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LeeBB

Robbie Williams - The Ego Has Landed

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He may be virtually unknown in the United States, but throughout much of the world, Robbie Williams is a true megastar. At the age of sixteen he was a member of the massively popular but awful boy band Take That, who dominated the UK charts in the early 90s, and who released at least one genuine schmaltz classic "Back for Good". Williams was not Take That's main singer or songwriter, nor was he incredibly good-looking or a flash dancer, but he did have a huge personality and rock'n'roll ambitions that set him apart from the rest of the band. He was, to use the perfect British expression, a real "lad".

In 1995, tired of being endlessly packaged and manipulated, Robbie left to pursue a solo career. After a couple of false starts he hooked up with writer/producer Guy Chambers and surprised everyone by releasing one the 90s' great debuts "Life Thru a Lens", following it a couple of years later with "I've Been Expecting You". To cut a long story short, his total record sales now exceed forty million, and he has done quite well for himself. When tickets went on sale for his 2006 world tour, he sold a record 1.6 million tickets in a single day.

Of course, none of this success would interest us much if his records were rubbish, and that's why I would like to take a brief look at Robbie Williams' solo US debut, "The Ego Has Landed". Following ancient tradition, this introductory American release combines songs from the first two British albums, but the result is quite wonderful. Robbie is no virtuoso singer, but he is versatile, with a voice somewhere between classic Elton John and Liam Gallagher, with the odd Axl Rose flourish here and there. The influences are obvious but varied: Oasis, Elton John, Pet Shop Boys, James Bond(!). There are big stupid sing-along choruses everywhere that are irresistible if you are in the mood. But shining through everything is his personality. He merges a famous ego with self-deprecating charm and wit... what we Australians might call "taking the p**s". It's a big personality. If you like it, then it's pure charisma. If you don't like it then it's just plain annoying. If you haven't guessed, I like it.

Highlights for me, from an album with very few weak tracks:

"Lazy Days" - big, mid-tempo rock... maybe even a hint of shoe-gazer, or am I mad?

"No Regrets" - pretty but bitter Europop collaboration with Neil Tennant

"Strong" - Oasis-style hook-filled cruisy rock song

"Angels" - sounds like THE long-lost classic-period Elton John ballad

So there it is. This album is a bit of a guilty pleasure, and when I snuck it into my home, I certainly didn't realise that my wives and daughters would all become obsessed, but I love it anyway.

And here's a quick peek:

The Ego Has Landed - sampler

Thanks,

LBBB

Edited by Guest

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"No Regrets" - pretty but bitter Europop collaboration with Neil Tennant

Ahhh... just last night I listened to that song wondering if that's the Pet Shop Boys singing back-up.

I don't understand why he's so unknown in America... he may just be THE single most well-known artist of the past ten/twenty years in Europe.

Anyway, my favourites off this album are No Regrets, Millennium, Karma Killer, Strong and Angels (one of my favourite pubs likes to play this as the closing song)(actually pretty much all of the songs you can find on I've Been Expecting You too)(sorry about the excessive use of parentheses).

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I don't understand why he's so unknown in America... he may just be THE single most well-known artist of the past ten/twenty years in Europe.

I think the same... actually I was quite surprised to read that he IS in fact unknown in the US - I never knew that :shocked:

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He's not unknown in the US at all. "Millennium" was on heavy rotation when it first came out and I must object to saying "Back For Good" was one of his hits - that's a Gary Barlow song through-and-through. Robbie had nothing to do with that song (nor do I believe he could ever match it without the help of someone like Neil Tennant) :beatnik:

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He's not unknown in the US at all. "Millennium" was on heavy rotation when it first came out and I must object to saying "Back For Good" was one of his hits - that's a Gary Barlow song through-and-through. Robbie had nothing to do with that song (nor do I believe he could ever match it without the help of someone like Neil Tennant) :beatnik:

Oh I never meant to suggest that Back For Good was a Robbie song... just that it was Take That's song, and a good song too. As far as I know, Robbie is not a notable songwriter at all.

And perhaps I should say "relatively unknown" instead of "virtually unknown". As has been mentioned by others, Robbie is perhaps the biggest pop star of the last decade in Europe, while in the US, he is ... not.

But as you see, I strongly disagree that Robbie is unable to match the quality of Back For Good. I think that he has, with the inestimable help of his writing/production team, matched that record many times.

But yes, I think that Gary Barlow has some reason to feel a little unlucky. If Robbie Williams is Harrison Ford, then Gary Barlow is definitely Mark Hamill ;-)

See ya,

LBB

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I completely misread that part of your review and it's true that he didn't achieve the popularity he did in Europe here in the US... and with good reason: he just isn't that good. We have our own set of Pop performers cluttering the airwaves that to throw yet another one into the bunch wouldn't make him stand out. He'd have to be on the level of, say, Madonna or even Michael Jackson to get noticed; he'd have to pull off a massively good Pop album such as Madonna and Off The Wall, I mean. To ask about Robbie Williams nowadays would be like asking about Mandy Moore or Geri Halliwell.

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Well, at least we understand each other. From my seat, here in Australia, watching the best of British and American music go by, I cannot think of any pure pop performer to match him, apart from those very obvious ones like Madonna and... some others I can't think of. Michael Jackson and Prince, clearly, but not for many years now. Does America have any male performers to match him now? I'd like to listen to them ;-) I'm talking about something along the lines of classic Wham, or even a male equivalent of say... Shania Twain. Our own Keith Urban perhaps gets close in the big hookey pop stakes.... who else should I be looking at? Ryan Adams?

Thanks!

LBB

Edited by Guest

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That's the thing: there hasn't been a good Pop singer for over 2 decades anywhere. There are plenty of dime-a-dozen Pop performers that I could be listing here for hours (e.g., Christina Aguilera, Anastasia, britney spears, the simpson sisters, clay aiken and the rest of the american idol ilk) and this is where Robbie Williams would be rightly categorised. Robbie doesn't even rank as the best mediocre music coming from Europe here because smugness and a greasy five-o-clock shadow don't go far if one doesn't have the pipes to back it all up :beatnik: Hell, Terence Trent D'Arby might've been the next best Pop singer, but his massive ego made everyone tune him out :headphones: I'll take a tired and worn-out limey Madonna before I listen to another self-fancying, camera-mugging Robbie Williams album.

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I liked Robbie Williams... he has some good albums and yes, I liked him. But my neighbour used to wake me up everyday at 7.30 with "I just wanna feel real looooove, etc..." :stars:

I moved.

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That's the thing: there hasn't been a good Pop singer for over 2 decades anywhere. There are plenty of dime-a-dozen Pop performers that I could be listing here for hours (e.g., Christina Aguilera, Anastasia, britney spears, the simpson sisters, clay aiken and the rest of the american idol ilk) and this is where Robbie Williams would be rightly categorised. Robbie doesn't even rank as the best mediocre music coming from Europe here because smugness and a greasy five-o-clock shadow don't go far if one doesn't have the pipes to back it all up :beatnik: Hell, Terence Trent D'Arby might've been the next best Pop singer, but his massive ego made everyone tune him out :headphones: I'll take a tired and worn-out limey Madonna before I listen to another self-fancying, camera-mugging Robbie Williams album.

Ahh, I'm guessing that you might be one who finds Robbie's personality obnoxious rather than charismatic. That's a common reaction, I know ;-)

But I do agree that there is no real reason to listen to anything that he has done since he broke up with his MD, Guy Chambers. What fun there was (in my mind) has now gone out of it. But this is a review of his very early solo stuff, and I say (loudly) that I love it. I know the music is dumb, and that he's an arrogant prat, but I think he managed to put together a wonderful album of pure pop. It's a guilty pleasure, sure, but I'm out of the closet on this one.

Love...

LBB

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I can name one current Pop singer whom I'd consider... good. I don't like his songs, but I think his performances pack a wallop. Too bad he'll never break through the foreign market (i.e., North America and Europe).

Rain -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twMWIvyXMis

I'd say Se7en would also fare well if he knew how to speak English (it's incredible how he can make a whole song out of just "lalala"! Hahahah).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO8W5yMNuLE (video doubles as some sort of garish fashion show)

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They are, in fact, better :beatnik: Their stage performances are waaaay ahead of Robbie's. A Pop star is worth his/her/their salt on charisma and stage persona/antics: all Robbie knows how to do is stick his chin out, pout, make a monkey face, and that's it. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, ABBA - look at their stage performances; that's what completes good to great Pop music. Yeah, that "lalala" tune is better than anything Robbie has put out since The Ego Has Landed.

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You were "arguing"? I was merely stating fact based on observations that anybody else can make. Get thee to YouTube and compare the live or studio performances of some of the Pop artists mentioned here and see for yourselves: Michael Jackson, ABBA, Prince, Madonna, Terence Trent D'Arby, Robbie Williams, Rain, and Se7en. Pick the most memorable performance of the lot and compare: music, vocals, dance choreography, costumes/couture, stage props, etc. Then, ask yourself (rhetorically), who doesn't fit in the picture? :beatnik:

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... see for yourselves: Michael Jackson, ABBA, Prince, Madonna, Terence Trent D'Arby, Robbie Williams, Rain, and Se7en. Pick the most memorable performance of the lot and compare: music, vocals, dance choreography, costumes/couture, stage props, etc. Then, ask yourself (rhetorically), who doesn't fit in the picture? :beatnik:

Oh, one thing I like about Robbie is that he does not fit into that mold at all. He's kind of an anti-star... always looks to me like an average bloke who woke up one morning and found that he had been mistaken for a star. Seems perpetually amused by the whole thing, expecting us all to suddenyl realise that there's been a big mistake. And yes, I agree, he cannot compare as a singer, or dancer, etc. with any of those people you have named. Nevertheless, I rate this album up there with any pure pop release you can name. As I say, a great deal of Robbie's appeal is in his personality, and if you can't stand it, and there's plenty to dislike if you are so inclined, then that's a big hurdle. But I think this record was wonderfully conceived and executed by whoever was responsible, playing perfectly to whatever strengths Robbie has. The hit "Angels" is a good example of the voice that he has... that's a big ballad, and he carries it off... not like a virtuoso, but with heart.

I wouldn't suggest for a second that Robbie can compare to Michael Jackson or Prince or Terence Trent D'arby (the great under-achiever), but I maintain that this is a terrific pop record.

But I'm going to listen to Rain and Se7en, because I am always on the look-out for big stupid thrills.

Thanks,

Lee.

Edited by Guest

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Yeah, if I squint and take my eyes off focus for a moment, I can see things from that angle. I do agree that the sum of the parts for The Ego Has Landed is what made it sound surprisingly good (in spite of Robbie Williams!). The singles you've all mentioned sounded decent when I first heard them; not something I'd turn the dial away, esp. the Neil Tennant song (since I love The Pet Shop Boys) :beatnik:

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Just so you know, BA... I wouldn't have Robbie in my Top Ten Ultimate Rock Gods. I think we can agree on that without needing to squint?

LBB

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Just so you know, BA... I wouldn't have Robbie in my Top Ten Ultimate Rock Gods. I think we can agree on that without needing to squint?

LBB

Most definitely. I can see how some of his songs would be played on the radio. What I found hard to believe is that he'd be one of the biggest Pop acts in Europe and how others would wonder why he's not as big in the US. I don't think his lack of popularity in North America is anything to be surprised of at all.

Why would I want to challenge such a display of arrogance anyway?

Still adding nothing, I see :beatnik:

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