First up, hands up.
Yeah yeah yeah.
I’ve had my Robbie moments. Moments where I thought:
“THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING”.
“DON’T REPLAY THIS CAR CRASH”.
I’m not the only one. Countless chums saddened that not only did Gary let him back in the group, but that he gave over lead vocals so easily….
I never hated Robbie – in fact I loved his early solo stuff (Freedom being the badly recorded and rushed-out exception) and thought he was really talented. But it went downhill. Sad in itself, but then the rumours of him rejoining Take That started – just when it was going good for them again.
My first moment of real concern was watching Robbie on the X Factor singing Bodies. Urgh. I wanted to slap his management. Here was a man who was clearly terrified, shouldn’t be on the stage and was, frankly, terrible. Watch it here. You’ll see a nervous wreck. Poor bugger. And the ‘dad dancing’! ARGH. I wanted to pluck out mine own eyes. In fact, on viewing again as my “research” I had to switch it off; it’s ghastly. It was Robbie’s first appearance in about a bajillion years and it made me really nervous that he was going to re-join Take That and fuck it all up for them (me).
And he almost did. If you are interested enough, you will have seen the documentary about their reunion, Look Back, Don’t Stare (LBDS). It becomes apparent there that Robbie got cold feet early on in the reunion and almost bailed. Poor Jason Orange got all emotional and everything when revisiting the experience. But wait let’s be fair and self-aware … ok, reasons I was being an un-fan of Robbie:
1. I always preferred Howard,
2. Robbie’s endless emoting (crying, loving his mum and expressing it etc). Urgh, we’re British – act accordingly.
3. Being clearly on the edge after all of this and threatening to wreck the greatest pop reunion EVER.
4. Too much touching of the teen pop boy group One Direction on X Factor
However! (see below)
I’ve changed my mind. This is a common occurrence, so Do Not Be Alarmed.
LBDS showed one thing above all really clearly! Actually it showed many, so cue another list:
1. Robbie actually CAN create tunes. My favourite song on the new album is eight letters – penned by Robbie and sung by Gary. The last song on the CD and a real treat.
2. Actually, they were all fucked up by the Take That experience – but the strict management of Take That allowed the ones left in the group to hide and be protected, hence recent revelations about Howard and Mark. None were ever perfect (who is?) but only one was dragged through the papers in their early 20s.
3. It was really hard for Robbie to come back, and it took huge bravery. It was worth it. This is most clear at the start of LBDS when Howard and Jason arrive at the start and Robbie looks terrified, like – well, let’s just say you want to reach through the telly screen and calm the wee lamb.
But more than that, I went on the hunt for some Robbie solo stuff. He really was a great performer. This is the kind of thing that people (like Simon Cowell) twat on about all the time: “ooooh Robbie, great performer bla bla”. Actually, a lot of the time Robbie is very much NOT a great performer – all jitters and ticks and neediness. There was a bit of it shining through when the newly reformed Take That appeared on X Factor last year – but nothing like what has been on display before. And it becomes clearer and clearer that he actually was a great performer and can be again. Watch this performance at Knebworth – it’s dead good. With zero freaking out it seems too.
I don’t want to go on forever, but I think LBDS shows some of the reasons why Robbie is the hurt person that he is, and why we shouldn’t allow that to be a mark against him forever and ever. Amen.