Sunday, October 08, 2006

The surfacing of Robbie Williams as a topic this week over on the Impostume has caused me to ponder this rather thorny issue. A tricky one, Robbie, I have to admit that I find some of his stuff rather irritatingly likeable. I still can’t work out whether I enjoy catchy tunes like the thumping, vaguely Frankie-esque Rock DJ, for example, despite or because of his twattishness. I feel infuriated by his cheap trickery of presenting himself as the daft, loveable northern lad, and at the same time feel a kind of incredulous admiration at how, in my eyes at least, he manages to get away with it.

Probably the most pivotal Robbie moment is the epic Come Undone. A part of me wants to bristle at the hypocrisy of him writing a hit about what a shallow, corrupting and soul-destroying process it is to write hits. Surely it’s just another obvious example of fashionable, cynically commodified angst, along the lines of that despicable Natalie Imbruglia tune of yore (“I am cold and I am shamed, lying naked on the floor”?? No you’re not, you’re that surfer-jock’s bird off Neighbours! Fuck off!!). Just how many bluffs are at work in this song? Here he goes, trying to prove how deep he is with his shamelessly faked self-loathing, having the gall to be seen to be sneering at his own insincerity, the whole time laughing all the way to the bank. Rubbing it in our faces that by following a shabby formula – in this case riding the “I’m so fucked up” zeitgeist, juxtaposing pop tunes and smooth production with bombastic language and the odd expletive or drug reference – he can earn enough to buy a yacht within the space of a couple of days. Whilst at the same time asking for our sympathy? He’s lucky not to be lynched.

But on the other hand, the staggering bloody cheek of it is actually rather impressive. Obviously there’s the classic debate about whether or not he should have to mean it anyway (oh shit, I’m not having a post-modern moment am I?), but in any case, the thought has struck me that Robbie has in all probability endured enough miserable coke comedowns to have experienced genuine, if not absolutely crushing self-hatred. Which leaves me where? Eventually, after weighing up the pros and cons all I’m left with is the doltishly prosaic conclusion that it’s all subjective anyway. Do I like the song or not? Well yes, with its expansive, sweeping chorus and bludgeoning repetition of the word “scum” (always been one of my favourites, that) I think it’s an absolute anthem. It’s a classic case of aesthetics over morality. There’s no moral difference between Robbie and other (in my view) maddeningly overrated charlatans who’ve got away with it in the public eye, such as personal bête noires (iconoclasm alert!) Primal Scream, Madonna, the fucking Beatles. But after all, we are talking about a pop song here, not ending world poverty. For better or worse, like Kylie (who I also quite like), Robbie’s a survivor, who every so often turns out a damn good tune. So why do I feel the need to justify myself for saying that?


Post a Comment

<< Home