Robbie Williams returns to the spotlight on October 12th with his CD, In And Out Of Consciousness – The Greatest Hits 1990 – 2010, which compiles all the best of his 20 years in the world of music. Though he is versatile, creative, and extravagant, it has always struck me as odd that Williams hasn’t been able to fully succeed outside Europe and become a hit in the US.
From present to past, Williams opens this album with two new songs: “Heart and I” and “Shame,” a feel good ballad duet with Gary Barlow that is Williams’s first collaboration with Barlow after leaving Take That in 1995. From his latest studio album, Reality Killed The Video Star, we can listen to “Morning Sun” and ”You Know Me,” a classic Robbie Williams ballad with lovely backing vocals that makes us go back in time a little bit, and “Bodies,” the lead single of the album which is meant to be Williams’ great comeback.
Three songs summarise Rudebox (released in 2006): “She’s Madonna,” a love song to the pop star that was made in collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys; “Lovelight,” a cover from Lewis Taylor’s 2003′s original song and Williams’ approach to dance electro pop, and “Rudebox” where the singer moves away of his style by trying a hip-hop song, taking as basis a sample from “Boops (Here I Go)” by Sly & Robbie.
From Intensive Care (2005), Williams has taken out “Sin, Sin, Sin,” “Advertising Space,” an elegy to a superstar’s tragic fall, “Make Me Pure,” and “Tripping,” a very catchy song where Williams plays with different changes of voice and some reggae and Arabic sounds.
In 2004, Williams released his first Greatest Hits and the chosen songs are “Misunderstood,” featured in the soundtrack of the movie Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and the powerful “Radio.” In my opinion, one of Williams’s best albums is Escapology (2003), and it’s so nice to see that the beautiful “Sexed Up” has been added to this compilation next to the soulful “Something Beautiful,” the controversial “Come Undone,” and the hit “Feel,” another trademark song with beautiful and deep lyrics.
With Swing When You’re Winning (2001), an homage to his idol Frank SInatra, Williams proves that he’s also a great crooner: “I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen” and his covers of “Mr. Bojangles” and ”Something Stupid,” where Nicole Kidman puts her delicate voice to Nancy Sinatra’s part are examples of the singer’s softest side. Sing When You’re Winning (2000) offers to this compilation “The Road To Mandalay,” a touching song written in France while on holidays; “Eternity,” a sequel to the previous song and a tribute to Williams’s close friendship with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell with Queen’s Brian May on lead guitar; “Let Love Be Your Energy,” “Supreme,” which takes Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” melody and gets mixed up with some intelligent lyrics giving as a result a supreme song; the sexy “Kids,” where Williams duets with Aussie Kylie Minogue, an indisputably sweet and spicy chemistry that led to one of the best duets ever, and “Rock DJ,” another important song for the singer’s career featuring a very controversial video where he literally strips off to his bones.
Five songs have been extracted from his second album I’ve Been Expecting You (1998): “It’s Only Us,” the theme song for the Sony Playstation Fifa 2000 football game; “She’s The One,” “Strong,” “No Regrets,” an autobiographical song about his past experiences with the great collaboration in the backing vocals of Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.
When the new millennium was approaching, Williams honored that event with “Millennium,” inspired by John Barry’s Bond music. His first solo album Life Thru a Lens (1999) has also a remarkable spot in this compilation: the anthem “Let Me Entertain You,” a clear homage to The Rolling Stones as their movie Rock “n” Roll served as inspiration. This song contains a piano riff similar to the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil,” and it’s the perfect reflection of Williams’s devotion to entertain all of us. Energetic and powerful, it serves as the opening of most of his concerts. “Angels,” a song that saved the singer’s solo career and is included in most of his concerts as the grand finale; ”South of the Border” and “Lazy Days,” which were minor hits outside the UK and “Old Before I Die,” the first original solo success of Williams after leaving Take That.
Finally, the album closes with a cover of George Michael’s “Freedom” and “Everything Changes,” a song from his latest collaboration with Take That before leaving the band.