Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Robbie Williams: Reality Killed The Video Star

By 2000, Robbie Williams had become a Brit icon by walking a tightrope of irreverent dance-rock precariously balanced over a chasm of cheesy adult-alternative drivel. Then Williams plummeted into that abyss and destroyed his pop-star persona. By 2007, he was acting like an artist gone nuts; bearded, chubby, and looking for UFOs in the desert, he recorded an unreleased experimental album that, he later said, would have amounted to “career suicide” (implying, of course, that his career was still alive). All of that resulted in the radio-cozy, polished Reality Killed The Video Star, Williams’ rehabilitation from eccentricity. Neurotically examining his personality quirks through decidedly unoriginal, un-quirky pop songs, Williams apparently wants to express his individuality with classic-rock reference points and frustratingly nonsensical novelty tracks. (No, it’s not a typo; there actually is a song titled “Deceptacon.”) His formerly sharp wit is absent on the critic-baiting “Morning Sun” and cock-rock homage “Do You Mind,” and his more successful electro-clash numbers (“Last Days Of Disco”) also suffer lyrically—“Difficult For Weirdos” would be fun if it weren’t a song about weirdoes. In its defense, Reality isn’t a “comeback” album—even Williams admits it’s too late to recapture his former glory—but the blandly derivative collection raises the question of what the aborted 2007 album sounded like. Compared to this, maybe art.

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