No, look, come back, please – come back. Hear me out. The thing people always forget about Robbie Williams is that he’s really not that bad.
The Stoke singer that Noel Gallagher once called “that fat dancer from Take That” has announced a new album with Sony, on which he’ll work with Guy Chambers, the co-writer behind William’s most memorable hits, such ‘Angels’, ‘Feel’ and ‘Let Me Entertain You.” The album will reportedly be released later this year.
Creation Records boss Alan McGee called Williams a “showbiz chancer” in a 2006 article entitled Why I Hate Robbie Williams, while Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw called him “irrelevant” when explaining that his 2012 single ‘Candy’ would not be playlisted. Mention Robbie’s gurning mug and many people will roll their eyes at his seeming desire to always be centre of attention. Look, he’s not a cool guy. Robbie Williams has no chill. You will never see this man collect the Godlike Genius prize at the NME Awards. He will probably never collaborate with Skepta (though Dizzee Rascal was well into it).
But what Robbie Williams is, what he will always be, is a proper pop star. Egotistical. Insecure. Contradictory. Absurd. Kind of embarrassing, but always compelling. In 2008 he grew a beard and made a radio documentary about UFO-hunting in Nevada. Beats sensible Gary ‘Borelow’ Barlow, who at best is human muesli, doesn’t it?
In monetary worth, it seems unlikely that the deal will match the UK record-breaking £80m four-album deal he famously inked with EMI in 2002. And that may be no bad thing, as it caused him to perpetrate arguably his greatest act of twattery, exclaiming at the press conference, “I’M RICH! RICH BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS!”.
But it could return him to the limelight – also no bad thing. Join us, and be gentle, as we argue In Defence Of Robbie Williams.
‘Feel’ Is A Banger
Let’s start with the obvious: Robbie Williams has sick tunes. During Williams’ age of empire, which ran from 1997 – the release of ‘Angels’ – to the critically mauled 2006 album ‘Rudebox’, he released banger after banger, from ‘Feel’ (“Before I arrive / I can see myself coming”) to ‘Come Undone’ (“I am scum”), which saw him explore his own self-doubt and insecurity.
To recap: the man who made a dick of himself at that press conference later released a top 10 single in which he calls himself “scum” and admits that his love songs are hollow and insincere facsimiles of actual human emotion. You just do not get that level of complexity with Zayn Malik.
He laid the template for post-boy-band success
Speaking of Zayn: when the Bradford lad quit One Direction last year, he was widely compared to Williams, who abandoned Take That in 1995 and left fans bereft. So there’s something to be said for having the guts to strike out on your own.
‘Rudebox’ is a banger
Yes, Williams’ seventh solo album, ‘Rudebox’, was critically mauled, largely due to its eponymous lead single, a clumsy hip-hop track that features the line: “Call me on my mobile, not the landline.” Aside from the fact that the last decade has been kind to the song (hip-hop’s increasing influence on pop has lessened its weirdness), it was heartening, at least, to see him take a creative risk rather than release another safe ballad. The rest of the album is thrillingly odd, too, featuring 80s electropop, nonsense lyrics and naked autobiography. And this was his lowest point?
He gave us some brilliant beefs
Have you watched the Brits in recent years? Jesus, it’s boring. Where’s the beef? Where’s Robbie challenging Liam Gallagher to a fight? In fact, across the pop landscape, where’s the kind of beef Robbie indulged us in over the years when he took swipes at former bandmate Barlow at every opportunity? It wasn’t pretty – but it was hella fun.
They don’t make ‘em like this any more
Social media was supposed to grant us more access to famouses, but actually it’s created a culture in which everyone’s afraid of causing offence and end up saying almost nothing provocative or interesting. With the obvious exception of Kanye West, there’s barely anyone out there as consistently ridiculous and entertaining as Robbie Williams was.
He has, undeniably, gone off the boil in recent years. But look at the lyrics to his 2013 song ‘The Brits’, which took a swipe at the ceremony: “It’s like a VD clinic, only pricks are in it / So fucking corporate and professional and timid / To be frank sir, I prefer this showbiz chancer”. I do too, Rob.