Robbie Williams

Greatest Hits

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A near-perfect look at the career of Britain's brightest singles artist during the late '90s and early 2000s, Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits chronologically consolidates Williams' canon of Top Tens -- 19 of them in all, as of its release in late 2004. (Not all of his Top Ten singles are present, since the disc closes with a pair of new songs.) In the late '90s, Robbie Williams proved that a pop artist with a dodgy artistic background -- witness his membership in Take That -- was still capable of joining the long line of British artists (T. Rex, Madness, Pet Shop Boys, Blur) who completely embraced danceable pop music without selling their souls in the bargain. Williams' biggest up-tempo hits, "Millennium" and "Rock DJ," were loved by middle-aged housewives and young teens alike (slightly less so by the latter, of course). Sugary and infectious but not disposable, they were made-to-order as great radio product, an art increasingly being lost. And as shown by "Angels," the biggest hit of his career, Williams also had a winning way with balladry. He also forged a comfortable performing personality via his excitable, self-effacing cad who takes himself far too seriously and can get intensely emotional every now and then, but is usually good for a laugh. (See "Strong" for the details.) The two new tracks introduce Stephen Duffy -- an original member of Duran Duran who later made his own name in the Lilac Time -- as the replacement for Guy Chambers as Williams' new producer/songwriter/contributor (of course, the two songs, "Radio" and "Misunderstood," can't help but sound weak in this context). Despite pop fans being sick of his omnipresence in British pop culture, history will likely be kind to Robbie Williams. After all, would a disposable pop artist quote Latin on the back of a CD booklet? (Granted, in typical Robbie fashion the epigraph translates as, "If it has tits or wheels, it will make life difficult.")

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