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Spins: Robbie Williams • I’ve Been Expecting You

| January 10, 2022 | 0 Comments

Robbie Williams

I’ve Been Expecting You LP reissue

(Island/UMC)

Transcending boy band roots and released at the height of Britpop, erstwhile Take That vocalist Robbie Williams’ I’ve Been Expecting You has aged considerably well. Although Williams never quite became the household name in North America that many expected, the singer made a strong showing while broadening his musical palette and delivering rockers, ballads, pop and more. 1998 sophomore effort I’ve Been Expecting You went 10X platinum in the UK, paving the way for ensuing compilation The Ego Has Landed to earn gold status in the USA. The album’s calling card remains the sweeping sound of UK #1 single “Millennium,” aided by a debonair video featuring Williams suited like a dashing James Bond character and a melody that dances across a sample modeled after an orchestral performance of Bond’s 1967 theme song for You Only Live Twice.

The wry song describes a life of excess with traces of cautionary warning around the edges. Other key tracks include emotive ballad “She’s the One,” a second UK #1 that was written by Karl Wallinger of World Party. The wide-ranging album includes ample and entertaining variety. Williams lashes into wicked rocker “Karma Killer” while flaming a nemesis “so full of sin, even the devil rates you.” The breezy waltz “Heaven From Here” conjures smiles at the other end of the spectrum, expressing gratitude, comfort and devotion for a beloved companion. Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant joins Williams on the urbane pop of “No Regrets,” cataloging the aftermath of a failed relationship. The glam and psychedelia of “Phoenix from the Flames” channel the sensibility of an artist raised on Sgt. Pepper-and-later Beatles and Queen.

The contradictorily vulnerable “Strong” sports a sky-high singalong chorus to raise the roof of any packed European arena, even while Williams dismantles the glamorous perception of his rock star life. “Early morning when I wake up, I look like Kiss but without the makeup,” he sings. “Win Some Lose Some” is a nostalgic portrait of young love and an anthemic guitar-pop number of the kind favored later by Butch Walker. The smooth glide of “Grace” is colored by tropicalia, orchestral strings, and ‘60s throwback female backing vocals. I’ve Been Expecting You manages the illusion of building Williams’ larger-than-life persona even while bringing it down to earth on these songs. It’s a winning combination that’s still fun to play, especially now with its high-quality vinyl debut.

– Jeff Elbel

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Category: Spins, Weekly

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