Sunday, November 15, 2009

Album Review: Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star (4.5/5)

Now, I haven't been dictating Robbie Williams' career and music from the beginning, when I say the beginning I'm referring to post-Take That. In fact, if there was any legendary British pop act I haven't been closely familiar with it would be Robbie.

Whilst I knew the hits, such as "Angels," "Let Me Entertain You" and "Feel," his last album, Rudebox, was the first album I bought of his--a fun and cheeky blend of electronic, dance-pop and R&B that was largely considered a flop, whatever. I bought his previous album Intensive Care a year later--a more serious effort, spawning its biggest hit "Tripping" unfortunately not being able to follow-up any others.

Now after overcoming personal troubles, Robbie delivers his eighth album, Reality Killed the Video Star, a return to classic British pop--a far cry from the many experimental endeavours Rudebox showcased. It's more confident than Intensive Care and more tame than Rudebox. I would say it's my favorite Robbie Williams album thus far, but it wouldn't be a fair say as I've only ever given his last two albums a proper listen. Life thru a Lense and Sing When Your Winning are suppose to be his best ones.

There's not much rock on here, it's mostly pop as melodic opening track "Morning Sun" implies as it showcases a jaunty and laid back collaboration of strings and grand piano keys but building up to a bold climax towards the end, setting up the perfect leeway for the confident "Bodies" dubbed Robbie's comeback single, a tough number pulsing with hard hitting drums, guitars and gushes of orchestration which all align well as the big chorus kicks in.

Next up is current single "You Know Me" that boasts an instantly likable '60s flair, backed with melodically tied guitars, strings and drums and soaring backing vocals that elude the classic ("Shoop-bop-shoop-bop") that solidifies that '60s sound it goes for. Following is the beautiful "Blasphemy" a subtle ballad, stripped down to vocal, strings, piano and orchestration. It's really nice.

Personal favorite "Do You Mind" is an upbeat, summery number--probably the albums most rock-influenced number and probably its more carefree and lighthearted. The chorus is sheer fun, effectively showcasing poignant piano keys, ripples of guitars and strings and fantastic melody. The lyrics: ("Don't call it a comeback") is probably the main thing to take from '80s club influenced "Last Days of Disco" using strings and synth to flaunt its '80s throwback. Like ww_adh writes, it does recall The Pet Shop Boys.

I'm so use to most of today's pop albums having the recurring problem of having a strong first half and a weak second that I expect it now however Reality, seems to avoid that problem which strikes me as a bit of a surprise. Normally after track 6 or 7 I begin to expect the worst, however on here its second half is just as robust as the first. "Somewhere" is a short atmospheric orchestration fixed interlude that leads swiftly into "Deception" a mellow acoustic and piano tied ballad, it's rather brilliant how such a subtly composed piano-ballad can be so compelling. It's really lovely. Following is the just as brilliant "Starstruck," pounding with sharp synths, the tweaked vocals on here work effectively. Disco influences prop up on "Difficult for Weirdos." I like this a lot it kind of reminds me of La Roux.

Another personal favorite is "Superblind" a delicate, touching ballad backed with piano keys, strings and bass. It's really beautiful. Robbie sounds awesome on here also baring such a soulful vocal. Going for the big sound is "Won't Do That" that incorporates horns, drums and the rest of it that slightly recalls Take That's "Shine" but less glitzy. The album closes with a short reprise of the opening track "Morning Sun."

Reality Killed the Video Star, has surely become one of my favorite pop albums of the year. I'm thoroughly impressed with this. I'll definately be checking out his past work, which honestly is a crime that I hadn't already done before, isn't it? I was so close to giving this the full 5--it really should be as I like every track--although there are some I just love more.

Best: You Know Me, Bodies, Last Days of Disco, Do You Mind, Starstruck, Superblind, Blasphemy, Won't Do That


Paul said...

It's an absolutely gorgeous well crafted album, and JLS may well have won the race this week but I think overall robbie will win the marathon...

J.Mensah said...

True that! I suspect it'll have longetivity, I mean it's ROBBIE WILLIAMS! BTW, i'm not feeling JLS' album too much neyways :/