Robbie – jack-the-lad-in-chief to the masses – wishes he was a rock star but will absolutely, resolutely never be allowed to be one by his cosy audience who adore him just the way he is.
The worst of it is that he is viscerally, painfully aware of all of this. Inhabiting the equivalent of a musical coma, he is able to see the world he wishes he was in, but is unable to communicate with it beyond dumb, involuntary spasms. His demented tilt at Song 2 is one such twitch at rock stardom.
Whilst performing Song 2, we are privy to Robbie in full eye-swivelling, mouth-gopping, arms-a-flailing look-at-me! mode. They’re the behavioural tics of a man who can’t believe this cheeky-chappy-playing-at-being-a-star-schtick still actually works; a man saddled with the realisation that merely going through the motions, as he is here, will still have the intended hysterical effect on his audience.
By piecing together his RAWK persona from odds and ends, Robbie creates Frankenstein’s monster of bland rock: Liam Gallagher’s most ludicrously crick-necked swagger, the mic-stand grab ‘n’ rush of a Turkish Freddie Mercury impersonator, and the tentative put-upon hyperactivity of a teen-dad, who, unaccustomed to the effects of cheap lager, has been overwhelmed with befuddlement on his first proper night out.
That blank look of disoriented discomfort is all his own, however.
Robbie treats words in the same clumsy manner in which a two year old treats plasticine: something to be stretched beyond natural elasticity, pummelled into uselessness and, ultimately, chewed on without any intention beyond filling both time and the large open void on the front of his face.
Thus, when he gets the lyrics in the right order – which is not a given by any means – simple adjectives like ‘Heavy Metal’ transmogrify horrifically into ‘Heeea-vvvy Meey-a-tayyyll-ah’.
This is proof that Robbie Williams is either paid by the syllable, or that he’s actually a genuine post-modern, art-pop pioneer – inventing the idea of the meta-lyric, where all previously-applied meaning is ruthlessly stripped away, leaving only the sound itself remaining.
Having long departed the realm of mere Pop Performer, he leaps with both feet into the role of Situationist Art Prankster, entertaining himself and his audience with the same physical movements, but each on an entirely separate mental plain to the other.
So by the point where he has his hand firmly thrust down the front of his trousers, he’s perhaps desperately rummaging for his own off switch – and we can all can gravely nod our heads, regarding the flipping of it as an entirely unselfish act.
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