Robbie Williams

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Robert Peter Williams (born February 13, 1974 in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire) is a British pop singer.

Biography

Take That

Williams' early pop career started with the hit boy band Take That. The band was formed in 1990 and proved to be highly successful, with 8 UK Number 1 singles to their credit. Their popularity led to a succession of similar bands in the UK. However, it has since been suggested that Williams' 'roguish' qualities meant that he didn't fit into the band, and he frequently battled with his fellow band members and his management. He left the band in 1995. In November 2005, ITV1 will screen a documentary on the reasons behind Williams' departure, including interviews with Williams and his former fellow band members.

Solo career

After Take That

After leaving Take That, Williams immersed himself in the rock & roll lifestyle. This included an infamous appearance during Oasis's headlining set at Glastonbury in 1995. This led to a highly publicised battle with drug and alcohol addiction, during which he put on nearly 40 pounds (18 kg) and was often seen in public poorly dressed, dirty and unshaven. After a well-publicised fallout with Oasis, Noel Gallagher famously refused to recognise him as anything but "that fat dancer from Take That".

At the time, British media speculated that the badly-behaved Williams would not be a success as a stand-alone musician.

Life Thru A Lens

By 1996 Williams was ready to launch his solo career proper. His first single, "Freedom '90" (a cover of the popular 1990 George Michael tune) was released in August 1996. After a period in a drug rehabilitation clinic, this was followed up by "Old Before I Die" in 1997. Both singles reached number 2 in the UK charts and were considered successful. This led to his first solo album, Life Thru A Lens, later that year.

Angels

The next single from Life Thru A Lens was "Angels", released in December 1997. The song's popularity propelled the album to number 1 on the album charts, 28 weeks after the album was first released. The 'ballad'-style song is credited with single-handedly rescuing Williams' career, and has proved to be his most popular to date, eventually reaching the top of the Uk singles chart in early 1998.

"Angels" was voted best song of the last 25 years by BBC Radio 2 listeners, and recieved a special award at the 25th Brit Awards ceremony, held at Earls Court, London, in February 2005.

Williams quickly became a major celebrity in the UK with a number of other top ten singles, which would typically gather only minor interest in the USA. "Millennium", built around a sample of the James Bond theme "You Only Live Twice", was a UK #1 hit in late 1998, but only peaked at #72 in America.

I've Been Expecting You

His second album, I've Been Expecting You, continued in the James Bond/spy theme and topped the UK charts in October 1998. In 1999 he collaborated with singer Tom Jones of the Lenny Kravitz song, "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" on the album Reload, which they also performed together at the Brit Awards.

Sing When You're Winning

Williams' next album, Sing While You're Winning, was released in 2000. The album contained the controversial single "Rock DJ", which reached number 1 in the UK charts and was a minor hit in the United States.

Some controversy surrounded the single's accompanying music video, which featured Williams in a roller disco surrounded by ravenous female fans. In the video, Williams strips nude for the fans, then (using CGI technology) he is shown 'stripping off' his skin, muscle tissue and organs and feeding them to the female dancers. The video ends with Williams, now nothing but a skeleton, still dancing to the music.

The video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, but the combination of nudity and violence led to a negative public reaction, which has been cited as temporarily ending his career's momentum in the US. It is said that the frontal nudity was edited out in the US while the gore was left in, while the opposite was true for the UK. Even after the editing, the video's ending was cut by many TV stations around the world, and in some countries the whole video was banned (VH1 Europe made their own video for the song out of recording studio footage). Williams has since built a reputation for appearing nude (or nearly nude) in photographs, videos and live performances.

Swing When You're Winning

In 2001, Williams released an album of cover songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The album, Swing When You're Winning, contained jazz, blues and pop standards such as "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" and "Mack The Knife". It also included a duet with Nicole Kidman, hot off the Oscar-nominated success of her movie musical Moulin Rouge! (2001), singing a cover of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra classic "Something Stupid". Williams' cover of the Bobby Darin classic "Beyond the Sea" was later included in the soundtrack of the film Finding Nemo (2003) in an attempt to re-establish his appeal in the US.

Escapology

In 2002, Williams briefly stopped working with his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers, but they reunited six months later to work on the next album, Escapology. The album was released in November 2002; its cover art depicts Williams dangling from a crane in bare feet, symbolising the escapology theme. The album received mixed reviews. Its first single, "Feel", was a successful European hit, accompanied by a black and white music video featuring actress Darryl Hannah. The video for the next single, "Come Undone", was heavily censored by MTV Networks Europe for depicting a debauched (but fully-clothed) Williams having three-way sex with two women. The video also showed unsettling images of insects and reptiles.

Despite the album's pop-based sound, Escapology did nothing to improve Williams' reputation in the US and Canada, where he was still largely unrecognised. Amidst the poor reviews and the controversy surrounding the music videos, it was confirmed that Williams and Guy Chambers were to part ways permanently.

Intensive Care

Three years later, Williams released Intensive Care, an album co-written with ex-Duran Duran member Stephen Duffy in Williams' bedroom-cum-studio. The album's lyrics are popularly interpreted as Williams taking stock of his life. It features designs for a set of tarot cards by comic book creators Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Morrison and Williams became friends after Williams attended one of Morrison's talks in Los Angeles.

The album was released in a highly-publicised worldwide launch on 9 October 2005. Williams launched the album from Berlin, Germany, which was broadcast live to cinemas and theatres around the world in a high-definition "cine-cast". It was also shown on 22 October 2005 on Channel 4. During the album launch, Williams declared himself the new "King of Pop", a title that once belonged to Michael Jackson but had fallen out of use after his declining popularity and criminal trial.

Williams had initially announced that the album would not be released in North America, but popular demand led to its release on iTunes in the US and the UK. Williams said of his continued low popularity in the US, "I think the way for me to win America's heart is to perform, and if I was really concerned about breaking big [in the US] then there'd be a tour." Williams later indicated that he would neither release his album in the States nor tour there, claiming he has everything he wants without doing this.

Williams states that Intensive Care is his best work yet. It reached the number 1 spot on the UK charts for one week, and made the top spot in other countries as well. "Tripping", the first single from the album, reached number 2 in the UK chart before being outsold by the trio Sugababes.

Recent career

In 2002, the UK public voted Williams to be on the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons (at number 77). He was also voted 17th in Channel 4's 100 Worst Britons poll.

A best-selling official biography written by Chris Heath, "Feel", was published in 2004. It chronicled events that led up to to the "Live Summer Tour 2003", during which Williams performed live to more than a 375,000 people over three nights in August 2003 at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire; this has become known as the biggest UK rock concert ever. Former Take That band member Mark Owen appeared with Williams on the third day, while 3.5 million more watched live on television and on the Internet. Leading up to Knebworth, in December 2003, Williams toured Australia and New Zealand alongside Duran Duran.

Since his split with songwriter Guy Chambers, Williams has faced some questions about his own songwriting abilities. Armed with a new writing partner, Stephen Duffy, Williams has penned several new songs, including the UK number 1 hit "Radio" and the more reflective "Misunderstood".

Both tunes are taken from Williams' 19-track "Greatest Hits" album, released in October 2004. In February 2005, Williams received the British music industry's award for the best song of the past quarter century, "Angels", the song Williams credits with giving him a solo career.

Williams also performed at the Live 8 concert in London, 2005, where he was acknowledged as one of the stars of the show. An amusing incident happened at Live 8 when he asked the crowd to sing along with his hit song 'Feel', in which many in the crowd in Hyde Park were not familiar with. He jokingly covered it up and got a well-received laugh from the incident.

Following in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury from Live Aid twenty years before, Williams got the entire crowd at Hyde Park to chant along with "We Will Rock You", showcasing Williams' ability to grab the crowd's energy.

The eclectic heartthrob, who clinched the best male performer prize at the MTV Europe Music Awards last week, only managed to top the album charts for one week with sixth and latest album Intensive Care before being overtaken by the new Westlife album Face to Face.

Robbie Williams claimed the title of Britain's biggest-selling pop act of the still-very-young 21st century, selling 6.3 million albums since 2000., narrowly beating Coldplay to the top rank.

Williams' lifestyle

Williams has left the UK and now lives in Los Angeles, California. He remains single. Speculation about his ambiguous sexuality and romantic life is rampant in the British media. Williams likes to encourage an image as a smooth womaniser and there are numerous widely-circulated Internet accounts, allegedly written by Williams' female sexual partners, claiming his considerable prowess as a lover. He regularly plucks female fans from the audience of his live performances and french kisses them on stage.

Williams, a self-confessed attention seeker, has garnered a reputation for pushing the envelope in regards to male nudity. Though it is quite common for female celebrities to appear scantily clad in photographs (and in fact often expected of them), this is far less common for men. Williams' tendency to pose provocatively has gone from somewhat light-hearted "mooning" and "pants-down" photos early in his career to more sexually explicit content. In 2004 the German website set up by his record label to promote his music posted an allegedly nude photograph of Williams with his crotch area blurred out. They promised that if one million people clicked on the photo they would unblur the area and reveal the nudity. Once unblurred it was revealed that Williams was in fact holding some sort of phallus in front of his actual genitals so that they could not be seen; 24 hours later even this was covered by a miniature cut-out of his album cover.

Subsequently Williams has stated in a variety of press interviews that he considers himself to be a naturist/nudist at heart, jokingly commenting that he will "end up being one of those dads who embarasses" his children. In late 2005 a campaign called "Get More" was launched by William's label to promote his album Intensive Care. A video at the website featured thirty seconds of various camera close-ups of William's nude body, culminating in a four second full body shot where he was frontally nude and fondling his penis [1]. Such blatant incorporation of nudity in an advertising campaign is virtually unheard of for a pop singer of either gender.

Williams, now aged 31, has had mental health problems throughout his career, most notably his struggle with depression, insecurity and self loathing. He was reported to be suffering an addiction to anti-depressants in 2005. In his fly-on-the-wall documentary Nobody Someday (2001) he repeatedly mocked his flamboyant but puppet like behaviour on stage and felt that the persona and 'brand' of Robbie Williams Popstar was a fake that he increasingly felt uncomfotable with. In more recent documentaries he anguishes to become a credible artist in the eyes of the serious music press.

Discography

Studio Albums

Live Albums and Compilations

Singles

Non-album single:

From Life Thru A Lens:

From I've Been Expecting You:

Non-album single:

  • Mar 2000 "United" released only as a promo only Pepsi CD

From I've Been Expecting You:

  • Jun 2000 "Jesus In A Camper Van" released only as a promo-single

From Sing When You're Winning:

  • Aug 2000 "Rock DJ" US Hot Dance Music/Club Play: #25 UK: #1 GER: #9 FRA: #40
  • Oct 2000 "Kids" (with Kylie Minogue) UK: #2 GER: #47
  • Dec 2000 "Supreme" UK: #4 GER: #14 FRA: #12

From Swing When You're Winning:

From Sing When You're Winning:

Non-album single:

  • Oct 2001 "We Are The Champions" (with Queen) released only as a promo-single

From Swing When You're Winning:

From Sing When You're Winning:

  • Feb 2002 "Better Man" released as a single only in Australia

From Swing When You're Winning:

Guest appearance on 1 Giant Leap by 1 Giant Leap:

From Escapology:

  • Dec 2002 "Feel" US: #40 UK: #2 GER: #3 FRA: #6 NED: #1 AUS: #10

From Johnny English soundtrack:

  • May 2003 "A Man For All Seasons" (from the soundtrack of Johnny English) released only as a promo-single

From Escapology:

From Live At Knebworth/Live Summer 2003:

  • Oct 2003 "Feel (Live)" (from the "Live At Knebworth") released only as a promo-single
  • Oct 2003 "Hot Fudge (Live)" (from the "Live At Knebworth") released only as a promo-single

From Escapology:

From Greatest Hits:

From Intensive Care:

  • Oct 2005 "Tripping" UK: #2 GER: #1 NED: #1 AUS: #7
  • Dec 2005 "Advertising Space"

Notes

  1. ^  Mick St Michael (1996). Oasis, Sound and Media Limited.

References

See also

External links

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