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Wednesday October 25, 2000

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Robbie Williams Review

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By Graig Uhlin

Robbie Williams

Sing When You're Winning

(Capitol Records)

Grade: A-

When Robbie Williams released his first solo album last year, the stellar The Ego Has Landed, people asked themselves how someone so talented and original could have come from the supposedly sterile breeding ground of boy bands -Williams was, after all, once part of Britain's Backstreet Boys equivalent, Take That.

Now, following the release of his second album, the aptly titled Sing When You're Winning, they are still asking that same question. Even if record sales have limped along, critics are, not surprisingly, dulling their pencils to scribble praise for this British import.

Williams' new album takes pop to new musical heights as he nearly assaults the listeners with clever melodies and more clever lyrics. Musical surprise after musical surprise, Williams throws listeners' expectations back into their faces.

While critics praise, posturing this hip popster as a musical godsend, Williams himself is the one who deflates all their gushing. Taking off where the self-reflexive The Ego Has Landed left off, this new release self-deprecates as it delights. The more the lyrics work to deconstruct Williams' persona as a smarmy, all-too-hip rock star, the wittiness and self-reflexivity of the whole package only builds it back up again.

In "Kids," when he sings "Ain't no chance of the record company dropping me/ Press be asking do I care for sodomy/ I don't know, yeah, probably," Williams, half-seriously, plays with his own media image, and the media only loves him more for it.

Among the album's highlights, "Supreme" successfully utilizes the string melody from Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," and radio-friendly "Rock DJ" flexes its musical muscle as the CD's best track.

Williams, after two remarkable releases, is indeed winning - and so too will be the American public if he keeps on singing.

-Graig Uhlin