What happened to Robbie Williams—the larger-than-life “bad boy” pop star who conquered the world with his edgy, razor-sharp tunes and mature, melodic ballads? A couple of bad albums, endless run-ins with rehab, and UFO sightings later, he is back with Reality Killed the Video Star—his “comeback” album in collaboration with producer-supremo Trevor Horn.
The album kicks off promisingly enough with Morning Sun, a classic Robbie Williams track reminiscent of Angels. It’s got a beautiful melody, a strong piano accompaniment that counterplays his voice perfectly, and those little orchestral flourishes that make the perfect ballad. But it’s all downhill from there on. Suddenly, the album turns into a mixed bag of what sounds like cheap imitations of pop hits over the ages. Last Days of Disco is straight out of Pet Shop Boys country, catchy yet bland in a way that only disco can be. Do You Mind? sounds like a Rolling Stones song gone bad. Starstruck is amateur major chord stuff—the kind of track even Take That would have buried without a thought. The album swerves back into the right track everytime Williams sings his trademark ballads: Superblind is a polished rock-pop track with a strong tune, Deceptacon has lovely melodies, and gently soaring orchestral arrangements that stay resolutely in the background, letting his voice carry the song. Squeezed in between these wildly vacillating tracks is a tiny one-minute gem—a homage to Eleanor Rigby called Somewhere, complete with a violin accompaniment and Beatle-like harmonies that fleetingly lift the album beyond the mediocre.
But possibly the most annoying thing about the album is its absolutely incoherent lyrics. You would never be my trouble and strife/If I made you my Swiss army wife —Williams sings in Deceptacon; Or This is a song full of metaphors/All I be needing is tobacco and draw/Better let me in to your country though/Then I can show you what you’re missing me for. Come again? Don’t call it a comeback Williams pleads in Last Days of Disco, and we won’t.
Reality Killed the Video Star is available on Virgin Records for Rs395.