7. @Lucy: I am not sure if Gary released this with any commercial aspirations (of course, I could be totally wrong here with my assertion). I’ll admit since we don’t really feature folk on our radio station, it is very hard for me to objectively differentiate good folk from bad folk.

  8. @Colin: It is amazing how much backlash Nickelback are getting. You might be the fifth or sixth person that has either radio our blog or listened to our radio station that does not like Nickelback. We don’t play much of their music. We might have 3 or 4 songs of theirs in our library altogether. As I had mentioned earlier, I don’t know if Gary Barlow was necessarily trying to follow a trend. This just might be what he is in to now.

  9. Gamez says:

    Barlow is one of these plethora of English people who sings with an American accent. While no crime in itself (though I’d prefer if more English singers sung in their own voices) I think that is what makes the song sound bad. Mumford is not entirely clear of this, with American inflections throughout both albums, but you can clearly hear that the guy is English. It’s like a few weeks ago when Glee did their Beatles tribute episodes. They just don’t sound very genuine.

    That, and I’d have to disagree with the article’s claim that the track is “divorced” from standard production techniques; it sounds very much like a pop song in the sense that the verses sound overly compressed and there seems to be little attempt at dynamic variety (something that the Mumford tracks have in spades, even if they are predictable). This isn’t as much of a problem in the choruses, but the intro in the very least sounds too “polished” to make it believably live. My two cents x

  10. Angel says:

    I am really shocked how much crap people can write…sorry for those words. Let me go is about Poppy, about his dead daughter. Very intense and deep words, read the lyrics! To put such a serious and great song into such a happy melody and video shows, that he tries to go on. He was inspired by Johnny Cash, by some kind of Folk songs, yes. So what? Robbies Go Gentle is also about his daughter but a really boring song. Garys Let me go is overwhelming, enjoyable and because of the deep lyrics and to change all that in so much hope, it is 5 from 5 stars for me!

  11. @Angel: The song being about Poppy would actually make sense although that was not very obvious from a first listen of the song. But yes, a revisitation of the lyrics definitely suggests the loss of a loved one. Despite the upbeat nature of the song, there is a certain melancholy that permeates through it. We’re not complaining about that at all. Thanks a ton for the comment!

  12. @Angel: First, a huge thanks for the comments. Just out of curiosity, by the “Crap people can write”, were you referring to the contents of our blog post?

  13. @Gamez: For some reason, British artists singing with an American accent has been commonplace for decades and by MANY artists. That is probably why until I was a ten year old, I thought every pop artist was American. I like hearing people sing with British accents. It sounds authentic – especially if the artist is actually British. I don’t know why artists force themselves to sing in an American accent. Maybe because the US is the largest individual market for music? Who knows!

  14. G!e says:

    The Killers and other US Rockband coming in Europe saying that US Music business is not real music anymore! They prefer to performed and making tour in Europe. They also saying that Europe has more talented and good musician. Gary Barlow “Let Me Go” is no#1 at the UK itunes, and 15 copies away from Bastille to reach no#1 at the UK Charlist. I think that USA, they like more entertainers with auto-tuned voices than real musician.

  15. @G!e: I agree. I am making a total generalization here and I hate doing that – but I get the feeling that in Europe, there is more of a commitment to artistry whereas in the US, the obsession is still largely with stardom. That might explain the difference in quality of musical output between the two sides of the Atlantic. I definitely agree that most of what the US puts out musically is grossly over-rated. The Killers are an interesting example. They are an American band and yet, their first recording contract was UK-based.

  16. Kerry says:

    This has had loads of radio play in the Uk and done really well (better than Robbies Go Gentle!) Why all the hate? Is that you why I haven’t you playing it RCB?

  17. @Kerry: Playing stuff from the UK that has not released in the US has been particularly hard this year. We are not getting the co-operation that we typically get from labels there this time around. It took us forever just to get “Go Gentle” on our high-rotation playlist. I did hear that “Let Me Go” came in at #3 on the UK charts – a great solo comeback for Gary. I will admit I have not been particularly proactive in getting “Let Me Go” on our high-rotation playlist but I will do my best to get it on there ASAP. As always, thanks for the comment!

  18. robin says:

    I agree with the comment by Angel about people writing crap: “American – sounding ( have they heard Sheena Easton speak?), soulless, poor man’s Mumford & Sons (this is the often repeated review line by so called ‘experts’), blah, blah, blah…”

    All these goes to show that these people don’t really listen to music. They hear the first few lines and they make up their minds immediately and write off the song.

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