Robbie Williams – The Heavy Entertainment ShowCultureMusicAlbum reviews
Robbie Williams comes boasting back onto the pop scene after revisiting the swinging 30s with his international success Swings Both Ways. In The Heavy Entertainment Show, he re-enters his favourite arena of tamely provocative Britpop. This time the “bold comeback”, as opposed to 2012’s Take the Crown, sees co-writer and producer Guy Chambers by his side again, and with an explosion of confidence they produce a retro-pop mishmash of epic proportions.
Unlike the recent incarnations of contemporary pop stars like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake, whose styles have evolved to become more nuanced and cutting-edge, Williams reaches back in time for the bombastic big band and sparkly, camp rock’n’roll music of the 70s and 80s. Songs like Heavy Entertainment Show and Sensational sound like the grand finale to a corny Broadway show, as performed by a stadium rock band.
Williams’s talent always shone brightest in his personal moments, which he made sure to include in this album with bonus Coldplay-style number When You Know and the heartfelt David’s Song, dedicated to his recently deceased manager. In contrast, the single Party Like a Russian is an attempt at political satire – a subject matter quite far out of the former Take That member’s league, especially when it targets a nation he has little to no personal knowledge of. While the music is certainly earworm material, it comes as no surprise when the singer explains in a recent interview on BBC Breakfast that the track was spawned from a shortage of songwriting ideas.
A refreshing exception, perhaps, to the generally overcrowded sound of the album, might be Hotel Crazy, his collaboration with Rufus Wainwright. This is a smoothly produced cinematic blues shuffle rife with trippy tremolos, reverbs and eerie dissonances – a dark digression from Williams’s usual bright pop style.
The Heavy Entertainment Show screams for attention, falling short of the impression it is dying to give. What is the singer celebrating so forcefully, one might ask. Is he being self-deprecating or blatantly grandiloquent when he sings, messianically, “Bathe in the light I’m giving”? Apparently, the world has been searching for “a saviour” and here he is, and “all the best ones are dying off so quickly” – conceitedly Williams is attempting to make up for the pop culture deaths of 2016 with perhaps a little too much gusto.
The Heavy Entertainment Show is released on 4th November 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for Party Like a Russian here: