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 Monday, 13 January, 2003, 19:37 GMT
The Robbie Williams phenomenon
Nicole Kidman's duet with Robbie Williams was a UK hit
Nicole Kidman's duet with Robbie Williams was a UK hit
Singer Robbie Williams has been nominated for one Brit Award, and was also offered an 80m record deal by British music giant EMI last year. BBC News Online looks at the former Take That singer's startlingly successful career.

It is little surprise that Robbie Williams's record company EMI wants to hold onto him - he has been one of the most successful stars in the UK over the last five years.

Despite being in the spotlight for a decade - with boy band Take That before going solo - he is now at the height of his powers, with everything that he does turning to gold.

Robbie Williams facts
Born 13 February 1974 in Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Joined Take That aged 16
Left after partying with Oasis five years later
Sold 15 million solo CDs worldwide
Scored 15 solo UK top 10 singles
Had four solo UK number one albums
Picked up 13 Brit Awards

His latest album, Swing When You're Winning, sold almost two million copies in just the first seven weeks of release - and has shifted another two million in the rest of Europe.

But he has not yet cracked the United States - and if EMI are paying him 80m to stay with them, they may expect to see greater returns from the biggest music market in the world.

Since going solo in 1996, Williams has had 15 solo UK top 10 singles - including five number ones.

He has won 13 Brit Awards - more than anyone else in the awards' history - and sold 15 million albums worldwide.

Christmas 2001 was the high point of his solo career so far, with three releases topping three different UK charts.

 Click here to watch Robbie Williams sing Eternity on Top Of The Pops

His album Swing When You're Winning had been seen as a gamble because nobody knew how the public would take to an album of cover versions of old Rat Pack and big band tunes.

But it shot to the top of the charts and stayed there.

Robbie Williams at the Royal Albert Hall
Williams became a crooner at the Royal Albert Hall
He also enjoyed the Christmas number one in the singles chart with his duet with actress Nicole Kidman, Somethin' Stupid, which became his most successful single since going solo.

The DVD of his one-off big band show at the Royal Albert Hall, at which he sang tunes from Swing When You're Winning, became the biggest-selling music DVD in the UK ever and topped the music DVD charts.

After Christmas, he was named best British male at the Brit Awards for the third time in four years - confirming his position as the UK's top solo pop performer and a bankable star.

The memories of his former incarnation - as a teen star in boy band Take That - now seem so far away.

Joining the group at the age of 16, he helped make Take That the UK's most successful group since The Beatles - but few thought his success would continue after he left.

Three members of Take That
Few thought Williams, back, would be a success after leaving Take That
Many thought his career would go the same way as that of most bit-part band members who try to go it alone - to oblivion.

His first solo album, Life Thru A Lens, was released in 1997, and sold slowly at first.

It only hit number one six months after being released, when radio stations picked up on the ballad Angels.

Angels and its glam-rock parody follow-up, Let Me Entertain You, were ubiquitous and proved to the world that he was serious about being a solo star.

Critics joined the public in singing the praises of Williams' talents - and his cheeky personality.

He stayed in the spotlight thanks partly to a feud with Oasis star Liam Gallagher, a relationship with former All Saints singer Nicole Appleton and rumours about his involvement with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

Robbie Williams in Rock DJ video
He has always been good at changing his image
He scored his first UK number one single in 1998 with Millennium, which was followed into the top spot by She's The One in 1999 and Rock DJ in 2000.

Eternity/The Road to Mandalay and Somethin' Stupid both gave him further number one hits in 2001.

But he has not had the same level of success in the US.

If he was as big in the US as he is in the UK, the dollars really would start rolling in and EMI's outlook would start to look rosier.

Williams has appeared on the David Letterman TV show, toured there and released a US-only CD, The Ego Has Landed, to try to endear him to an American audience.

He's got to do the toilet tour and build up

Gordon Masson
Billboard magazine
But his releases have still made no more than a small dent in the charts.

Some have said he has not worked hard enough, unlike some acts such as U2, who have toured there extensively over the last 20 years - and say they still consider themselves to be in the process of breaking the US.

"You've got to spend the time there," according to Gordon Masson, international news editor of Billboard magazine.

"He's got to do the toilet tour and build up, and it's a question of - is he prepared to do that?

"And I don't know if the Americans get it - the humour for a start."

See also:

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