Album review: Robbie Williams - 'Reality Killed The Video Star' (EMI)
It's so self-referential that a yawning hole appears where Robbie's heart should be
Cut to the present, where we find the abject ‘Rudebox’ has been assimilated into his story as a wake-up call paving the way for this new album. It’s packaged well as a return to form. Proven unit-shifter [a]Trevor Horn[/a] is the producer (the album title references Horn’s ’80s one-hit wonder with [a]Buggles[/a]’ [b]‘Video Killed The Radio Star’[/b]), who gives the album one main plot, [b]‘The Return Of Classic Robbie’[/b]. This means we get piano and string ballads to remind audiences of [b]‘Angels’[/b] ([b]‘Morning Sun’[/b] is [a]Tears for Fears[/a]’ [b]‘Sowing the Seeds Of Love’[/b] reimagined as [b]‘Sowing the Seeds Of Self-Pity’[/b]), and a sub-plot, [b]‘Robbie Chimes With The Sound Of Now’[/b], in which ice-cool euphoric disco reminds audiences of [a]Lady Ga-Ga[/a]. This sub-plot is far more fun than the main, with [b]‘Deceptacon’[/b] (no, not a [a]Le Tigre[/a] cover), [b]'Starstruck’[/b] and [b]‘Superblind’[/b] all bringing those [b]‘Big Robbie Choruses’[/b] effectively into the Balearic-Italo-Whatev template, although Williams buggers them up with hopscotch lyrics such as “Microwave yourself today, save you for a rainy day” on [b]‘Deceptacon’[/b]. If you want a cold, eroticised disco vibe, don’t invite Norman Wisdom.
But such faux-pas are just signs of a larger problem: There Is Nothing Here. The more you delve into it the less you find, because it’s all affectation. Listening to the ‘Robbie does doo-wop’ of [b]‘You Know Me’[/b], and the ‘Robbie does AC/DC’ of [b]‘Do You Mind’[/b] is like tumbling into the void. Everything is in inverted commas with Williams. Even ‘Robbie Williams’ is nothing, just a symbol of entertainment, and a mirror to reflect his audiences’ desires. Tragically, he knows it too. The terror in his eyes on [b]The X Factor[/b] revealed a naked being with no self anymore – but the script says this is a triumphant comeback, so that must be the ‘reality’, folks.
[b] Martin Robinson[/b]
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