Robbie Williams in America

Recent photos of Robbie in the US indulging in his second passion soccer, has left me wondering what is the ‘’truth’’ behind Robbie’s limited success in the US. I am of course referring to his music and not his footy skills!

The British press would like us to believe that it is down to Robbie, his personality and his music but surely the rest of us in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia cannot be wrong!


Hardly a week goes by without this type of headline or reference appearing in the press, often linked to one of Robbie’s contemporaries who are currently trying to break America. Yesterday I read an article on Mika with a reference to Robbie and America. Today an article on The Beckhams, again a reference to Robbie and his so called ‘’failed US success’’.

Headlines like ‘’Robbie bombs in the USA’’, ‘’Superstar at home, super flop stateside’’, ‘’Yanks, but no thanks’’. It is very disconcerting to find the artist I support constantly being criticised at every turn but that’s the British press for you; they are dying to get Robbie and then go in for the kill.

‘’To say Robbie has failed in America is idiotic. I was thrilled when he came on my show. He is an A-list star’’ quote Carson Daly.

There is no doubt that EMI (perhaps more so then Robbie) and Robbie’s ego wants him to be a global superstar but does Robbie? He has often said in interviews that he does not want to break America as there he can find the privacy, peace, and solitude that he so craves and deserves. In a sense that is true, but putting that aside, let us look at some facts:

The reason Robbie’s success in the US has not been instant is complicated, and not personal to Robbie. It has to do with the nature of the American market. Barely a busload of British artists have made it in America. Kylie, Ronan Keating, Oasis, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse to name but a few have all discovered that cracking the American market is no mean feat. And it is not just musicians either…

“America — I mean, that’s the No 1 court at Wimbledon.” – quote Eddie Izzard British comedian and actor

The European model and formula for ‘’success’’ i.e. if someone is not a massive hit after one big ‘’push’’ then that is it, does not apply in America. There it is a much slower process.

The US Radio industry is huge and enormously fragmented. There are no national stations, like the BBC but hundreds of local ones, which make unifying the country behind an artist an exhausting but essential task. Robbie has to be willing to do a string of interviews and personal appearances to get his songs played on radio. I do not think Robbie could be bothered with the slog of personal appearances, interviews followed by a long tour. Yes he wants the superstardom status, it is a pride issue but at what cost? I have read that some feared that his humour would be too ironic, an acquired taste. But Robbie is British, and so is his sense of humour. I do not want him to change his personality to fit a specific market. They should be focussing on his music and not his personality!

If Justin Timberlake had half as much personality, the US pop charts would be a lot more fun’’ quote Rolling Stone.

Robbie did a whirlwind of publicity when Escapology was released in the US on 1 April 2003. It reached number 43 in the US Charts with a weekly average sale of 21 000. The single ‘’Feel’’ reached number 30. That might be considered a ‘’disaster’’ by European standards, but this for an artist who is supposedly ‘’relatively unknown’’!

‘’The singer/songwriter crafts yet another beautiful album full of witty lyrics, catchy music and gorgeous orchestrations’’ - quote Billboard magazine

Imagine what could happen if he took it seriously and went all out! I bet that 95% of those who had not seen or heard Robbie before a show would go out and buy his CDs’ the next day! The thing that speaks for itself is his music; the thing that stands on its own is a good song. Robbie has both, in abundance, not to mention his funny, interesting, and charismatic personality.

‘’ A song like ‘Something Beautiful’ has the lift of an Elton John smash like Levon, while ‘Love Somebody’ puts you in mind of Queen - quote The Daily News, New York.

‘’Mr Williams has the swagger of Eminem, the swivel hips of Tom Jones, and the swing of Dean Martin ‘’- quote New York Times

The question remains:

Does Robbie have the drive and enthusiasm to break America? Is the personal cost too high?
Can Robbie be bothered with the slog of promotional tours similar to the ones he did in Europe?
Is he prepared and does he have the commitment to do radio interviews and make personal appearances, at least for the next two years to ‘’local’’ radio stations in the middle of nowhere across America?

Is he prepared to do gigs at 400-seated venues in ‘’nowhere towns’’ after playing to 125.000.00 people at such spectacular concerts as Knebworth and the recent Close Encounter Tours?

Robbie has the skills of that there is no doubt but he needs to back it up. Unlike Europe, where you either ‘’have it’’ or not, American audiences require more ‘’programming’’ through repeated exposure.

America’s attention span is low – you need to constantly hit them over the head. – quote Carson Daly on an interview about British artists.

Robbie may not have been the overnight sensation in America that some were expecting, but that could change if HE wanted it too……………

It is not as bad a picture as the British and international press would like us to believe!
Article contributed by staff member & reporter Mon

1 comment:

Mary-Ann said...

OMG that pic!!!