Robbie Williams

Sing When You're Winning

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    8
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Poised for global domination with his third album, Robbie Williams and producer Guy Chambers hardly dared mess with the formula of their 1998 crossover hit I've Been Expecting You. As such, Sing When You're Winning has plenty of introspective balladry akin to "Angels," and a few irresistible party time tracks in similar company to "Millennium." The album also moves Williams farther away from the increasingly dated visions of Oasis-style Brit-pop to embrace post-millennial dance-pop, complete with the bruising beats and extroverted productions to match. And Chambers certainly knows his production playbook well, conjuring a panoply of classic British rock touchstones like psychedelia, slick country-rock, Ian Dury, the Who, Elton John, and Madchester. Despite a small drop in songwriting from its predecessor, Sing When You're Winning ultimately succeeds, and most of the credit must go to Williams himself. Amidst a few overly familiar arrangements and lyrical themes, Williams proves the consummate entertainer, delivering powerful, engaging vocals -- no matter the quality of the material -- and striking the perfect balance between tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking humor ("Knutsford City Limits") and genuine feeling (tender ballads like "Better Man" and "If It's Hurting You"). The radio-ready single "Rock DJ" is a piece of immediately gratifying pop candy floss with a surprisingly endless shelf life, though "Kids," a vivacious, vacuous vamp of a duet with Kylie Minogue, doesn't even hold its own after one listen. Toss in a few beautiful album tracks (the opener "Let Love Be Your Energy," "Love Calling Earth," "Singing for the Lonely"), but then counter them with a few bland singalongs ("Supreme," "Forever Texas"), and the result is a scattered, entertaining album whose real star is Robbie Williams' personality.

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