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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
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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

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
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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

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
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Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | Chrysalis UK

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Pop - Released November 18, 2013 | Farrell Music Ltd

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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Chrysalis UK

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Pop - Released November 4, 2016 | Columbia

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Establishing himself as the last of a particular breed, Robbie Williams makes his pop comeback on The Heavy Entertainment Show. Aptly titled, Williams is entertaining as ever, a consummate showman until the end. The album is a grab bag of ideas, darting here and there in its pursuit of a hit. However, this isn't too much of a distraction. Mr. Entertainment and his bombast do not disappoint. The Heavy Entertainment Show is his most invigorated album in years, a truer return to the pop realm than 2012's Take the Crown. Here, Williams dresses up his antics in expert production with plenty of cheekiness to spare. As the show begins, Williams announces "the charisma's non-negotiable" and "I'm about to strip and you're my pole." He's cocky, crass, and utterly engaging as a chorus of backup singers add, "He would sell his children for a hit in Belgium!" Few pop stars can pull this off, yet from Williams, it's almost comforting to see him once again embrace his braggadocious ringmaster persona. Longtime producer Guy Chambers makes his return to Williams' circus, along with a number of high-profile guests. The Killers-penned "Mixed Signals" is an open-road epic that sounds like a Battle Born castaway, while Ed Sheeran and Benny Blanco join forces for the stomp-twang Avicii-lite "Pretty Woman." Rufus Wainwright contributes songwriting and his velvety voice to a trio of brassy tunes, kick-stepping alongside Williams on the aforementioned title track, as well as "Hotel Crazy" and the grand outro "Sensational." "David's Song" -- penned by Jewel and Kara DioGuardi -- is a heart-rending soft rock ballad that overwhelms with a powerful closing guitar solo and orchestral swell. However, it's producer Stuart Price who proves most valuable. In addition to the Killers track, he injects the album with a pair of addictive standout synth numbers. Highlight "Bruce Lee" is a Bowie-stomping glam number that struts its way through the pack, while "Sensitive" amps up the sensuality with echoing synths, handclaps, and juicy bass. Elsewhere, there are a couple love-or-hate tracks that stick out. The Prokofiev-sampling lead single "Party Like a Russian" -- which sounds like something Muse would use to dramatically start a show -- is big on drama and creativity, but might rub some listeners the wrong way with its cultural generalities. Meanwhile, the boldly titled "Motherfucker" seems like it's trying a little too hard to shock, yet it's the finest example of Williams' schtick. A heartwarming dedication to his young son, it is ridiculous yet completely uplifting. As it explodes into a guitar-drenched Oasis B-side, Williams recites a litany of family woes that could affect his offspring. It'll make grandma blush, but at the heart of it all, he's confident that his son will "break the chain" of sin. Despite that title and explicit lyrics, Williams allows some sincerity to shine through the sophomoric, remaining hilarious and full of heart. Eleven albums in and he's still one of the most likable acts around, truly one of a kind. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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Rock - Released January 1, 2000 | Chrysalis UK

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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
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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
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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" (and it is slight in comparison), 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, who delivers his lyrics as though, at this point, his performing personality can just be filled in by his fans. (Of course, personality was one trait never in short supply on previous albums.) 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. Still, nearly all of the qualities that made Robbie Williams interesting between 1995 and 2000 -- his irreverence, his biting wit, his status as the thinking man's conflicted hooligan -- are merely memories after Intensive Care. ~ John Bush

Pop - Released February 15, 2019 | Farrell Music Ltd

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin Records

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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
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Pop - Released November 5, 2012 | Farrell Music Ltd

Robbie Williams' self-described busman's holiday with Take That during 2010 may have put a hold on his solo career, but it also rejuvenated his creative instincts. When he returned to the studio without Barlow & co. (actually, Gary helped write and produce here), he decided to focus on what he does best: commercial pop music. This is pop music the way he used to create it in the '90s and 2000s, with songs either silly or serious, but always self-referential and knowing. On the surface, all of these songs could be middle-of-the-road hits, although most reveal lyrics that dig just a little deeper than chart fodder. This is a record capable of reaching both the cheap seats and the fans screaming at the front, with big hooks, unmissable melodies, and Williams' by now trademarked brand of grandiose introspection and relationship examination. The trailer single "Candy" is a perfect example. A trite, uptempo track with a sing-song chorus but not much of a shelf life, it's the perfect radio hit. A few other songs are more interesting, including "Gospel" and the banner-waving ballad "Different," with tighter productions and more substantial lyrics. "Shit on the Radio" is an interesting detour, typically self-referential and self-disparaging and all the while rather gleeful about it, in a fashion that only Robbie Williams can risk and succeed with. It all sounds like the work that a member of Take That would be doing in 2012, without Williams' many hits of the past to draw on for setting expectations high. Take the Crown features Robbie doing what Robbie does best -- writing and performing effortless pop music -- but not at his best. ~ John Bush
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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Chrysalis UK

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Rock - Released January 1, 2004 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

A near-perfect look at the career of Britain's brightest singles artist during the late '90s and early 2000s, Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits chronologically consolidates Williams' canon of Top Tens -- 19 of them in all, as of its release in late 2004. (Not all of his Top Ten singles are present, since the disc closes with a pair of new songs.) In the late '90s, Robbie Williams proved that a pop artist with a dodgy artistic background -- witness his membership in Take That -- was still capable of joining the long line of British artists (T. Rex, Madness, Pet Shop Boys, Blur) who completely embraced danceable pop music without selling their souls in the bargain. Williams' biggest up-tempo hits, "Millennium" and "Rock DJ," were loved by middle-aged housewives and young teens alike (slightly less so by the latter, of course). Sugary and infectious but not disposable, they were made-to-order as great radio product, an art increasingly being lost. And as shown by "Angels," the biggest hit of his career, Williams also had a winning way with balladry. He also forged a comfortable performing personality via his excitable, self-effacing cad who takes himself far too seriously and can get intensely emotional every now and then, but is usually good for a laugh. (See "Strong" for the details.) The two new tracks introduce Stephen Duffy -- an original member of Duran Duran who later made his own name in the Lilac Time -- as the replacement for Guy Chambers as Williams' new producer/songwriter/contributor (of course, the two songs, "Radio" and "Misunderstood," can't help but sound weak in this context). Despite pop fans being sick of his omnipresence in British pop culture, history will likely be kind to Robbie Williams. After all, would a disposable pop artist quote Latin on the back of a CD booklet? (Granted, in typical Robbie fashion the epigraph translates as, "If it has tits or wheels, it will make life difficult.") ~ John Bush
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis UK

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Robbie Williams in the magazine