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ROBBIE WILLIAMS - Greatest Hits   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Thursday, 21 October 2004
Britains Best Pop Star?


Or “Cuntface” as one popstar likes to call him behind closed doors? The jury is out.

But on the evidence of this, Robbie Williams is Britain’s Best Pop Star.Pop, being transient. Pop, being Art. Pop, being a short, explosive sound.Pop, being the nature of fame, being the sound of exploding ballons, the noise of bubblegum, and yet also being Andy Warhol’ s commodification of art as a product. Pop as in here today, forgotten tommorow.

Yes, Robbie is all things to all men. And yet, to himself, sometimes he is nothing. To some, a bit of a hunk, a singer with distinctive pipes, charisma in buckets, and the writer of some of our modern anthems “Angels”.Rock DJ”. “Let Me Entertain You”. “Millenium”. “No Regrets”. “Strong”. But also,Williams is the dark horse of pop : the fat dancer from Take That. The cheeky chappy who befriended Oasis to try and look cool. The man who singlehandedly tried to hijack Indie Cool and spotweld it to the End-Of-The-Pier-Showbiz-Entertainer.

But to be fair to Robbie Williams : the man is no puppet. No dancing fool,no wind-up-jack-in-the-box, but a reinvented, and incredibly successful twentysomething who, despite his often musically bland backing,mercifully deconstructs Pop  MegaStardom for the absurd façade that it is, and ably offers forth some of the most incisive lyrics that have made it through the grinder of Bland Pop Culture. And yet he’s still a grinning fool who somehow chanced his way to being Britain’s Biggest Pop Star.

But a “Greatest Hits”? Already? Six years into a career that, like it or not, will no doubt run for at least another twenty years, it seems premature. But here we are already. Far from the inevitable ending of Robbie in Vegas ; a tired, haggard Robbie, tattoos sagging off fattened fifty something skin, back on tour, promoting  yet-another-cover-album of contemporaries that haven’t even been born yet, on his Yet Another  Comeback Tour of 2025.

I have seen the future, and it hurts.

Even so, “Greatest Hits” still feels a bit rushed, despite being released a couple of years later than his record company wanted to. And following the “Live In Knebworth” album, it puts Robbies last material – with long  time conspirator Guy Chambers – ever further away. In some respects, you could be forgiven for thinking now that Robbie and his main co-song-writer are no longer on speaking terms, that maybe “Greatest Hits” represents the cashing of the last chips as the songs dry up. You would be a cynic to say that. And you’d be exactly right.

So let us compare mythologies. From the stumbling start of his solo career, the punsome but ultimately one dimensional sub-Britpop-fakery of “Old Before
I Die”,
to the final, radical rethink of “Radio”, one can both barely recognise, yet instantly recognise, that these songs are Robbie Williams songs, and could never be anyone elses. Quintiessentially, caustically British, cool, yet naff, sincere, yet fake, confident, yet insecure, Robbie Williams is the central thread that runs through each and every song. And if you don’t see yourself in some of these songs, maybe you don’t see  anything.

The songs are presented in chronological order, so, thankfully, there is no history-scrambling revisionism, but what you do have is a seemingly endless series of short Pop Thrills. Three minute wonders. Just when you think that no-one can write so many songs of such quality, up pops another one. Whatever you think about Robbie, boy, can he write ‘em. If he weren’t a popstar, he’d be a songwriter-extraordinaire with a queue of pop strumpets demanding his golden touch : a knack for a effortless, yet memorable melody, and lyrics that would stand up against any poet.

But as a precis of a fledgling career, “Greatest Hits” is exactly that : it does exactly what it says on the tin, wrapping up almost all of his solo singles, and a few obligatory new tracks that indicate that the well is not yet dry.

Ah, fuck it. You know the songs, you know if you like him or not. If  you do, (and if you don’t, you’re in the minority in the UK) then Greatest Hits presents every song of his you’ve never bought in one handy package :  and if you don’t, it’s yet more clag that will hover around some part of your  brain like a virus. You’ll end up owning eventually, as every house in  Britain inevitably will. It’ll be like The Dark Side Of The Moon, and Star Wars  on DVD ; every home will have one.

Robbie Williams is the greatest Pop Star to ever come forth from this rubbish island – whatever qualities you want from a pop star, he has  them in spades. But the most important thing is the music, and what is the  music here. Great pop songs, each and every one of them. If Pop is a dirty  word round your indie ghetto though, you’ll hate this


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