Monday, December 24th, 2012

Robbie Williams – Different

The schlocking was sung by the stadium with care…


Sabina Tang: This came on in the car, my jaw dropped and I said aloud to the empty air, “What is this? Who wrote this?!?” Answer per wiki: Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow. Well. All to say it’s the storytelling that seizes and suspends one by the throat, though Robbie-the-singer delivers dry-eyed hurt as required. In five years’ time some slip of a girl will let loose with a torrent of desperation on The X Factor or K-pop Star or what have you — this time I’ll be better, I want you to know; this time I’ll be special, oh God, make it so — and win all our hearts thereby.

John Seroff: Williams’ bombastic, weepy mea culpa is a plea for more time and more patience for the lion in winter, but there’s not much among the strings and sunset to suggest anything more than more of the same forthcoming.

Anthony Easton: Williams works well when he can either live up to his worst excesses or rein them in. It’s an either/or situation, and both are infused with the sincere camp that only the British do exceptionally well. This one is a muddled pudding, almost but not as bad as that time a decade ago when he tried to break into the American markets. 

Edward Okulicz: “Different” sounds to these ears like a refinement of the sound Williams tried to on Advertising Space to limited acclaim and disappointing sales — where he was likeably vulnerable but just not very interesting. By contrast, this has perhaps Williams’ best chorus, his most honest vocal performance and his most earnest lyrics. It’s half polite stadium rock of the kind that made him famous in the UK and half camp of the kind that made me want to punch him repeatedly, and moments of it, like how the prechorus gets chunky and rocky, are ridiculously effective. It’s tempting to credit Gary Barlow, who co-wrote, but the wounded grandeur is Williams’ schtick, not Barlow’s. It’s just never been harnessed so successfully before.

Patrick St. Michel: The chorus is surprisingly affecting, but overall this is something I’ve heard a bunch before.

Katherine St Asaph: A power ballad by the powerless. Make no mistake: he’ll summon up strings and brass, high notes and choirs like the four horsemen of the apocalypse — but, much as in life, no revelation arrives.

Brad Shoup: Points to Jackknife Lee: though he couldn’t find a way to keep the intro’s God-over-the-waters string riff as a focal point, he hooked me. Williams requires a lot of vocal tracks to put across this “personal” message: a nod to age, I’m sure, but one that adds as much distance as the packed production.

Iain Mew: The verses are lurching, desperate things that are even more shocking for the fact that it’s Robbie Williams there undercutting the pretty strings and managing to make “tremble at the sight of your majesty” sound convincing and not just smug at the words he’s turning. The chorus is overkill and suggests his over-demonstrative instincts are still in play, but then there’s the guitar solo and it returns to brutally emotional again

Ian Mathers: “You’d rather be right than be loved.” But our Robbie could never quite decide which one he really wanted, or even which one he could get; even at his most smoothly assured there’s always that faint tinge of desperate flailing, of self-laceration, of a fragile facade. Yes, he’s got a nice voice, and he was a handsome young man (and physically he’s aging well, in a character actor kind of way), but it’s that woundedness that makes him compelling — that made him, God help him, a pop star. “Different” is a good song and he sings it well, and absent any context it would still succeed, but as the latest in a long line of dispatches from a man who (publicly, at least) has only ever had a passing acquaintance with contentment, it cuts a little deeper. “This time I’ll be special, you know I will” could be an insincere plea from a cad, but it could also reveal a deep core of self-loathing that he’s been fighting with bravado. What’s the other line from the video? “If you’re not here, I’ll fight myself.”

2 Responses to “Robbie Williams – Different”

  1. i like this better than i should

  2. Robbie has a dreadful secret, a long distance love affair with someone he could never be with. The relationship started before the publicity one and is ongoing. The song is about her. Believe it or not.