Millennial ‘It’ Boy gets the horn on eighth album
Remember the end of the century? Swedish hit machines, moronic nu-metallers, robotic R&B: the republic of pop was without government and needed a dictator, benign or otherwise, to get the trains running on time. Enter Robbie Williams, Dickensian music hall rascal bedevilled by vague demons, the Aldi Lennon to Gary Barlow’s Lidl McCartney.
Robbie gave the dark age its theme song (‘Millennium’), its look (silly semi-mohawk, frayed blue jeans and snazzy shirt) and presided as its avatar, ushering in the love-me-I-hate-myself X Factor culture of fast-track stardom. He was the bloke every likely lad dressed like, pursued by party girls in search of their Friday night Robbie-proxy.
So, Williams was a charismatic but strangely blank figure, all things to all consumers. Even his singing accent was a placeless mid-Atlantic twang, and his records embodied the point where chart music disintegrated into a vortex of Beatles nostalgia balladry, bad rock jokes (‘I Hope I Get Old Before I Die’), even worse Rat Pack pastiche and oddball electro, an Eastenders interpretation of pop mythology.
To be fair, Robbie, who always comes across as a troubled but essentially decent soul, has made a few fine singles, mostly plaintive cries like ‘Feel’ or mini-epics of self disgust like ‘Come Undone’. Ten years after ‘Millennium’, Reality Killed the Video Star is his eighth album. He’s kissed and made up with co-writer Guy Chambers and hired one Trevor Horn, and the production, as one would expect, is huge. In a way, they’re a match made in heaven. Bob’s a talented dilettante, Trev’s a rapacious hitmaker, the electric kool aid Spector with a penchant for ostentatious choral flourishes.
The opening ‘Morning Sun’ is Robbie on familiar ground, a big Beatles-y feel-bad ballad. He’s ditched the ironic smirk for a sort of weathered humility (“Who am I to rate the morning sun?”). It may have been inspired by Michael Jackson’s demise, but it could’ve been lifted straight off Escapology. ‘You Know Me’ is bare-all doo-wop with Lennon echo on the voice, ‘Blasphemy’ quintessential Williams, a downer ballad laced with bitter one-liners, turbo ego vying with low self esteem. The listener is torn between wanting to bring the guy chicken soup and pack him off to the army. Then, like a man who hits the gym to cure a broken heart, he rattles off a moxified glam tune like ‘Do You Mind?’ (“Anyone fancy Monaco?”). ‘Somewhere’ remoulds West Side Story as jealous guy Plastic Ono Band interlude. ‘Last Days of Disco’ and ‘Difficult For Weirdos’ draw on both Kraftwerk and Visage circa 1982 before modulating into Pet Shop Boys nightclub booth confessionals.
Robbie Williams has always flitted between styles, maybe because his primary motivation is not to create, but to entertain. No bad quality in a pop star, but the payback is he’ll always be at the mercy of his rather substantial audience. Reality is an uneven but gung-ho record that sometimes sounds like an elegy to the last days of the big stars who actually sell records. It now seems quaint that his handlers request reviewers to sign and return a confidentiality contract before they’ll sanction a pre-release copy of the album. Times have changed, and it’ll be interesting to see how Robbie the young lion becomes Robert the lion in winter.
He's won an record winning 17Brit Awards and on top of that Williams has sold 70 million albums worldwide. So it's unsurprising that Sony Music UK have jumped at the chance to sign Robbie Williams.Read More
Let Me Entertain You tour will traverse Europe, but no Irish date...yetRead More
The incident happened at Williams' June 22 Newcastle concert.Read More
The singer is set to bring his Swings Both Ways tour up north for summertime gig.Read More
We've got the full details of the Take That man's big Aviva show.Read More
He's coming over this summer as part of a European tour...Read More
Robbie Williams has enjoyed stratospheric success, both with Take That and as a chart-topping solo artist. But he's also experienced the dark side of stardom, wrestling with a variety of demons – and suffering the occasional knock-out blow. Now, with the release of Take The Crown he's determined not just to reclaim his title as pop's heavyweight champion, but to do it in style.Read More
Time for something 'Different'...Read More
Robbie Williams has knocked Taylor Swift off the top of the album charts with his new record Take the Crown.Read More
pop prince is ready to reclaim his crownRead More
Proceeds from Dublin date go to UNICEF Ireland and Childline...Read More
Fans who sought tickets for Robbie Williams' shows in Glasgow and Dublin have more to do...Read More
The pop star's performing for two very good causes.Read More
Robbie Williams is the latest top name to pull out of a show.Read More
Robbie Williams' seventh album is everything a pop record should not be.Read More
A spirited take on an old Lewis Taylor soul record, spiking it up with some funky electro touches. Still, can’t help but feel that performing cover versions minimises Robbie’s impact; he is a personality first, musician second (which is why his gigs have always been better than his records) – if I can’t scrutinise the lyrics for salacious titbits on his latest personal dramas, I’m less inclined to pay attention.Read More
Robbie Williams has pledged to come back and play a free show for Irish fans after delivering what he considers to be a sub-standard performance last week at Croke Park.Read More
After his very memorable appearance at Slane Castle, Robbie Williams has announced a Croke Park date next summer.Read More
Having netted a not shabby €2.1 million from U2’s three concerts there, the GAA are close to finalising a deal that will bring Robbie Williams to Croke Park next June for two shows.Read More
Paddy Maher hears Robbie Williams announce the details of his escapology tour which includes an Irish show at the Phoenix Park, DublinRead More
Escapology is an oddly empty experience, another identikit Robbie Williams album.Read More
(well, since the Pope, anyway)Read More
The clown prince of pop signs £80 million deal with EMIRead More
The concept of a 'Frank Sinatra for the MTV generation' is not exactly a new one, so why should young Mr Williams succeed where others have failed?Read More
You can hardly do better for an opening tune than ‘Let Me Entertain You,’ can you?Read More
Robbie WillIAms ‘Let Love Be Your Energy’ [Chrysalis] This is the atrocious Robbie rocks out rubbish that has been polluting TV screens with that awful cartoon video.Read More
Album number three for the man who would be pop king finds Robbie Williams in increasingly contemplative mood. Which isn’t all that surprising, as anyone who has been observing him of late would agree.Read More
DAVE FANNING meets the inimitable ROBBIE WILLIAMS to talk about his latest album, his battles with the booze, the Take That legacy, his desire to play a politically incorrect James Bond, a vaguely remembered visit to Bono s loo and why he loves and hates The BeatlesRead More