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Sunday, 27 August, 2000, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
CD Review: Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams
Robbie: Eyeing up success
By the BBC's Nigel Packer

He's battled his way to the top of the pop Premiership, but has Robbie really got what it takes to stay there?

Third solo album Sing When You're Winning aims to consolidate the whirlwind success of recent years, which culminated in a trophy cabinet stuffed with Brit Awards and growing interest in America.

It's an album bursting with potential hit singles but there's precious little strength in depth, and over the course of 50 minutes, the lack of true class begins to tell.

Robbie Williams
Loveable rogue: Can Robbie overcome the hype?
When it comes to showmanship Williams has few peers, and in Guy Chambers he has a very talented musical collaborator.

Yet the nagging feeling remains that Robbie's current status as Britain's biggest pop star says more about the lack of decent competition than it does about his own abilities.

The album opens strongly enough with Let Love Be Your Energy, a bright and breezy song which highlights Chamber's ability to mix and match snippets from pop history to original effect.

Radiohead's Planet Telex rubs shoulders with the brass section from Penny Lane, yet despite the obvious influences the whole thing avoids sounding too derivative.

Two halves

Supreme, on the other hand, is an open reworking of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive with an unlikely nod to jazz great John Coltrane in its "love supreme" lyrics.

Chambers' chameleon-like musical abilities are evident throughout - most memorably on the Beach Boys-meet-drum & bass coda of Singing For The Lonely - although Robbie's lyrics fail to show the same kind of vision.

The trappings of fame once more form the basis of several songs, although this time round the irony in his diet is supplemented by a surprisingly bitter aftertaste.

"I'm so sick of people's expectations", he sings at one point - sentiments which sit uneasily alongside tongue-in-cheek crowd pleasers such as the raunchy Forever Texas and credibility-crushing single Rock DJ, the weakest song on the album.

In many ways Sing When You're Winning is an album of two halves - with Robbie the loveable rogue pitched against a more serious and sincere version.

Love Calling Earth and Better Man suggest that he'd rather follow the more grown-up route, although that might prove difficult as long as he suffers from an inability to keep his clothes on in front of the cameras - otherwise known as Big Brother Syndrome.

Whether Robbie will ever manage to win over the doubters remains to be seen, and Sing When You're Winning certainly asks as many questions as it answers about his authenticity.

Here's hoping that in future he spends more time dropping his guard - and a lot less dropping his trousers.

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See also:

07 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Robbie's chart-topping hat-trick
31 May 00 | Entertainment
Robbie's the one - again
04 Mar 00 | Brit Awards
Honours and insults at bitter Brits
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