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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
One of the best U.K. debuts of the '90s, Life Thru a Lens is an uninhibited joyride through all manner of British music, from glam to alternative to soft-rock to dance-pop. Beginning with the joyous "Lazy Days," the album continually betrays overt influences from Oasis and other Britpop stars, but triumphs nevertheless due to gorgeous production, Williams' irresistible personality, and the overall flavor of outrageous, utterly enjoyable pop music. Whether he's romping through aggressive burners like "Ego A Go Go" and "South of the Border," crooning on the ballad "Angels," or offering a slice of life -- working-class style -- on the title track and "Lazy Days," Williams is a pop star through and through. For those who appreciate great pop with plenty of cheek, Life Thru a Lens is an excellent album. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 22, 2019 | Columbia

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Releasing a Christmas album seems to be a rite of passage for all artists wanting to cement their place in the hearts of the people as a star (or even just to stay relevant…), yet some have accomplished this more successfully than others. This year it’s Robbie Williams who tries his hand at musical festive cheer: the end result is The Christmas Present, a soothing double album full of classic Christmas covers as well as a large serving of original songs (such as Coco’s Lullaby, dedicated to his daughter), guaranteed to get anyone in the holiday spirit. In keeping with the genre, this Christmas album starts out featuring sultry strings and a smooth brass section to effectively bring relaxing, jazzy tones to the music, a departure for Robbie Williams who cut his teeth on chart-topping pop music. Indeed, Jamie Cullum features on the second track, a cover of Slade’s kitsch-but-classic Merry Xmas Everybody, this strong start signalling more great things to come over this hour-and-a-half of feel-good Christmas music. Williams has more help, from German singer Helene Fischer on a seductive cover of Santa Baby, and from the legendary Rod Stewart on Fairytales and Bryan Adams on Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). However the most surprising feature comes from British champion heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury on Bad Sharon, a lighthearted song praising all the cheerful mischief to be had at Christmas time. Towards the end, the sound falls more into the pop category, but the festive cheer never falters. A fun album where the original songs are as inventive and refreshing as the covers are timeless and comforting. © Christopher Steele/Qobuz
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Rock - Released November 19, 2001 | Chrysalis UK

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Performance dynamo and chameleonic entertainment personality Robbie Williams made a rapid transformation -- from English football hooligan to dapper saloon singer -- for his fourth LP, Swing When You're Winning. Still, Williams' tribute to the great American songbook is a surprisingly natural fit with its intended target: '50s trad-pop patriarchs like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And just like those two loveable rogues, Williams has brawled and boozed in the past, but isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve; in fact, he's one of the few modern pop stars to fully embrace affecting balladry and nuanced singing. Williams and longtime producer Guy Chambers are also extremely careful with their product, so it shouldn't be surprising that Swing When You're Winning has innumerable extra-musical touches to carry it over: the cover features Williams relaxing in the studio in a period suit; his contract with EMI enabled the addition of the treasured Capitol logo at the top of the sleeve, and several tracks were even recorded at the famed Capitol tower in Hollywood. Fortunately, Williams is no less careful with his performances. Since he lacks the authoritative air of master crooners like Sinatra and Bing Crosby (along with the rest of humanity), he instead plays up his closer connections to the world of Broadway. His readings are dynamic and emotional -- sometimes a consequence of trying to put a new spin on these classics (six of the covers are Sinatra standards, three are Bobby Darin's). He also invited, with nearly universal success, a series of duet partners: Nicole Kidman for the sublime "Somethin' Stupid," Jon Lovitz for the irresistibly catty "Well, Did You Evah," Rupert Everett for "They Can't Take That Away From Me," longtime Sinatra accompanist Bill Miller on "One for My Baby," even Sinatra himself for a version of "It Was a Very Good Year" on which Williams takes the first two verses (over the 1965 arrangement), then bows out as Sinatra's original counsels him concerning the later stages of life. Though it may be an overly close tribute to a familiar original (like many of the songs here), Williams' considerable skills with expression and interpretation largely overwhelm any close criticism. He's definitely much better on the comedy songs, especially the hilarious "Well, Did You Evah" (originally a duet for Crosby and Sinatra in the 1956 film High Society). Lovitz's rounded tones and faux-affected airs are a spot-on interpretation of Brother Cros, while Williams' emulation of a boorish lug ("That's a nice dress -- think I could talk her out of it?") is nearly perfect as well. Though arranger Steve Sidwell hasn't done many charts (and those for the movies Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones' Diary, and Romeo + Juliet), he also acquits himself nicely aping classic scores for "One for My Baby" and "Beyond the Sea." The lone Robbie Williams original is "I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen," a sweeping pipe-dream fantasy of true American superstardom for Britain's biggest pop star. It could happen, too; Pierce Brosnan surely isn't growing any younger. © John Bush /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | Chrysalis UK

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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Chrysalis UK

With the news that Escapology would be the last Robbie Williams album recorded with producer/songwriter phenom Guy Chambers, fans began to wonder whether one of Britain's most durable pop forces would execute a disappearing act from the charts with a single album. Unfortunately, Escapology makes it sound as though Chambers has already left. Backed by stale songs, formulaic arrangements, and mediocre songwriting, Williams is forced to rely on his volcanic personality to bring this album across -- and despite a few strong performances, he sinks into lame self-parody time and time again. It's nearly impossible to reflect seriously on themes he's already broached several times before, as often happens here; "Feel" and "Love Somebody" are the usual looking-for-love songs, the latter with a set of trite lyrics cribbed from 30 years of rock & roll: "Always and forever, is forever young/Your shadow on the pavement, the dark side of the sun/Gotta dream the dream all over and sleep it tight/You don't wanna sing the blues in black and white." The Oasis flag-waver "Something Beautiful" finds Williams trying to keep on despite being tired with the modern world, while "Monsoon" and "Handsome Man" chart the usual celebrity regrets with an odd sense of arrogance and self-deprecation that isn't half as interesting at this point in his career as before. The highlights here are songs that barely would've made it onto Sing When You're Winning (much less his first two albums), and the sound is MOR throughout. Robbie Williams has never been an innovative artist, but previously his strong delivery and sly, ironic wit -- along with savvy production and songwriting -- kept any glimpse of cheese at bay. Escapology shows he's unable to avoid the trap. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 20, 2020 | Columbia

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin Records

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A two-disc set that is expanded even further in accompanying CD/DVD editions, In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010 presents, even in its most basic edition, no less than 39 examples of what made Robbie Williams a fascinating millennial superstar. Seemingly all things to all pop fans -- ambitious and self-deprecating, sensitive and boorish, dynamic and introverted -- Williams never lacked for people with a strong opinion of his work (although the number and force of the detractors seem at least equal to that of the supporters). Unlike his previous compilation, Greatest Hits, which was six years old in 2010, In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010 presents a much richer picture of Williams' discography. All the hits are here plus, for the first time, a wealth of album tracks capable of supplementing any casual fan's understanding of what made Williams occasionally great, sometimes infuriating, and nearly always worth hearing. The collection proceeds from newest to oldest, beginning with a pair of new songs (both of which are Gary Barlow co-compositions; the two were famously at odds during their Take That days) and ending over two hours later with tracks from his debut album plus the Take That single "Everything Changes" from 1994. (The very unhappy Williams was invited to leave the group one year later, although Take That management contracts prevented him from releasing solo material for nearly two years.) The compilers have chosen well, taking slightly fewer songs from infamous duds like Escapology and Intensive Care (although those tracks appear on the first disc) and spending more time on his precocious, entertaining '90s albums I've Been Expecting You and Life Thru a Lens (plus the non-album single "Freedom," a George Michael cover that out-performed the original on the British charts). The compilation even finds time for four tracks from Swing When You're Winning, his standards side project, and the new track from his previous Greatest Hits, "Eternity." In the end, whether listeners want Greatest Hits or In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010 (or the original albums themselves) will depend mostly on the amount of time and money they're willing to spend, but In and Out of Consciousness certainly offers a full portrait of Robbie Williams, the greatest pop star of the '90s and 2000s that few people appeared to respect but everyone enjoyed. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 18, 2013 | Farrell Music Ltd

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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Virgin Records

Robbie Williams' Rudebox was one of the most enjoyable records of his career, but it wasn't a commercial success. Its follow-up, Reality Killed the Video Star, attempts to right the ship, and as such, it becomes everything its predecessor was not. Recorded with a single producer, the estimable Trevor Horn, but encompassing songs and sessions with a variety of writing partners (Guy Chambers and Soul Mekanik, among others), the songs sound rushed and the performances lackluster. Given an MOR blockbuster production by Horn, and with arrangements by his longtime co-writer Anne Dudley, Reality Killed the Video Star certainly has the sound it needs to succeed with Williams' aging audience and clean up on BBC Radio 2. Granted, Robbie Williams is an excellent ballads singer, well-suited for this grandiose backing, but unfortunately the lyrics don't stand up to the pressure. "Blasphemy" has the worst offenders, beginning with "What's so great about the great depression?/Was it a blast for you? 'Cause it's blasphemy." One song later, Williams declares "This is a song full of metaphors," then fills it with a chorus beyond mindless: "Do, ooh ooh, ooh, ooh ya mind/If I, I-I, I, I, I-I-I touch you?" At least the album is front-loaded with quality, beginning with "Morning Sun," the best and most deeply felt song on the album. Apparently written after the death of Michael Jackson, it begins with a classic example of the taken-two-ways lyric: "How do you rate the morning sun." Second is "Bodies," the first song to be released from the album, and it's the last glimpse of clear quality and inventiveness on the entire album. Reality Killed the Video Star may not be a denouement for Robbie Williams; it's not decidedly worse than 2002's Escapology, it's just bad in a different way. Whereas Escapology found Robbie disappearing into his own neuroses, this one is a hopeless mélange of satire and sincerity where, from song to song, neither can immediately be distinguished. © John Bush /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | EMI Records

From most accounts, Robbie Williams' appearance at Knebworth over three August nights in 2003 wasn't just the largest concert in British music history (reportedly 375,000 attended over the course of the weekend), but a display of Williams' mastery of an audience and a confirmation that, American listeners aside, he's one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Live at Knebworth followed just two months later, a 72-minute collection from his two-hour live extravaganza. While the audio document isn't nearly as exciting as the live experience that made fans gush, the disc does transmit the massive amounts of energy at a Robbie Williams concert. Opening with his anthem "Let Me Entertain You" (as he always does), Williams keeps the crowd hanging on his every note, changing lyrics to fit the venue, indulging in his usual blend of faux arrogance and self-deprecation, and coaxing the audience on during every song. ("Show me love, Knebworth!") However, what could have been an excellent look at Britain's foremost pop entertainer in action is marred by its focus on material from his dreadful fifth album, Escapology. After a splendid beginning (including a brief flirtation with Queen's "We Will Rock You"), Williams performs four consecutive songs from Escapology: "Monsoon," "Come Undone," "Me and My Monkey" (which drags on for over seven minutes), and "Hot Fudge." The compilers found room to fit in two of his biggest songs ("Angels," "Kids"), but apparently didn't think superior hits like "Rock DJ," "Millennium," or "No Regrets" (all of which he performed at the show) needed to appear on this disc. A solid live album with the exception of the gaping hole in its midsection, Live at Knebworth is a missed opportunity, one that Chrysalis will hopefully rectify within a few years. © John Bush /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

A more mature, calculated album from a pop star who's often gloried in being immature and spontaneous, I've Been Expecting You may suffer from comparisons to its excellent predecessor, but it also finds Robbie Williams weathering the sophomore storm quite well. While Williams' debut was infectious and outrageous, the second is indeed a more studied album. The opener, "Strong," begins very well, with the spot-on lyrics: "My breath smells of a thousand fags/And when I'm drunk I dance like me Dad," and "Early morning when I wake up/I look like Kiss but without the makeup." Many of the tracks on I've Been Expecting You show an undeniable growth, both in songwriting and in artistic expression; two of the highlights, "No Regrets" and "Phoenix From the Flames," are sensitive, unapologetically emotional songs that may not be as immediately catchy as those on his debut, but pack a greater punch down the road. Williams does indulge his sense of fun occasionally, playing up James Bond during the transcontinental hand-waver "Millennium" (which samples Nancy Sinatra's theme for You Only Live Twice), and simply roaring through "Win Some Lose Some" and "Jesus in a Camper Van." © John Bush /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2000 | Chrysalis UK

Poised for global domination with his third album, Robbie Williams and producer Guy Chambers hardly dared mess with the formula of their 1998 crossover hit I've Been Expecting You. As such, Sing When You're Winning has plenty of introspective balladry akin to "Angels," and a few irresistible party time tracks in similar company to "Millennium." The album also moves Williams farther away from the increasingly dated visions of Oasis-style Brit-pop to embrace post-millennial dance-pop, complete with the bruising beats and extroverted productions to match. And Chambers certainly knows his production playbook well, conjuring a panoply of classic British rock touchstones like psychedelia, slick country-rock, Ian Dury, the Who, Elton John, and Madchester. Despite a small drop in songwriting from its predecessor, Sing When You're Winning ultimately succeeds, and most of the credit must go to Williams himself. Amidst a few overly familiar arrangements and lyrical themes, Williams proves the consummate entertainer, delivering powerful, engaging vocals -- no matter the quality of the material -- and striking the perfect balance between tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking humor ("Knutsford City Limits") and genuine feeling (tender ballads like "Better Man" and "If It's Hurting You"). The radio-ready single "Rock DJ" is a piece of immediately gratifying pop candy floss with a surprisingly endless shelf life, though "Kids," a vivacious, vacuous vamp of a duet with Kylie Minogue, doesn't even hold its own after one listen. Toss in a few beautiful album tracks (the opener "Let Love Be Your Energy," "Love Calling Earth," "Singing for the Lonely"), but then counter them with a few bland singalongs ("Supreme," "Forever Texas"), and the result is a scattered, entertaining album whose real star is Robbie Williams' personality. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis UK

Booklet
Despite his constant self-deprecation, Robbie Williams is a shrewd artist, one who can tell when a change is in order. It's impossible to tell if he would have agreed to continue working with producer Guy Chambers had Chambers not been forced out of the chair by money matters, but Williams lost little time in finding another creative partner. Stephen Duffy may not be as fluent in the last 40 years of guitar pop as Chambers is, but he immediately announces a changing of the guard on the first track, "Ghosts," with his ringing guitar and keyboards. And it works, briefly. The trailer single, "Tripping," is a warm, clubby single that slightly resembles "Rock DJ," but sounds like it could find a comfortable home on both adult alternative radio and the dancefloor. Williams goes for the jugular on "Spread Your Wings," an ambitious portrait of a lover's reunion (based, he says, on an alternate view of Human League's "Louise"). His lyrics, however, only sketch in the details, and Duffy's arrangement is a pale shadow of a Smiths song from 20 years earlier. It's possible that the partnership of Duffy and Williams can still bear fruit, but it will require not only better music from Duffy but far better performances from Williams. He rarely even sounds like himself, instead choosing to channel his '80s heroes -- Bono, Morrissey, George Michael, even Tom Jones briefly. It's important to point out that since Intensive Care represents a new direction and a new sound, it is much more interesting than the creatively bankrupt Escapology. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 4, 2016 | Columbia

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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Chrysalis UK

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Pop - Released November 5, 2012 | Farrell Music Ltd

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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Chrysalis UK

The careers of most music celebrities are like passenger ships, able to steam along nearly indefinitely without the least chance of modifying course. With his work of the 21st century, Robbie Williams appeared to have set himself on a course that was guaranteed to keep him working for decades, remaining important to thousands of fans, but never varying from the type of adult alternative singer/songwriter material expected of him. Then came Rudebox, which proves he's not that simple -- or at least, not that satisfied with himself. It may be a good album because it says little about his inner life and emotional troubles, which are unceremoniously dropped in favor of hyper-sexualized or sarcastic dance music and ironic laugh-getters ("Make your body shake like you stood on a land mine," "Dance like you just won at the Special Olympics"). It may be a good album because it has some of the best productions of his career, usually amped-up electro-disco from the duo Soul Mekanik or goofy hip-hop soul from Mark Ronson (which makes him come across as Justin Timberlake at some points and Gnarls Barkley at others). It's certainly a good record in comparison to its two predecessors, which suffered from a lack of vitality. (For example, while 2005's Intensive Care desultorily attempted to rewrite the Human League's "Louise," Rudebox simply covers the song, with much more feeling.) Compared to Escapology and Intensive Care, Rudebox is not only loose and fun but, for the first time in Williams' career, receptive to outside help; aside from the producers, Lily Allen and the Pet Shop Boys make appearances, and Robbie covers songs from Manu Chao, Lewis Taylor, Stephen Duffy, and the indie band My Robot Friend. Not that the record is perfect; in fact, it has a few of the most embarrassing moments in Williams' career. The lyrics occasionally devolve into hip-hop nonsense ("Got no strings, but I think with my ding-a-ling/Wu-Tang with the bling-bling, sing a song of Sing Sing"). "The 80s" is even worse, a nostalgic but monotone rap that oddly balances adolescent trauma and pop culture ("Auntie Jo died of cancer/God didn't have an answer/Rhythm was a dancer"). Still, the next track after "The 80s" is "The 90s," a surprisingly bewitching chronicle of his boy-band years from 1990 to 1995. The fact remains that every track here is better and more interesting than anything from the previous two LPs, despite the occasional embarrassing couplet or misguided musical idea. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | EMI Catalogue

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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Chrysalis UK

In 2001, Robbie Williams recorded Swing When You're Winning, a tribute to the classic American pop vocalists of the 1950s, and on an album steeped in the sound and mood of Frank Sinatra, Williams tried his hand on several tunes made famous by the Chairman of the Board. This EP features Williams' recording of Sinatra's hit "Somethin' Stupid," here presented as a duet with actress Nicole Kidman; the EP also includes two on-LP tracks, an orchestral version of "Eternity," and a live take of the iconic "My Way." © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2001 | Chrysalis UK

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Robbie Williams in the magazine