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Robbie Williams - Be A Boy (Single Review)

Monday, 25 February 2013 Written by Helen Marie Grant
Robbie Williams - Be A Boy (Single Review)

I was there, aged 16, in 1990 when everyone was swooning-to-death over Take That. Not as delirious as the rest, but I was a fan. Now, here we are 23 years later, the glitter from the boy's second record-breaking reunion is settling, and the band's original breakaway artist Robbie Williams is set to launch 'Be a Boy', the third single from his ninth solo album, 'Take The Crown', scheduled for release March 11th.

ImageI must admit, after years of non-stop adulation, when Rob changed focus and started gambling on genre roulette, the whistle blew for me and his music went as cold as a well digger's rear end. So I was apprehensive when asked to review 'Be a Boy'. Having been on Rob sabbatical for a few years, whilst observing from afar, would this be the ear "candy" to rekindle our flame or plunge me further into the depths of Alaskan waters?

When envisioning new music from Williams, nowadays I tend to expect foot-stomping, high-energy songs with lyrics that tell quirky stories about partying, women, lust, heartbreak, consequences and / or regret, sung to baser instincts with chirpy familiarity. This is a man who is, after all, not just a national treasure but our official guide to the seven deadly sins.

In the old days, surrendering to momentary stillness was the only way I could listen to a Robbie tune. If I attempted other tasks, I was pulled back into it's depths, each note coiling around me in some Uri Geller style hypnosis.

Back then, all of Rob's tunes burned like a slow absorption drug. The first few listens, a lukewarm trickle and then boom, intravenous and heavenly as it aligned and embedded itself with the pulse of my subconscious. I'm talking 'Angels', 'You Know Me', 'She's The One', 'Feel', the lush, passionate ballads that remain his signature.

Having followed Rob's career for more than two decades, I know the set-up. I know the character, the effortless contradiction of vulnerability and self-assuredness that remains his charm. So I turn up the volume, sit back and soak in the familiar voice, surrendering to the grip of an oh so smooth and groovy eighties style saxophone solo, which I have to say is one of the coolest intros I've heard in awhile.

Also cool is the cover artwork; simple and striking. Artwork is a key factor for me, setting my expectations. As is music that makes me feel warm, bulls me up and feeds my soul, which Rob's sax solo does. So far so good.

Buoyed by ever increasing self-possession, Williams does upbeat and jolly in 'Be a Boy' beautifully, stripping away previous and glossing the new chapter that 'Candy' carved out. A collage of up-tempo notes sparking and fizzing, there is no self doubt. If he feels it, it doesn't show. This is a funky, feisty, bullish song that unfolds as naturally as a ripple in the wind, a breathtaking display of confidence from start to finish.

Post sax, the single builds from a "woohoo" into a fluid electronic beat before raging into life with an addictively catchy sing-along chorus that fills my chest with a loud and soaring "Yes, I can do this!" attitude. The chorus is where the single really hits its stride. It's not 'Angels' or 'She's The One' (I'm an anthemics girl, can you tell?) but it's as soul swelling as any of William's greatest love songs. After a week of playing this song to death, I find myself singing the chorus at inopportune moments.

At its strongest, 'Be a Boy' triumphs in adding to Williams' expanding creative repertoire with an engaging mix of instrumentals, vocals and lyrics. By no means a radical departure from the last few years experimentation, but a shuffle in the right direction, in my opinion, back to mainstream anthems. Reflective and bouncy, it makes me want to stand on a hilltop and scream "Good morning world! Guess what? You didn't break me! The magic didn't leave me!"

I can't say I'm disappointed that Robbie appears to be abandoning the direction he pursued on his last two albums. If nothing else, previous singles / albums have proven his ability to nail many styles convincingly. The quirkiness of Rob's personality will always shine through, no matter what. It's what makes him such a captivating performer. Whether itís ballads, indie rock or pop, you canít help but go with him, albeit begrudgingly sometimes.

What Williams has achieved here with his Australian co-writers Flynn Francis and Tim Metcalfe is no mean feat; nostalgic lyrics, a feisty vocal and funky instrumentals mashed into a charming and appealing track. The fact that 'Be a Boy' is so euphoric makes it not only an excellent choice of single release, but also a fantastic live performance contender when he embarks on his tour later this year.

Williams deserves a great deal of credit for the seamlessly dignified way he has transitioned over the last few years. Musical longevity is in the bag now. It wouldn't matter if he doesn't record / release any new music in 10 years as long as fans know he's working on stuff behind the scenes and writes the occasional blog to confirm he's not absconded to another planet.

To sum up, 'Be a Boy' is unlikely to beat the massive commercial success of comeback single 'Candy', but it marks the culmination of the singer's metamorphosis into Robbie 2.0, re-establishing his solo presence in the British charts. I believe the singer's greatest moments are yet to come. They said the magic was leaving you? I don't think so.

Definitely one to put on your must-hear single list. The excitement of 'what's next' is buzzing through me like an electric current.

'Be A Boy' is released 11th March. Robbie will embark on a UK stadium tour in the summer.

Robbie Williams UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri June 14th 2013 - Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Tue June 18th 2013 - Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Wed June 19th 2013 - Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Fri June 21st 2013 - Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sat June 22nd 2013 - Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Tue June 25th 2013 - Hampden Park, Glasgow
Wed June 26th 2013 - Hampden Park, Glasgow
Sat June 29th 2013 - Wembley Stadium, London
Sun June 30th 2013 - Wembley Stadium, London
Tue July 2nd 2013 - Wembley Stadium, London
Fri July 5th 2013 - Wembley Stadium, London

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