Wednesday 7 November 2012

Robbie Williams - Take The Crown

This week Radio 1 announced that Robbie Williams has been banned from the station, stating his music is not relevant to their age range of 15-29 year olds.  It’s rather ironic, then, that ‘Take The Crown’, his latest album since 2009’s ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’, features a track called Shit On The Radio when he hasn’t even made it on himself.

Everything about this album smacks of a bullish, brash return.  The title itself is a less-than-subtle hint at a return to the heights of success.  The chorus of opening track, Be A Boy, is an exclamation to his critics: “they said it was leaving me, the magic was leaving me, I don’t think so”.  It’s far from the only track that looks to the past, with Gospel seeing Williams excited when he was “a little one all alone” and Shit On The Radio referencing Supergrass (“pumping on your stereo”), whilst Different claims “this time I’ll be different, I promise you”.  In fact, the lyrics mostly take the opening track to heart as if written by a teenage boy: such as “and when she comes, she comes for hours” on Not Like The Others; or the utterly vacuous Hey Wow Yeah Yeah (“clap your hands if you wanna wanna”).

This is all well and good if the music lived up to these lyrics, but ultimately the magic has gone and ‘Take The Crown’ fails to match Williams’ promises.  Just as the lyrics often hearken back to the past, musically Williams is still living in the 90s with a series of unimaginative and old fashioned pop songs – from the saxophone solo on Be A Boy to the Brit-pop Not Like The Others and general reliance on badly-sung yawn-inducing power ballads.  It’s no wonder he’s been relegated to Radio 2.  True, this may seem refreshing in a world of plastic synths and dub-step breakdowns, but Williams’ attempts at being taken as a serious musician remain a long-running joke.

This is no more apparent than with his vocals, which can only be described as rough.  Frequently his voice is smothered by production, backing vocalists and choirs to hide the cracks.  Or, as on Hey Wow Yeah Yeah, he just sings through a megaphone.  So why did the big note on Into The Silence (where Williams’ voice cracks and grates horribly) not get picked up on the master?  He might be aiming towards a rockier style, but frankly it just sounds horrible.  The comparison with featured vocalist Lissie on Losers is obvious – there’s only one loser here.

True, Williams has never been the strongest of singers and is known more for being an overall entertainer.  But ‘Take The Crown’ quite simply doesn’t entertain.  As such, current single Candy is an anomaly.  It sticks out like a sore thumb as the only track on which he has any sort of fun, as on the frivolous Let Me Entertain You or Rock DJ – clearly this is when he’s at his best.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Gospel
* Candy
* Reverse

Listen: 'Take The Crown' is available now.