Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Take The Crown" by Robbie Williams

So Robbie Williams has been busy since splitting from UK boyband Take That in the mid 90's. And this kept up well into the 2000's - yet his only hit of sorts on this side of the pond is this.
It's nice - but it's a shame he didn't continue to have recognition over here for much of the 2000's.  And while today's item may not do much to change that - It's not a stretch to say that if it did change things in the U.S., he might just be able to "Take The Crown"

Robbie Williams has always known how to take the conventions of light-weight fluff/pop music and give it depth via more thoughtful/insightful/interesting lyrics.  He revels in the pop gloss and flash, but mostly, he wins because he doesn't cave in to the vapid extremes that some pop groups take it to.  "Be A Boy" opens things up with a nostalgic look back - a paean to times gone past - before he started his ride on the rollercoaster that is being a pop star.  "When you're young you hope to be / menacing in vanity / 6 feet tall, maybe more / bigger now than before" anybody?  Certainly a fond reminisce on youthful innocence, and a great way to get things rolling.  "Gospel" keeps this thread going with an exhortation to keep after what you want and not stop till you get it - with a little bit of sly snark thrown in for good measure.  And then comes the crown jewel, the "How is this not somehow playing on every station in the country?" track.  "Candy" is as sugar-sweet as its title suggests.  Even so, it's a wry, witty yarn about unattainable women and the men who pine for them - or perhaps the men  who try to please them and never quite succeed - either/or, it's a great track.  And for a good laugh, check the video here, which brings a fine off-the-wall visual to the whole proceeding.

It's an odd choice to come down off this effervescent, over-flowing fountain of energy into a plaintive track, but Robbie pulls it off well.  "Different" is a perfect companion to the song that came before it.  You can almost see the protagonist of the last song on bended knee as the woman he seeks sits on a couch, looking down on him, daring him to give her a reason to stay.  Might not be exactly what he had in mind when he wrote the song, but it's certainly an image that fits - and makes the tracks work great together.  It doesn't hurt that he mines a strange "not quite U2, not quite Elton John, but somewhere nicely in between" blend, that finds him sounding like himself even as he's borrowing some from other singers. 

The second half of the album opens with the self-deprecating "Shit on the radio" - a sign of chutzpah that he's willing to rip on the very atmosphere (pop music and pop radio) that sustains him and has been his bread and butter his whole career.  This leads into a second half that isn't as consistent as the first.  "Hunting for you" and "Into The Silence" continue to echo early-period U2 (a little too closely at times.)  This doesn't make them BAD songs, but they feel a bit lacking in Robbie's own character because of this.  Continuing on, "Hey Wow Yeah Yeah" is just too silly for its own good.  Listeners luck out with the closing "Losers" which is an amusing way to flip the entire concept of the album on its head.  Something like - "Ok Robbie, your album is called Take The Crown, and now you're ok with being a loser?  Ummm suuure..right..."  Unbelievable?  Maybe, maybe not - either way, he's still got it.

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