Robert Peter Williams (born February 13, 1974 in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire) is a British pop singer.
Williams' early pop career was with the hit boy band Take That. The band was formed in 1990 and proved to be highly successful, with 8 UK Number 1 singles to their credit. Their popularity led to a succession of similar bands in the UK. However, it has since been suggested that Williams did not seem to fit as well as the other members in the band due to his 'roguish' qualities, and he frequently battled with his fellow band mates and his management. He left the band in 1995. He is due to lift the lid along with fellow band members on the true story of the split on a UK documentary on ITV1 in November 2005.
After Take That
After leaving Take That, Williams immediately seemed to immerse himself into the rock & roll lifestyle with Britpop band Oasis. This led him into a highly publicised battle with drug and alcohol addiction during which he put on nearly 40 pounds (18 kg) and was often seen in public poorly dressed, dirty and unshaven. After a well publicised fall out with Oasis, Noel Gallagher famously refused to recognise him as anything but "That fat dancer from Take That".
The UK music media did not think that the badly behaved Williams would be a success as a musician.
Life Thru A Lens
By 1996 Williams was ready to launch his solo career proper. His first single "Freedom '90", a cover of the George Michael tune from 1990, was released in August 1996. After a period in a 'detoxification' clinic, this was followed up by "Old Before I Die" in 1997. Both singles were considered to be successes after reaching number 2 in the UK charts. This led to the introduction of his first solo album, Life Thru A Lens, later that year.
The last song to be released, in Christmas 1997, from Life Thru A Lens was the 'ballad' "Angels", it propelled Life Thru A Lens to number 1 on the album charts (28 weeks after the album was first released). This song on its own is credited with rescuing Williams' career, and has proved to be his most popular to date, eventually reaching the top of the UK singles chart in early 1998.
"Angels" was voted best song of the last 25 years by BBC Radio 2 listeners, and recieved a special award at the 25th Brit Awards ceremony, held at Earls Court, London, in February 2005.
Williams quickly became a major celebrity in the UK with a number of other top ten singles, which would typically gather only minor interest in the USA. Millennium, built around a sample of the James Bond theme You Only Live Twice was a UK #1 hit in late 1998, but only peaked at #72 in America.
I've Been Expecting You
His second album "I've Been Expecting You" continued in the James Bond/spy theme and topped the UK charts in October 1998. In 1999 he collaborated with singer Tom Jones for a cover of Lenny Kravitz' song ”Are You Gonna Go My Way“ on the album Reload which they also performed together at the Brit awards.
Sing When You're Winning
The album released in 2001 contained the #1 UK hit single "Rock DJ," the video of which led to massive controversy due to video content. This song was a minor hit in the United States in 2000, but continued the trend of never achieving the same level of fame and success there as he had in the UK. The music video for the song featured Williams in a roller disco as he stripped nude and then proceeded to 'strip off' his own flesh, muscle tissue and organs and feed them to female dancers until he was nothing but a dancing skeleton. The negative reaction to the gruesome video has been cited as temporarily ending any momentum his career had going in the US. Interestingly though the video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.
It is said that the frontal nudity was edited out in the US while the gore was left in, whereas the opposite was true for the UK. Even so, the video's ending was cut by many TV stations around the world and the whole video was forbidden in some countries (VH1 Europe even made their own video out of recording studio footage). Williams has built quite a reputation for appearing nude (or nearly nude) in photographs, videos and live performances.
Swing When You're Winning
Also in 2001 he released a whole album of classics entitled Swing When You're Winning in which his image was tamed down and polished as he breezed through jazz, blues and pop standards from the fifties and sixties including "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" and "Mack The Knife". The album also included a cover of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra classic "Something Stupid," a duet with Nicole Kidman, hot off the Oscar-nominated success of her movie musical Moulin Rouge! (2001). Williams' cover of the Bobby Darin classic "Beyond the Sea" from the album was later included in the soundtrack of the film Finding Nemo (2003) in an attempt to re-establish his appeal in the US.
In 2002 Williams stopped working with his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers. However, they reunited six months later to work on the next album, Escapology, which was released in late 2002. The first single from it, "Feel," was a massive European hit, accompanied by a stylish black & white video featuring Darryl Hannah. The intriguing cover depicts Williams dangling from a crane in bare feet, to symbolise the "escapology" theme. Despite the album's sound, which was very friendly to the North American ear, "Escapology" did nothing to improve Williams' lack of recognition in the US and Canada.
The video for the next "Escapology" single, "Come Undone," was heavily censored by MTV Networks Europe for depicting a debauched (but fully-clothed) Williams having three-way sex with two women. The video also showed unsettling images of insects and reptiles. During such furores at this time, it was confirmed that Williams and Guy Chambers were to officially part ways.
This album was launched in Berlin, Germany on the 9th October 2005. It was not shown on television, but broadcast to various locations around the world in cinemas and theatres, in a high-definition "cine-cast". It was shown on Saturday 22nd October 2005 on Channel 4.
The album was co-written with ex Duran-Duran member Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy in Robbie's bedroom cum studio, and is identified as a taking stock exercise of his life.
During the album launch, Williams claimed himself the new "King of Pop", clearly in respect of the current difficulties facing Michael Jackson.
Although originally announced that he would not release the album to the North American audiences, iTunes made the album available for pre-order starting on 18 October 2005 as well as making it available on the United Kingdom's iTunes Music Store, due to popular demand. Robbie says, "I think the way for me to win America's heart is to perform, and if I really was concerned about breaking big then there'd be a tour." Fearing repeated failure in the states he neither wants to release his album nor tour the States, claiming he has everything he wants without doing this.
The new album which Robbie states as his best work yet reached the number one spot on the UK charts for just one week and made the top spot in other countries as well. 'Tripping' , the first single release also did well but only reached No.2 in the UK chart being outsold by fem-pop trio 'Sugababes'.
In 2002, the UK public voted Williams to be on the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons (at No.77). He was also voted 17th in Channel 4's 100 Worst Britons poll.
A best-selling official biography written by Chris Heath "Feel", was published in 2004, and chronicled events that led up to to the "Live Summer Tour 2003", during which Williams performed live to more than a 375,000 people over three nights in August 2003 at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire; this has become known as the biggest UK rock concert ever. Former Take That band member Mark Owen appeared with Williams on the third day, while 3.5 million more watched live on television and on the Internet. Leading up to Knebworth, in December 2003, Williams toured Australia and New Zealand alongside Duran Duran.
Since the split with Chambers, Williams has tried to prove his naysayers wrong. Armed with a new songwriting partner, Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy, Williams has penned several new songs, including the rock-throb of the UK #1 hit "Radio" and the more reflective "Misunderstood".
Both tunes are taken from Williams' 19-track "Greatest Hits" album, released in October 2004. In February 2005, Williams received the British music industry's award for the best song of the past quarter century, "Angels," the song Williams credits with giving him a career.
Williams also performed at the Live 8 concert in London in 2005 where he was acknowledged as one of the stars of the show. An amusing incident happened at Live 8 when he asked the crowd to sing along with his hit song 'Feel', in which many in the crowd in Hyde Park were not familiar with. He jokingly covered it up and got a well-received laugh from the incident.
Following in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury from Live Aid twenty years before, Williams got the entire crowd at Hyde Park to chant along with "We Will Rock You", showcasing Williams' ability to grab the crowd's energy.
The eclectic heartthrob, who clinched the best male performer prize at the MTV Europe Music Awards last week, only managed to top the album charts for one week with sixth and latest album 'Intensive Care' before being overtaken by the new Westlife album 'Face to Face'.
Robbie Williams claimed the title of Britain's biggest-selling pop act of the still-very-young 21st century, selling 6.3 million albums since 2000., narrowly beating Coldplay to the top rank.
Williams is still single and has fled the UK and its weather and now lives in sunny Los Angeles, California. Speculation about his ambiguous sexuality and romantic life is rampant in the British media. Williams likes to encourage an image as a smooth womaniser and there are numerous widely-circulated Internet accounts allegedly written by Williams' female sexual partners claiming his considerable prowess as a lover. A regular feature of his live performances is full-on french kisses with female fans plucked from the audience.
Williams , a self confessed attention seeker, has garnered a reputation for pushing the envelope in regards to male nudity. Though it is quite common for female celebrities to appear scantily clad in photographs (and in fact often expected of them,) this is far less common for men. Williams' tendency to pose provocatively has gone from somewhat light-hearted mooning photos and "pants-down" photos early in his career to more sexually explicit content. In 2004 the German website set up by his record label to promote his music posted an allegedly nude photograph of Williams with his crotch area blurred out. They promised that if one million people clicked on the photo they would unblur the area and reveal the nudity. Once unblurred it was revealed that Williams was in fact holding some sort of phallus in front of his actual genitals so that they could not be seen; 24 hours later even this was covered by a miniature cut-out of his album cover.
Subsequently Williams has stated in a variety of press interviews that he considers himself to be a naturist/nudist at heart, jokingly commenting that he will "end up being one of those dads who embarasses" his children. In late 2005 a campaign called "Get More" was launched by William's label to promote his album Intensive Care. A flash video opening at the website featured thirty seconds of various camera close-ups of William's nude body, culminating in a four second full body shot where he was frontally nude and fondling his penis 1. Such blatant incorporation of nudity in an advertising campaign is virtually unheard of for a pop singer of either gender, especially males.
Williams, now aged 31, has had mental health problems throughout his career, most notably his struggle with depression, insecurity and self loathing. He was reported to be suffering an addiction to anti-depressants in 2005. In his fly on the wall documentary Nobody Someday (2001) he repeatedly mocked his flamboyant but puppet like behaviour on stage and felt that the persona and 'brand' of Robbie Williams Popstar was a fake that he increasingly felt uncomfotable with. In more recent documentaries he anguishes to become a credible artiste in the eyes of the serious music press.