Gary Barlow is now a national treasure. Apparently. According to the BBC. I’d like to take that* claim and subject it to a little scrutiny.
OK, so first of all there’s the songwriting. He’s a very successful songwriter, but then so is Linda Perry and she’s one of the worst humans on the planet (purely for having been the lead singer of 4 Non-Blondes, an act more shameful than even the Spin Doctors). Most of his songwriting, of course, has been for Take That, but since when was that an accolade? Oooh, he wrote Do what U Like and Shine, did he? Awesome! Please take a look at his list of songwriting credits on Wikipedia and see if you find anything you like. I did, and I found Back For Good, Candy and Four Minute Warning. That’s three out of hundreds, and two of which I hope you notice were sung by other people. I actually owned Never Forget on CD (at the start of my genuine interest in pop music rather than all that indie shite I listened to as a teen) and honestly I couldn’t hum you a single song that wasn’t Back For Good right now. First Spice Girls album it ain’t.
Trying to listen to any Barlow song that isn’t one of the three I just mentioned is a painful affair. He has a weak sort of singing voice, clearly coached to acceptable levels but without the characterful gusto of, off the top of my head, Robbie Williams (I’ll come back to him). With The That, he has a group backing him up, to give his maungy caterwauling some oomph. Solo, his voice requires John Lennon-esque levels of effects to get to presentable. And his songs are so bloody dreary, it’s no wonder that Take That’s most memorable hits are covers (It Only Takes a Minute, Relight My Fire).
Now let’s look at his charitable work, which presumably got him his OBE (well, that and organising the ultimate lickspittle music concert for the Diamond Jubilee, a work of such awe-inspiring toadyism that it stands as a sort of monument to Establisment Pop, the final upright, uptight answer to punk’s questioning of the Silver Jubilee). He likes doing charity work, does our Gary. No doubt he’s looking to upgrade his OBE for a Knighthood, because he’s not shy about how great his Good Works are. Children in Need, mostly, which is a laudable cause and I don’t think anyone could begrudge his involvement, even when it produces comedy songs with Peter Kay. OK, I begrudge his involvement in that. Why is Peter Kay? But there you go. Anyway, these children could, potentially, be helped out of need – especially children in this country, where actual cases of child malnutrition are rising at a terrifying rate – by government support. If only the government had more tax revenue**! Say, if Gary, Howard and Mark of Take That hadn’t invested £26m in a PERFECTLY LEGAL tax avoidance scheme! “They don’t like paying the taxman” said an employee of Icebreaker Management Services, who handled the £26m worth of investment on behalf of the loveable boyband members.
And then there’s the fact of Gary Barlow. An unlikeable Tory carved from balsa and bullshit, so lacking in charisma he can sit next to Louis Walsh and you’ll be knocked off your feet by the charm of the Walshster. A priggish prick, so pleased with himself he may actually be funding human cloning research just to find someone he loves enough to settle down with. The tragedy of Take That was that Gary probably didn’t realise until it was too late that the star of the show was always Robbie. How it must have killed him to see TT’s popularity sink after Williams’ departure. His ego may have burst to see the sales figures of their respective solo albums – sure, he did fine(-ish) in the end but Robbie’s debut album Life Thru A Lens sold over 2m copies in the UK alone. Barlow’s Open Road sold a mere 300,000, by comparison. It must infuriate him to see the easy way Robbie has with stardom; despite his obvious troubles, he is always an engaging presence, demanding attention without having to ask. Gary, on the other hand, has to be surrounded by CGI meerkats before he can draw a crowd.
So, the BBC. National treasure? Really?
**Not that this bunch would do anything other than piss it up the wall of a bank like a common member of Blue.