sun 14/07/2024

Album: Gary Barlow - Music Played By Humans | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Gary Barlow - Music Played By Humans

Album: Gary Barlow - Music Played By Humans

The Take That frontman's latest is a tiresome cue-call for spontaneous fun

Gary Barlow’s Music Played By Humans is, in all but name, a Christmas album.

Mixing big-band jazz, Latin and pop, it’s an assortment box of bubbly, broad-based business bangers deployed by the Take That veteran with help from a host of showbiz pals. Michael Bublé, Barry Manilow, Chilly Gonzales, Alesha Dixon, Beverley Knight, James Corden… these are big boots to put on the ground.

It’s got “Secret Santa” written all over it – and not just because it’s a precision-built, one-size-fits-all, weapons-grade gifting opportunity for work acquaintances and pissed aunties alike. No. It’s because it’s absolutely brimming with upbeat fun. We know it is, because it tells us. At every available opportunity.

When that message is conveyed musically, it’s… y’know, fine. Gary’s using some note-perfect professional gear in the form of his celebrity pals and some incredibly capable musicians. But this Music… comes with lyrics so determined to say, “WE’RE ALL HAVING A GREAT LAUGH, AREN’T WE?” that it’s like being strong-armed into a good mood by an over-zealous but ultimately well-meaning work colleague.

Which is exactly how we get to “The Kind of Friend I Need” featuring James Corden. I'm sure that its tongue-in-cheek, spoken asides must have felt like Rat Pack gold in the studio. In the cold light of day, however, it misses the comedy mark like William Burroughs after a bottle of Scotch.

Recent single “Elita” simliarly aims for the stars, setting course for "Copacobana” territory, but never leaves the runway. Compare, for a moment; “Her name was Lola/She was a showgirl” with “Number one señorita/Oh Elita”. One is a storyteller's gift, in which we are pitched straight into a compelling, upbeat narrative. The other simply leaves us stranded in the mind of someone struggling to find a convincing rhyme.

To be fair, much of what is here feels like it should be hailing a cab to musical theatreland, where it would be much better suited to the format - everyone geared up for a good time with nice clothes and forgiving attention spans. In this environment, the forced wordplay of songs such as “Bad Libran” would race by quickly enough to pass for clever, and the more dangerously saccharine moments (“If Love can Kill You”, “I Didn’t See That Coming”) might feel genuinely emotional.

As it stands however, Music Played By Humans feels, like a “Live, Laugh, Love” poster put up in communal area of a house share - uncomfortably out of place.


It’s like being strong-armed into a good mood by an over-zealous but ultimately well-meaning work colleague


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters