The 22 greatest Robbie Williams songs ever - the ultimate setlist
14 June 2018, 11:45
Robbie Williams has become one of the UK's most successful artists of all time, selling over 75 million records worldwide and sustaining a career for nearly three decades.
To celebrate his 44th birthday this week (February 13), we've gone through the Take That entertainer's jampacked back catalogue and selected our absolute favourite songs to date. Is yours in there?
In no particular order:
1. 'She's the One'
British band World Party first released this song in 1997, a year before Robbie covered it and took it to number one in the UK. It won him two BRIT Awards, including one for its ice skating-inspired music video.
Co-written with his longtime songwriting partner Guy Chambers, this was the lead single from his 2002 album Escapology, and features most of the vocals recorded in the demo version. "I just couldn't sing it as well as I did on that day," he said.
3. 'No Regrets'
This song was written about Robbie's feelings about his time in (and departure from) Take That. After reconciling with the band years later, he replaced the final line ‘I guess the love we once had is officially dead’ with ‘officially alive!’. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy provide backing vocals for the song.
4. 'Love My Life'
A top 40 for Robbie in 2016, he said that it is "about positivity and making the most of your life. I have a son called Charlton Valentine and a daughter called Theodora Rose Williams. I have been to rehab twice and had lots of therapy.
"I realised that what happens to you when you become older is because of you when you were a kid. So this song is about hope and spreading positivity instead of negativity."
This was the song that saved Robbie's career, after his first few songs that had lackluster chart runs. Despite only reaching number four, it is his best-selling single, shifting over a million copies after its release in 1997.
6. 'Kids' with (Kylie Minogue)
Robbie decided to turn this song into a duet, and was written when Kylie approached him to write her some songs for what would be her album Light Years. It was then that Robbie noticed their chemistry and decided to include it on his album too.
7. 'You Know Me'
This was the second single from his 2009 comeback album Reality Killed the Video Star. In the video, he falls asleep and wakes up dressed as a rabbit in a waistcoat, and explores a fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland.
8. 'Let Me Entertain You'
The fifth and final single from Robbie's debut album, this song was written a certain homage to The Who, Kiss and The Rolling Stones. To this day, it his is bombastic concert opener.
This song famously samples elements from Gloria Gaynor's iconic disco anthem 'I Will Survive'. Its music video sees Robbie as a 1970s race car driver, in a tribute to Jackie Stewart.
Co-written with his Take That bandmate Gary Barlow, this provided Robbie with his seventh solo number one in 2012. While most of the lyrics are nonsensical, it tells the story of a girl who thinks she’s perfect.
He said: “Some songs take an age to write and some songs just fall out of your mouth completely formed, and you don’t have to think about it. I don’t know why that fell out of my mouth and out of my brain at that particular time – it just did.”
11. 'Go Gentle'
The lead single from his second swing album in 2013, Robbie said that it is a promise to his daughter Teddy. He said: "It was written when she first arrived on the planet and I'd been a selfish popstar for most of my life and then all of a sudden I've been asked to take care of this whole person.
"I still am scared that I'm not up to the task! I'm doing a good job of being dad but it's scary, you have to look after this person for the whole of their life, I'm not very good at even looking after me!"
12. 'Something Beautiful'
This song was first offered to Tom Jones, but he turned it down. After Robbie chose to record it, he and Guy Chambers heavily reworked it. Its music video included a casting in which people from all over Europe contested to win the chance to perform as Robbie Williams at the end of the video.
The three winners had the chance to meet Robbie, and the public were asked to vote for the winner, with three different versions of the video getting released to various parts of the world including the different winners.
Not as well remembered as some of his other number ones, this was a double-A side with 'The Road to Mandalay'. It was apparently a tribute to Robbie's close friendship with Spice Girls star Geri Halliwell at the time.
14. 'Shame' (with Gary Barlow)
Produced by Trevor Horn, this marked the first time Robbie and Gary Barlow worked together since Robbie left Take That in 1995. It revolves around their broken relationship and fixing things up nearly two decades later.
Williams said of their first reunion: “We had that big chat and the most amazing thing happened at the end of it. We both said sorry to each other and we both meant it and that was all we needed.”
This gave Robbie his first solo number one single in 1998, and heavily samples the arrangement of John Barry's 'You Only Live Twice', the title track of the 1967 James Bond film of the same name.
16. 'Heaven from Here'
This ballad comes from Robbie’s second solo album, which was written by the singer with Guy Chambers in Jamaica in early 1998.
While not performed live very often, Williams did play it during an Abbey Road session in 2003, which was recorded for a special DVD release.
17. 'I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen'
This was the opening track to Robbie’s big band album Swing When You’re Winning, and was also the only original song on the LP. It sees the singer sarcastically declaring his desire to make it big on the Hollywood stage.
It was released as a double-A side single along with a cover of ‘Mr Bojangles’ in some European countries, but not in the UK. He later included it on his greatest hits compilation In and Out of Consciousness.
Originally by Lewis Taylor in 2003, Robbie covered it for his Rudebox album three years later, and was produced by Mark Ronson.
While the album’s title track and lead single was branded ‘the worst song ever’ by The Sun, this follow-up single was more well received and scored him another top 10 hit.
This was Robbie's comeback single after three years away and a stint in rehab. The song’s cryptic lyrics, with a wide variety of religious references included, have been subject to speculation. Williams later referred to the lyrics as “gibberish” that he considered pointless.
Like the rest of the album, it was produced by Trevor Horn, and its music video featured his future wife, actress Ayda Field.
20. 'She's Madonna'
Robbie teamed up with the Pet Shop Boys for this track, which they co-wrote and featured on. The song is a reference to a conversation he had with ex-girlfriend Tania Strecker, over the reason her former boyfriend Guy Ritchie gave, for leaving her for singer Madonna.
Williams played the song to Madonna shortly after writing it, receiving a positive reaction. Its music video featured a plethora of well-known drag queens, and showed Williams himself in full drag queen regalia.
21. 'Love Calling Earth'
Taken from Robbie’s third solo album, this ballad was co-written with regular songwriting partner Guy Chambers along with Kelvin Andrews, formerly of Candy Flip.
It comes from the point of view of the narrator, who is struggling with something in his life, whether it may be a relationship or life itself.
22. 'Morning Sun'
Written around the time of Michael Jackson’s death, this song was originally meant to be a tribute to the late star. However, Robbie Williams later commented that it was more about himself.
Raising money for Sport Relief, it was co-written with Don Black, known for his work with Andrew Lloyd Webber and on several James Bond themes.