As a boy band survivor, Robbie Williams has gone from a teenage bad boy to a respected pop star and one of the most successful artists in British history. In that regard, what does Williams have left to prove? Well, that he can do whatever the hell he wants.
Take the Crown is fascinating in how it shouldnâ€™t work. The album starts out with light saxophone and a downright â€˜80s synth beat, and from there the next hour has hints of jazz, calypso, power pop, dance, indie, and even arena rock. Yet the confidence of experience backs up Williamsâ€™ experimentation, and heâ€™s a much stronger artist to incorporate so many sounds on one album rather than playing it safe with a straight pop record. Producer Jacknife Leeâ€™s background in remixing pop artists while mostly producing rock means an experienced hand helped navigate Williams through these choices.
â€œDifferent,â€ the albumâ€™s second single overseas, is one of Williamsâ€™ strongest songs in years. Itâ€™s a raw and straightforward vocal performance augmented by an orchestral arrangement courtesy of indie darling Owen Pallett, and the strength of the writing is partially owed to Williamsâ€™ Take That bandmate Gary Barlow.Â â€œHey Wow Yeah Yeahâ€ has the charming bombast of a big U2 hit without coming across as trying too hard. Singer/songwriter Lissieâ€™s powerful voice is also a welcome addition through the album, particularly on the coming-of-age plea â€œGospelâ€ and the duet â€œLosers.â€
Williams hardly needs to find a larger audience, but itâ€™s a shame he hasnâ€™t gained more traction in the last decade. Take the Crown may have a cocky title, but for the most part, the album demonstrates that the swagger is merited.