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 that was fronted by singer-songwriter Gary Barlow. 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 Robbie 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.
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. More credit was given to his former band mates Gary Barlow, and to a lesser extent Mark Owen, as future successes.
Life Thru A Lens
By 1996 Williams was ready to launch his solo career proper. His first single "Freedom", 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.
Life Thru A Lens contained his earlier single "Old Before I Die" - however the rest of the album was considered to be a disappointment, with the follow up singles "Lazy Days" and "South Of The Border" not being enthusiastically received.
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, making the UK top 10 singles chart.
"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 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 on the Finding Nemo soundtrack in 2003 and helped 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. The album sold poorly outside of Great Britain.
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. During the album launch, Williams said he would like to be the new "King of Pop".
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.
It has now been launched in the UK and is expected to sell many units.
In 2002, the UK public voted Williams to be on the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons. 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 million people over three days in August at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire; this has become known as the biggest 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 begun to set out to prove his naysayers wrong. Armed with a new songwriting partner, Stephen Duffy, Williams has penned several new songs, including the retro electro-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 not everyone in the crowd in Hyde Park was 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, Robbie got the entire crowd at Hyde Park to chant along with "We Will Rock You", showcasing Williams' ability to grab the crowd's energy.
Williams is currently single and now lives in Los Angeles, California. Speculation about his ambiguous sexuality and romantic life is rampant in the British media. Williams seems to encourage an image as a smooth womaniser and there are numerous widely-circulated Internet accounts allegedly written by Williams' female sexual partners extolling 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 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.
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 embarrasses" his children. In late 2005 a campaign called "Get More" was launched by William's label to promote his album Intensive Care. Such blatant incorporation of nudity in an advertising campaign is virtually unheard of for a pop singer of either gender, especially males.
- Life Thru A Lens (1997); #1 UK
- I've Been Expecting You #1 UK (1998 (UK) / 2002 (US))
- The Ego Has Landed (1999); #63 US (North America only release)
- Sing When You're Winning (2000); #1 UK, #110 US
- Swing When You're Winning (2001); #1 UK
- Escapology (2002); #1 UK, #43 US
- Intensive Care (2005)
Live Albums and Compilations
- Live at Knebworth (2003); #2 UK,
- Live Summer 2003 (same album as Knebworth, alternate title/album cover) (2003)
- Greatest Hits (2004); #1 UK, #1 AUS
- Aug 1996 "Freedom" UK: #2 Germany: #10
From Life Thru A Lens:
- Apr 1997 "Old Before I Die" UK: #2 Germany: #37
- Jul 1997 "Lazy Days" UK: #8 Germany: #90
- Sep 1997 "South of the Border" UK: #14
- Dec 1997 "Angels" US: #41 UK: #4 Germany: #9 France: #7
- Mar 1998 "Let Me Entertain You" UK: #3
From I've Been Expecting You:
- Sep 1998 "Millennium" US: #72 UK: #1 Germany: #41 France: #16
- Dec 1998 "No Regrets/Antmusic" UK: #4 Germany: #60 France: #67
- Mar 1999 "Strong" UK: #4 Germany: #68 France: #99
- Nov 1999 "She's The One/It's Only Us" UK: #1 Germany: #27 France: #74
- Dec 1999 "Win Some Lose Some" released as a single only in New Zealand
- 1999 "Karma Killer" released only as a promo-single in the Benelux
- Mar 2000 "United" released only as a promo only Pepsi CD
From Sing When You're Winning:
- Aug 2000 "Rock DJ" US Hot Dance Music/Club Play: #25 UK: #1 Germany: #9 France: #40
- Oct 2000 "Kids" (with Kylie Minogue) UK: #2 Germany: #47
- Dec 2000 "Supreme" UK: #3 Germany: #14 France: #12
- Apr 2001 "Let Love Be Your Energy" UK: #10 Germany: #68
- Jul 2001 "Eternity/Road to Mandalay" UK: #1 Germany: #7 France: #45
- Oct 2001 "We Are The Champions" (with Queen) released only as a promo-single
From Swing When You're Winning:
- Dec 2001 "Somethin' Stupid" (with Nicole Kidman) UK: #1 Germany: #2 France: #16
From Sing When You're Winning:
- Feb 2002 "Better Man" released as a single only in Australia
From Swing When You're Winning:
- Mar 2002 "Mr. Bojangles/I Will Talk And Hollywood Will Listen" (not released in the UK) Germany: #77
- 2002 "Mack The Knife" released as a promo-single only in Mexico
Guest appearance on 1 Giant Leap by 1 Giant Leap:
- Apr 2002 "My Culture" (1 Giant Leap feat. Maxi Jazz & Robbie Williams) UK: #9 Germany: #69
- Dec 2002 "Feel" US: #40 UK: #4 Germany: #3 France: #6 Netherlands: #1
From Johnny English soundtrack:
- May 2003 "A Man For All Seasons" (from the soundtrack of Johnny English) released only as a promo-single
- Apr 2003 "Come Undone" UK: #4 Germany: #16 France: #49
- Jul 2003 "Something Beautiful" UK: #3 Germany: #46 France: #70
From Live At Knebworth/Live Summer 2003:
- Oct 2003 "Feel (Live)" (from the "Live At Knebworth") released only as a promo-single
- Oct 2003 "Hot Fudge (Live)" (from the "Live At Knebworth") released only as a promo-single
- Nov 2003 "Sexed Up" UK: #10 Germany: #53
From Greatest Hits:
- Oct 2004 "Radio" UK: #1 Germany: #2 France: #48
- Dec 2004 "Misunderstood" UK: #8 Germany: #20
From Intensive Care:
- Oct 2005 "Tripping" UK: #2 Germany: #1 Netherlands: #1 AUS: #7
- Dec 2005 "Advertising Space"