Robbie Williams Biography
He has enjoyed a very successful solo career, and his latest studio album Reality Killed the Video Star was released on November 9, 2009, including his single "Bodies".
After leaving Take That, Williams launched his solo career starting things off in 1996 by covering George Michael's "Freedom", the single reached number two in the UK Singles Chart, twenty-six places higher than George Michael's original.
Recordings for Williams' first album began at London's Maison Rouge studios in March of that year. Shortly after his introduction to Guy Chambers, Williams released "Old Before I Die" which would be the first single taken from his début album. Co-written by Williams with Eric Bazilian and Desmond Child, the single was released in April 1996, hitting number-two on the UK Charts; however, it was largely ignored on international charts. The second single, "Lazy Days", was released in mid-1997. Although Williams was going through re-hab at the time, he was allowed to check out to shoot the video for the song, but promotion for the single was non-existent, so whilst the single charted at number eight in the United Kingdom, it struggled to reach the top forty of any European chart.
His début album, Life thru a Lens, was released in September 1997. The album launched with his first live solo gig at the Elysée Montmartre theatre in Paris, France. At first, the album was slow to take off, debuting at number eleven of the UK Album Charts. The third single of the album, "South of the Border", failed to make a significant impact on the UK Charts. When it was released in September 1997, it only reached number fourteen.
After Williams met the record company's concerns about his future, he released what would be the fourth single taken from his album, not knowing it would become his biggest single in the United Kingdom so far, and one of his most well-known songs and successful. "Angels" became Williams' best seller in the United Kingdom, being certified 2x Platinum by the BPI. The song, apart from becoming a hit around Europe and Latin America, caused sales of his album to skyrocket. The album remained forty weeks inside the British top ten and 218 weeks altogether, making it the 58th best selling album in UK History with sales over 2.4 million. The album eventually managed to sell over three million copies in Europe alone.
Williams and Chambers started writing the second album in Jamaica in early 1998. The first single, "Millennium", was inspired by John Barry's James Bond music. The song became Williams' first solo number one single in the United Kingdom when it was released in September of that year. The song went on to sell over 400,000 copies in the UK alone being certified Gold by the BPI in November 1998. It also became a top twenty hit in many European countries, as well becoming a hit in Latin America and Australia.
When the album I've Been Expecting You was released in late October 1998, it débuted at number one in the UK Albums Chart. The album received more attention outside the United Kingdom, leaving its mark in the European and Latin American markets with hits such as "No Regrets", a collaboration with The Pet Shop Boys' singer Neil Tennant and The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon. The single "No Regrets" was released in November 1998, reaching number four in the UK Singles Chart, backed with the cover of Adam and the Ants, "Antmusic". The single eventually sold over 200,000 copies in the United Kingdom being certified Silver in October 2004, almost six years after its original release.
The third single "Strong" from the album debuted at number four in the United Kingdom and number nine in New Zealand, however, peaking moderately at only number 68 in Germany, number 99 in France and number 55 in the Netherlands. The fourth single, "She's the One", a cover of a track from World Party's album, Egyptology, became his second number one hit in the United Kingdom. The single was released as a double a-side with "It's Only Us", the official theme for FIFA 2000. The single became a massive success selling over 400,000 copies in the UK alone being certified Gold by the BPI in early 2000. Williams finished the year with an extensive European Tour in the late-1999.
The album I've Been Expecting You was a smash hit, selling almost 3 million copies in the United Kingdom alone: certified 10x Platinum by the BPI. In Europe alone, the album sold over 4 million copies.
After his worldwide success, Williams was signed to Capitol Records in the United States, which is a part of EMI. Williams embarked on a US promotional tour and when his first U.S. and Canadian single, "Millennium" was released, it hit number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100, the album The Ego Has Landed was released in July 1999 in the United States and Canada, not having the success that he enjoyed in Europe, the album peaked at number 63 in the U.S. Billboard Albums Chart and number 17 on the Canadian SoundScan album chart. Despite this, Williams enjoyed good video airplay and received a nomination for the MTV Video Music Awards for "Best Male Video" – he did not win, but the exposure helped the sales of the album.
Capitol Records, trying to make Williams a bigger star, released a second single from the album, the ballad "Angels", Williams shot a new video for it, and when it was released in fall of that year, the song became a somewhat bigger hit than "Millennium", peaking at number 41, but this was not enough for Williams, so he concentrated on the rest of the world where he was already an established act. The album went on to sell 596,000 copies in the United States, certified Gold by the RIAA in November of that year. The compilation was released worldwide (as a limited edition in Europe); the album was a success in New Zealand reaching number-one on the official album charts.
In the middle of promotion and the tours in 1999, becoming an established worldwide pop star, Williams found time to start the work on what would be his third studio album, this time he had finally found his confidence, not only to be more brash, but also vulnerable.
The first single taken from the album was "Rock DJ", a song inspired by Williams' UNICEF mentor, the late Ian Dury. The video was censored by Top of the Pops for its gore content, many other channels followed the suit and it caused a controversy in the United Kingdom and many other countries. The video showed Williams tearing chunks of skin and muscle from his body while performing a strip show in an attempt to get noticed by the female DJ, the track became an instant hit hitting number-one in the United Kingdom, becoming his third number-one single as a solo artist and exactly a year after his sell-out concert at the Slane Castle. The song also reached number-one in New Zealand and hit the Top-10 placings in many countries including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Italy and Australia. Despite this success, the song failed to break in the United States charts, but it did get some TV Airplay in channels such as MTV and VH1. The song went on to win several awards, among them, "Best Song of 2000" at the MTV Europe Music Awards, "Best Single of the Year" at the BRIT Awards and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Special Effects, the single went on to sell over 600,000 copies in the UK alone, being certified Platinum by the BPI.
When the album, Sing When You're Winning was released in August 2000, it topped the charts all over the world including Germany, New Zealand, The Netherlands and secured top ten placings in Italy, Austria, Australia, Finland, Sweden among many others. As for the UK, the album débuted at number-one being certified 2x Platinum on its first week of release.
The second single, a collaboration with Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue, titled "Kids", was written when Minogue approached Williams to write material for what would be her first album Light Years under Parlophone; it was then, when Williams felt the chemistry and decided to include the track on his album and release it as a single. It was an instant hit when it was released in October of that year, hitting number-two in the United Kingdom and reached top-20 placings in countries like Australia, New Zealand. Kids became one of the biggest hits of that year selling over 200,000 copies in the UK alone being certified Silver.
Further singles, such as "Supreme" (which Williams recorded also in French), and "Better Man" became big hits reaching the top-10 in numerous countries around the world.
"Eternity", a track that was not featured on the album, was released in the mid-2001 backed with "The Road to Mandalay", the former was written by Williams. It became his fourth number-one single in the United Kingdom, selling over 70,000 copies in its first week in the UK alone, and also hit the top-10 in many countries including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy among others.
The album had spent 91 weeks inside the UK Charts, going on to sell 2.4 Million copies in the UK alone being certified 8x Platinum by the BPI, the album became the 51st Best Selling album in UK Music History. The album went on to sell over 4 million copies in Europe alone.
After the success of his third album, Williams wanted to take another musical direction. He took two weeks off from his tour to record what would be his fourth studio album, the big band album he had always dreamed of making. Born from his life-long love for Frank Sinatra – combined with the success of the track "Have You Met Miss Jones?" that he recorded for the film Bridget Jones's Diary in early 2001 – the album was recorded at the Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, California.
Williams took the chance to duet with his long-time friend Jonathan Wilkes, Little Voice star Jane Horrocks, Saturday Night Live star Jon Lovitz, Rupert Everett and the Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman. The first single released from the album was a duet with Kidman, on "Somethin' Stupid". Originally a hit for Frank and Nancy Sinatra, the song became Williams' fifth number-one hit in the United Kingdom, selling almost 100,000 copies in its first week of release, as well as hitting the top-5 in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand. It eventually went on to become one of the biggest hits of 2001, selling over 200,000 copies in the UK alone. After spending three weeks at the top of the charts in 2001, it was certified Silver in January 2002.
When the album, Swing When You're Winning (in reference to his 2000 studio album Sing When You're Winning) was released in late 2001, it became an instant number-one hit in the United Kingdom (spending six consecutive weeks at number-one), Ireland, New Zealand, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland and it reached the top ten in the rest of the world going on to sell over 2 million copies by the end of 2001 and over 7 million altogether. A second single was released from the album, a double a-side "Mr. Bojangles/I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen". It was, however, released only in Central and Eastern Europe. "Mack the Knife" was released as a radio single in Mexico.
The album spent 57 weeks inside the UK Charts, selling over 2.1 million copies. It was certified 7x Platinum in the United Kingdom and ultimately became the 49th Best Selling Album in UK Music History. "Beyond the Sea" was put in the credits of the film Finding Nemo in 2003 and was also released on the film's Academy Award nominated soundtrack.
A DVD called Robbie Williams Live at the Albert Hall was released in December of that year. So far, it has become one of the best selling music DVDs in Europe, being certified 6x Platinum in the United Kingdom and 2x Platinum in Germany.
In 2002, Williams signed a record-breaking £80 million contract with EMI. The contract featured a number of provisos, including the label ceding greater creative control to the artist and a commitment to breaking Williams into the US market. So far it is the biggest music deal in British history. The deal was brokered by Ingenious Media, a leading UK corporate finance advisory business.
Williams began working on what would be his fifth studio album, spending a year in the recording studio. The album heralded a new era for Williams. He had taken a more active role in the making of this album, giving an indication of his growing confidence in the studio. "One Fine Day", "Nan's Song", and "Come Undone" were the first songs that Williams wrote without the input of Guy Chambers. Most of the songs were recorded in Los Angeles.
The album's first single, "Feel", written by Williams and Chambers, was recorded as a demo. When they started working on the album and were trying to re-record the vocals, Williams felt unsatisfied with it, so he decided to include the demo version and then release it as the first single. When the single was released in late 2002, it became Williams' biggest international hit, going number one in countries like The Netherlands and Italy, as well as reaching the top ten in almost every single European country.
When Williams' fifth studio album, Escapology, was released in late 2002, it hit number-one in at least 10 countries around the world including the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Elsewhere, it made the top ten. In the United States, however, it failed to make as big of an impact, reaching only number forty-three on the Billboard Albums Chart.
The album's second single, "Come Undone" became a top ten hit around the world. Due to its controversial video, it was heavily censored by MTV Networks Europe for depicting a debauched (but fully-clothed) Williams having three-way sex with two women. The video was about some young people having a party and it showed footage of fights, drug taking and unwise alcohol use. It also showed unsettling images of insects and reptiles. The uncensored version of the video was released on DVD Single in Europe and was also included on the Enhanced CD Single. BBC Radio 2 also banned the song for its explicit content. At that time, it was confirmed that Williams and Guy Chambers were to officially split up. The single version of "Come Undone" is not the same version as the one on the album, but instead is listed by producer Steve Power as being "from an original production by Guy Chambers/Steve Power".
The third single taken from the album was "Something Beautiful". The song was written in Barbados. It was first offered to Tom Jones, who declined, after which it was reworked for its inclusion on Williams' album. The single was released in mid-2003. While it had minor success compared to William's previous songs, it did manage to enter the top-10 in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Denmark. It failed to make much more of an impact in the music charts in other countries. The video featured a number of people from all over Europe vying to win the chance to perform as Robbie Williams at the end of the same video. The three winners had the chance to meet Williams. Three different versions of the video were released in different parts of the world, featuring the different winners. Williams started his world tour in the mid-2003, and he was about to do three live concerts in Knebworth. The Knebworth shows attracted a total of 375,000 fans.
Escapology ended up selling almost 2 million copies by the end of 2003 in the United Kingdom. It was certified 6x Platinum by the BPI, becoming the 60th best selling album in UK music history. The album went on to sell over 5 million copies in Europe alone.
In October 2003, Williams released his first live album, Live at Knebworth which peaked at number-two in the UK. The album reached the top position in Germany and Austria and became a top ten album throughout the rest of Europe, Australasia and Latin America. The live record ended up selling a little over 600,000 copies in the United Kingdom and was certified 2x Platinum by the BPI. It sold a total of 2 million units in Europe alone.
In October 2004, Williams released a retrospective of his career, and also, to reveal the new tracks he had been working on with the then, new collaborator, Stephen Duffy. "Radio", the compilation's first single was released in October 2004, which debuted at number-one of the UK Singles Chart (becoming Williams' sixth number-one hit) selling 41,732 copies, the song was also a number-one hit in Denmark, and it hit the top ten in The Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Norway.
When the compilation Greatest Hits was released two weeks later, it went on to sell 320,000 copies in its first week in the United Kingdom debuting at number-one, the album, also hit the top spot in other countries like Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Austria, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand.
The album's second single, the ballad, "Misunderstood", being the soundtrack of the film, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason hit the top ten in Italy and Denmark in December of that year, making the album the best selling album of the year in the United Kingdom, becoming the 61st Best Selling Album in UK Music History, with sales over the 2 million copies being certified 6x Platinum by the BPI. The album, also became the best selling album of the year in Europe being certified 5x Platinum for over 5 million copies sold.
Eight years after the release of "Angels", in February 2005 British public voted it as the "Best Single of the past Twenty Five Years" at the 2005 BRIT Awards.
After touring Latin America in late 2004 for the promotion of his Greatest Hits album, Williams started working on his sixth studio album. Recorded in his bedroom in the Hollywood Hills, the album was co-written by Stephen Duffy over the course of 24 months.
The track "Ghosts" was inspired by the Human League's "Louise", about a man who breaks off a relationship and realized he still has strong feelings for her.
The album's first single "Tripping", was released on 3 October 2005, it became an international success topping the charts in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Spain.
The album Intensive Care was launched in Berlin, Germany on October 9. It became a smash hit around the world, hitting number one in the United Kingdom, as well as topping the charts in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Finland and many other countries.
In November 2005, Williams took home the MTV Europe Music Award for 'Best Male', but also, entered in the The Guinness Book of World Records when he announced his World Tour for 2006, selling 1.6 million tickets in one single day. But after the success, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Jason Orange, and Howard Donald had agreed to reunite in Notting Hill, West London, for a preview screening of a documentary about Take That. The documentary screened on ITV1 on 16 November 2005. Unfortunately, according to a source quoted by Sunday Mirror, "Robbie announced he wasn't coming. The rest of the band were gutted but felt the show had to go on."
By December, the second single from the album was released, the ballad "Advertising Space" reached the top-10 in some European countries including UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
Williams' kicked off his Close Encounters World Tour in South Africa in April 2006, when he finished his European leg of the tour, 2.5 million had seen the show, and after Latin America and Australia the numbers when up to 3 million.
After a long gap between singles, the third cut from the album was released in the mid-2006. "Sin Sin Sin" was the first song Williams and Duffy wrote together, the video of which was shot in Cape Town, South Africa right before the start of his tour. The track became Williams' first single to miss the UK Top 20, charting at only number 22, but managed to enter the top-20 in some countries including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark and Italy.
By the end of the promotion of the album, it was announced that it had sold over 5,000,000 copies in Europe alone, and was certified 5x Platinum by the IFPI. It was also certified 5x Platinum in the United Kingdom becoming, at the time, his lowest selling studio album in the country.
Williams' seventh studio album was announced in early 2006. It was to be a dance/electro album with collaborations with the Pet Shop Boys, William Orbit, Soul Mekanik, Joey Negro, Mark Ronson and more.
The first single, "Rudebox", premièred on radio by Scott Mills on his show on BBC Radio 1. The event caused some controversy, as the record label's embargo date was broken, although the artist himself later backed the presenter for doing so. Right after the single was unleashed, it caused controversy due to Williams' radical change in the single in direction from his other releases. British newspaper The Sun named the song "The Worst Song Ever". However, Victoria Newton stated that there were sure-fire hits on the album. The song was released in September that year reaching number four in the UK Singles Chart; however, it hit the number one spot in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Williams released his much anticipated dance/electro album, Rudebox, on 23 October 2006. It received mixed reviews: Allmusic gave it a four star rating, the NME 8 out of 10, and Music Week and MOJO were equally positive, but it received much weaker reviews from some of the British press. Despite reaching the number one spot, sales were far below what was expected by his label, and overall sales in the UK were overtaken by his former band, Take That's Beautiful World. The album has sold a little under 500,000 copies in the United Kingdom, becoming his lowest-selling album in the country, being certified 2x Platinum by the BPI. The album was received with a warmer reception by the public in other parts of the world where it hit number one including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Italy.
The album sold 2x Platinum in Europe with sales of over 2 million making it the fastest platinum selling album of 2006. The album finished at number eighteen in the list of 2006's best selling albums worldwide, Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys claimed the album had sold 4.5 million copies by early 2007.
The second single, "Lovelight", came out right before the release of the album, and was commercially released on 13 November. The single reached the top ten in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark and Italy, but failed to reach the success of Williams' previous releases when the track showed no longevity in the charts.
The third single, "She's Madonna" included remixes from Kris Menace and Chris Lake, was released to European radio in late January to precede the commercial release which was scheduled to 5 March 2007. The track failed to be a massive success in the United Kingdom, reaching number sixteen on the Singles Chart, but it did far better in Continental Europe hitting the top ten in most countries and rose to number one on the European Airplay Chart after spending four weeks at number two, a feat his former band, Take That, failed to achieve. It was confirmed that this single was not going to be released in Latin America or Australia, but did receive heavy airplay in the latter of the two. Despite this, the single was released as Digital Download in Mexico in four different formats. In August 2007, the single reached number 12 in the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart.
"Bongo Bong and Je Ne T'Aime Plus", a collaboration with British singer Lily Allen, was released as the third single in Latin America and other European countries, hitting radio in January 2007, and as a Digital Download in February. To promote his album, Williams commissioned a series of short films. Goodbye to the Normals was directed by Jim Field Smith and features "Burslem Normals" by Robbie Williams.
On 4 October 2007, Williams made a return to the live stage after almost ten months, when he made a guest appearance at Mark Ronson's concert in Los Angeles. He performed The Charlatans song "The Only One I Know", which features on Ronson's album Version.
Rumours of a new studio album co-written with Guy Chambers had surfaced in early 2007, along with known commitments required by Williams to his EMI contract. British singer-songwriter Laura Critchley commented that she had sung vocals for three songs, and said that it would not be released until 2009.
On 16 January 2008 UK tabloid The Sun announced that Williams had been working on some songs with The Blockheads member Chaz Jankel. The article went on to state that the reunion with Chambers hadn't worked out and that the material that Williams is working on with Jankel will form the basis of his next studio album. However, although it had been confirmed on the Blockheads official site that Jankel was writing with Williams, the rumour that Chambers was no longer working with him was not official. In late August 2008, Williams's friend Callum Blue commented that he was still working on the album.
In February, it was confirmed that Williams has written material with Guy Chambers and Mark Ronson. The singer's spokesman, Tim Clark, said that the artist was planning to begin the recording sessions in March and that the new album would be released in late 2009. This will be probably the last Williams album released by EMI. On his official website, Williams confirmed he is working with producer Trevor Horn on his new album; he described himself as "buzzing, it sounds big. Very, very big". The new album will be titled Reality Killed the Video Star, a reference to the song "Video Killed the Radio Star" by Horn's former band The Buggles. The album is now due 9 November 2009 for the United Kingdom.. The new song "Bodies" had its first play on September 4, 2009 during the Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1, where Moyles described it as "a grower", with Williams later agreeing. Williams also stated that the album was a grower, and that it may take a few listens for people to like it. On an incomplete first week, "Bodies" entered radio airplay charts in several European countries.
On October 11, 2009 Williams published a 12-track compilation album, titled Songbook, as a free CD for the newspaper The Mail on Sunday. The CD is a one-off album of some of his biggest hits - including several rare live performances and images from his new album. The CD also included the latest software 'completemyartist' which gave access to more exclusive content and playlists online. That same evening, Williams made his "comeback" on The X Factor results show, performing his new single "Bodies" for the first time live.
On October 20, 2009, Williams opened the BBC Electric Proms at the London RoundHouse. It was his first live concert for 3 years and was beamed across 200 cinemas around the world. Accompanied by a string section, horn section, full band and producer Trevor Horn, Robbie performed several of his new tracks from Reality Killed the Video Star and several of his Greatest Hits.
Reality Killed the Video Star was exclusively previewed in the UK on the Spotify music streaming service on 6 November 2009, three days before it's official release on 9 November.
Take That Reunion
Williams announced in December 2008 that he was planning to relocate to the UK prior to releasing his eighth studio album in late-2009, and a possible reunion with Take That. Photos also showed Williams with his new tattoo of the Take That logo on his right arm, in tribute to his former bandmates. Williams bought a £7 million home in the village of Compton Bassett, near Calne, Wiltshire.
On the 27 March 2009, Williams stated he felt ready to re-join Take That. He said: "I'm in regular contact with them, even Gaz, and it's looking more likely by the week. The lads all seem up for it and some people think it's a done deal. I think it would be fun." Williams was eager to re-join the band on their The Circus Live tour, but these plans never materialised. In September 2009, Williams was reported to be working in New York with Take That, however these rumours were never confirmed. Now the Circus Tour of 2009 is over, it paves way for the new material that Robbie and the other members of Take That have been working on to become an album.
While it was rumoured that Williams would reunite with Take That on Thursday 12 November at The Royal Albert Hall for a Children In Need charity concert, they merely greeted each other warmly on stage between sets. However, both did join with the other acts in the final song of the evening. Williams subsequently implied in an interview that a proper reunion was still a distinct possibility.
It was reported in 'The Sun' newspaper on Sunday 14 November 2009, that Robbie admitted that he and Take That have recorded new songs together, but there is still doubt as to whether the songs would get recorded as Robbie and Take That are both signed to different labels.
 Reception in North America