Monday, 25 March 2013

Robbie Williams, Suede and Britpop

Robbie Williams has made a name in the music press again recently, allegedly slagging off most of the Britpop bands that emerged around the same time his solo career took off.

He was responding to comments made by Suede singer Brett Anderson, a vocalist with a similar loose tongue when speaking to the press. Robbie listed by name most of the British bands who created vital and amazing music during the 1990s. He seems to forget that they were (and still are) his peers who, with the help of the music press, created a scene that allowed him a place to exist in, and afforded him some credibility that otherwise would not have been afforded to him.

He writes, and I quote:

"ANY QUARTER-DECENT 3 CHORD KNOBHEADS COULD AND DID GET A DEAL IN THE 90'S …"


...and as if your music is soooo much more listenable than that of, say, Kula Shaker and Sleeper, Mr Williams?

Not casting aspersions on the man or his work, but Britpop was a scene that was sorely needed in the 1990s, by all accounts. According to BBC6Music's documentary "Don't Look Back In Anger - The Story of Britpop", in the wake of grunge a wave of pensive, moody adolescent melancholy from America descended over the music world and most Britons just didn't relate to that (ironic given the depressing weather over there). But, at the same time, there seemed to be no vibrant new British music to combat this. The Stone Roses has disappeared, The Happy Mondays were becoming a self-parody, the Rave scene was drying up by the end of 1992 and there seemed to be little more on the horizon.

Enter Robbie Williams and his vapid boy-band Take That. There was a dearth of these awful bands at the time, and they had no credibility in music circles. I Think their lack of cred was due to the manufactured, "designed for mass consumption and to sell millions of copies" appearance they had. Some people like that sort of thing, and that's OK. I, for one, find that music that is calculated for mass success often leaves me feeling cold and empty (more on that in a later post).

Once Robbie was sacked from Take That, he created his own solo career out of some classy and well polished grown-up pop music. It seemed to slot in with the other Britpop bands, and it certainly was marketed as such with other bands of that nature in places outside of Britain. The UK music press actually reviewed his albums favourably and they sold in massive quantities. He was held in similar esteem for a time as his more lauded-indie peers. His performances on stage were stellar, so I'm told. Although, according to CDNow.com he "he invests each track with an energy many of them don't deserve." And quite often, the drug use and his sometimes-delusional egotism seep through in his work.

He seems to forget that the Britpop scene reignited a passion for British music, both at home and around the world. Stacks of amazing records were made; some were rightly celebrated, some were cruelly ignored. Robbie's albums received plenty of respect when they may not have always deserved to. His comments on his blog sound like, to me, as if he is placing himself above others who had worked hard not only to get where they were, but to make British music respectable again. Most of the bands he named did so without an eye on the money, but in the name of creating great music - the money and fame was a bonus. Those bands well and truly achieved their aim with the purest of intentions. What was your motivation, Mr Williams, the money or the music?

In my opinion, I think it was the former. Whatever his reasoning, he needs to remember that Britpop really did him and his solo career a favour. Publicly dissing it in the fashion that he has, he has demonstrated that he really is biting the hand that feeds him.

Further reading:

Brett Anderson from Suede and his original comments that Robbie reacted to

Britpop Band Menswear react to Robbie's criticism

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