"Love Won't Wait" is a song by British singer-songwriter Gary Barlow from his debut album Open Road. It was released as the second single from the album on 25 April 1997 by BMG and RCA Records. The song was written by Madonna and Shep Pettibone, and was an unreleased demo from her Bedtime Stories (1994) studio sessions. She left the song and pursued a different musical direction. Barlow wanted to record more songs for Open Road and chanced upon the demo in 1997. So after changing the lyrics from Madonna's female point of view, he recorded the track, with Stephen Lipson as producer.
Barlow was apprehensive about releasing the track, but due to contractual obligations he had to release it. The song became Barlow's second consecutive number one release on the UK Singles Chart, following Forever Love", and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Elsewhere it received moderate success. A music video for the song was directed by Rocky Schenck and showed Barlow singing "Love Won't Wait" across different locations. He also performed the song at the 1997 pre-Grammy Award party, which was negatively received.
Following the release of her fifth studio album, Erotica (1992), Madonna and her producer Shep Pettibone continued writing more songs in the same vein as present in the album. However, she later abandoned the project and collaborated with record producersDallas Austin and Nellee Hooper to create Bedtime Stories, her sixth studio album, released in 1994. Many of the songs from the writing sessions with Pettibone were not included and remained as demos. In the meantime, Gary Barlow wanted to release his debut album, Open Road, to coincide with his first single, "Forever Love". But Barlow wanted to record more songs in the United States. He came across one of Madonna's demos called "Love Won't Wait" and decided to record it, after shortening the lyrics.
Barlow's manager, Simon Fuller, chose Stephen Lipson to produce the song, seeing his success with 1980s artists like Grace Jones and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Although the song did not sound like what Barlow would usually record, he nevertheless explained in an interview: "It took me a while to get my interpretation right because Madonna had written from a female point of view. It's not the kind of song I would write myself. But as soon as I heard it, I thought 'This is a hit'." A dance-pop song, "Love Won't Wait" is set in the time signature of common time with a tempo of 120 beats per minute. Barlow's voice spans between the nodes of C♯m and A3 and has a basic chord progression of C–A–B–C♯m in the pre-chorus and E–B–D–A–C–E–A–C♯m in the chorus.
When Barlow arrived in the United States in February 1997 for recording, Davis played him a "poppier" version of the song, remixed by Junior Vasquez. Barlow did not like it, but following his disastrous performance at the pre-Grammy show and due to his contractual obligations, he felt he did not have a choice but to release the track as his second single on 24 April 1997 in the United Kingdom. The CD single consisted of the single version along with the Vasquez remix and two other tracks from Open Road, "Meaning Of A Love Song" and "Always". Another song, "Cuddly Toy", was released on the B-side of another CD single for the song, released in May 1997. The song also received remix treatment from DJs like Cuca and Monster Makers, released as a remix CD single in June 1997.
While the album received mostly negative reviews, songs like "Love Won't Wait" were considered a stand-out by The Times. It also received positive response from British press. The Daily Mirror noted it as a "classic track you've known all your life", while a reviewer from The Sunday Mirror rated it seven out of ten, and cautioned that "Take That fans will lap up another smooth one from Gary, but I can't help thinking he's trying to turn into Elton John far too soon." In the United Kingdom, "Love Won't Wait" became Barlow's second solo number one single on the UK Singles Chart, following "Forever Love". It was number one for one week, and was present for a total of nine weeks within the top 100 of the chart. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) certified it silver, for shipment of 200,000 copies of the single. The song also reached number one in Spain, and the top-ten of the charts in Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Taiwan. It was less successful in other European markets, thus reaching a peak of number 15 on the comprehensive European Hot 100 Singles chart compiled by Billboard. The song peaked at number 16 in Australia and outside the top 40 in New Zealand.
The accompanying music video was directed by Rocky Schenck and was released on 28 April 1997. It features Barlow performing the song in France, walking down a highway littered with stage props and crew members actively changing the scenes as he walks forward. As he performs the chorus, he jumps off the set and walks towards his stage chair, where he sits and observes his surroundings. The video ends with Barlow running away from a woman down a country road, as the video fades from view.
Barlow performed "Love Won't Wait" at the 1997 pre-Grammys party, at the request of Clive Davis, who was managing his career in the United States. The performance, which Barlow did not have any time to rehearse or memorize the lyrics, received negative reviews from critics and audience alike. With The Times Barlow recounted the evening saying, "I don't remember the words. I came in at all the wrong times. I can see people drifting off to the toilet in droves. Talk about dying on your arse!"