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|Robbie Is Back With New Album 'Take The Crown'|
|03-11-2012 10:49 | 0 comment(s)|
| It is not clear from the title whether Robbie Williams is seeking to regain his pop crown or offering to surrender it. His ninth solo album 'Take The Crown' is chock-full of anthemic, highly charged pop-rock songs but the stadium-scale synth and guitar blend is a long way from cutting-edge contemporary chart music, while a recurring lyrical theme is regret for past behaviour. Williams brings proceedings to a close with a cover of the Belle Brigade's Losers, a Lennonesque acoustic country ballad of self-castigation, on which he roars that he no longer cares "about being a winner". At 38, now a husband and father, is the bad-boy superstar embracing adulthood?
Well, not exactly. Williams has always been a man of contradictions and for every example of new-found maturity, you can find something suggesting the opposite. Indeed, the opening song, Be a Boy, is essentially a paean to the joys of immaturity, delivered with familiar braggadocio: "They said the magic was leaving me, I don't think so." And it is a typically bravura move of Williams to record a song entitled S--- on the Radio. The self-consciously dumb electro-stomp comes closest to conjuring up the insouciant mischief of old, although its commercial prospects may be limited by an implicit insult to the DJs expected to cue it up.
The question is how much Williams still really wants to be "the ---- that's on the radio". He was the biggest star of the Britpop decade and beyond, imbuing mainstream pop with a compelling quality of emotional volatility and sense of edgy, inner conflict. In the third decade of his recording career, however, those personality quirks seem less unpredictable while his pop instincts sound a touch old-fashioned. Recent comments that he wrote his new album (with the Australian dance duo the Undercolours) in eight days do not suggest he is taking his latest comeback as seriously as he might.
Under the guidance of Snow Patrol's and U2's producer, Jacknife Lee, Take the Crown is more epic rock than playground pop, with echoing guitar lines and "oh-way-oh" backing vocals directly lifted from Coldplay. There are a lot of big, moody, aspirational songs like Different, Hunting For You, Into the Silence and All That I Want (which owes a debt to U2's All I Want Is You), sung in a voice that audibly frays at the top of his range.
It is not unimpressive, with energy and attack and flashes of wit but there are too few of the kind of mad pop moments that make you stop in your tracks and not enough evidence that Williams is stretching and growing as a songwriting talent. The moment when Williams had his finger on the pulse of the pop nation is gone, leaving only a smart, accomplished entertainer singing to his fan base. To be fair, I'm not convinced he really wants anything more.
Top Song: 'Different'
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