Reviewing Robbie Williams’ new CD Reality Killed the Video Star made me feel a) a bit guilty that I couldn’t give it an unmitigated rave even though I am a huge fan, and b) nostalgic for his earlier brilliance. Since 2009 is almost over, I can just get in under the wire to pay homage to the 10-year anniversary of our first taste of Robbie on these shores: The Ego Has Landed.
A decade ago, Williams was just another boy band refugee gone solo. Take That was a bona fide phenomenon in its native UK and almost every other pop-loving country in the world, but the US never cottoned to ‘em—a fate largely shared by Williams himself to this day. It was difficult to shake the prefab pretty-boy stigma, and some might say he never has—Noel Gallagher still gets mileage from a quote from 2000 when he called Williams “the fat dancer from Take That”. Credibility has been hard to come by, regardless of the dizzying success Williams has experienced worldwide.
So I feel it’s best to let the music speak for itself. The Ego Has Landed is actually a compilation of Williams’ first two albums, which were not released domestically, Life Thru a Lens and I’ve Been Expecting You. It came out in May 1999 and spawned his two biggest hits stateside, “Millennium” and “Angels” (the latter sparking a slew of cover versions by artists including Jessica Simpson and American Idol alum David Archuleta). The album got 3.5 stars and a glowing review from Rob Sheffield where he called it “easily the kickiest Elton John-style album anyone has made since George Michael’s Faith, packed with Vegas flash, disco beats, rock energy and hipster wit.” And I don’t know about you, but I think Rob Sheffield knows a thing or two about pop music.