By now, you’ve probably heard that British pop star Robbie Williams has officially rejoined Take That, the iconic UK boy band that he quit 15 years ago. He is recording an album with the band that is due in November, and he will also join them for their upcoming tour. The announcement comes as somewhat of an anticlimax: Robbie has been recording with the band for almost a year now.
And for anyone who has witnessed the state of Williams’ solo career over the past few years, it’s a no-brainer. Take That re-invented themselves as a more mature, adult-contemporary band to massive commercial success five years ago, and Williams, once the world’s biggest male pop star, has been circling the drain. (Check out Take That’s 2006 hit “Patience,” one of the best songs of the last five years in my opinion.)
Robbie’s nadir was 2006’s Rudebox, which totally tanked. A stint in rehab and all sorts of humiliation followed, and it seemed only a matter of time for Williams to go to Gary Barlow bestowing roses, asking to be let back into the band he deserted.
What does this mean? Can the Robster submerge his inner demons and lakefront-sized ego and become part of an ensemble again? Can he bring some badly needed humor, camp, flair, and self-deprecation to balance Barlow’s earnest balladeering? From most accounts, his recording sessions with Barlow, Howard Donald, Jason Orange, and Mark Owen have gone pretty well. We’ll see if the old chemistry is back when the new album hits.
Formed in 1990, Take That were knockoffs of New Kids on the Block, presenting black R&B sounds behind an accessible, white-boy-next-door façade. Take That took the NKOTB formula, sexed it up a bit by displaying considerable amounts of skin, and provided the homoerotic template for N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys in the late 1990s. While Take That only scored one U.S. hit – 1995’s wonderful “Back For Good” – they were a commercial behemoth across Europe.
Known as the band’s cheeky but self-destructive party boy, Robbie escaped for a solo career in 1995, leading ultimately to the band’s split the following year. Robbie soon eclipsed his Take That brothers, selling millions worldwide. (Except in the U.S., although he tried. Hard.) His biggest hit was the 1997 power ballad “Angels,” which was subsequently slaughtered by Jessica Simpson in a shrill 2004 version.