I know basically nothing about Robbie Williams because I am Canadian. I read that he was unbelievably successful in the UK during his solo career but, like so many UK artists, he didn’t quite translate to North America. Yes, he’s had the odd hit, but nothing compared to the dominance he’s had in the UK. In the UK, it seems as though he’s a bit of a cultural phenomenon but here, in Canada, he’s yet another British singer with a few hits from 20 years ago. So my impressions of him were formed almost entirely in my late teens, when I really didn’t like pop music, but also recently, given the ads for his role as a judge on some voice talent competition show.
So, Williams has a really strong sense of melody, or his co-songwriter Guy Chambers does, or they both do. This record is catchy if nothing else.
The lyrics are not great. If you think about them too much it feels as though some lines don’t belong in certain songs, or the chorus will sometimes not match some of the lyrics. (For instance, the biggest hit here I just can’t make much sense of and I think its title and its hook were added because it was late 1998 and hey, Y2K was coming, and it has nothing to do with anything else in the song.)
The arrangements are fairly sophisticated for late 1990s pop rock but they are very much late ’90s arrangements; there’s a vague electronic influence, a very vague hip hop influence and everything is played and recorded just so. Even the hints at what you might call idiosyncrasy sound work-shopped or focus-grouped or, at the very least, way too considered. It’s just too slick. (I realize that part of what Williams does is slick, but I don’t like slick.)
I think this is better than I’m rating it; for all its slickness and the lyrics which don’t necessarily seem well thought-out, it’s very, very catchy. But I just don’t feel anything and I can’t imagine ever wanting to listen to it ever again.