Robbie Williams

Take the Crown

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Robbie Williams' self-described busman's holiday with Take That during 2010 may have put a hold on his solo career, but it also rejuvenated his creative instincts. When he returned to the studio without Barlow & co. (actually, Gary helped write and produce here), he decided to focus on what he does best: commercial pop music. This is pop music the way he used to create it in the '90s and 2000s, with songs either silly or serious, but always self-referential and knowing. On the surface, all of these songs could be middle-of-the-road hits, although most reveal lyrics that dig just a little deeper than chart fodder. This is a record capable of reaching both the cheap seats and the fans screaming at the front, with big hooks, unmissable melodies, and Williams' by now trademarked brand of grandiose introspection and relationship examination. The trailer single "Candy" is a perfect example. A trite, uptempo track with a sing-song chorus but not much of a shelf life, it's the perfect radio hit. A few other songs are more interesting, including "Gospel" and the banner-waving ballad "Different," with tighter productions and more substantial lyrics. "Shit on the Radio" is an interesting detour, typically self-referential and self-disparaging and all the while rather gleeful about it, in a fashion that only Robbie Williams can risk and succeed with. It all sounds like the work that a member of Take That would be doing in 2012, without Williams' many hits of the past to draw on for setting expectations high. Take the Crown features Robbie doing what Robbie does best -- writing and performing effortless pop music -- but not at his best.

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