Saturday, 13 February 2010

2001 Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman: Somethin' Stupid

By 2001, Robbie Williams was at the top of his game and popularity as a solo artist. With the hits coming easy and no worlds left to conquer it was an opportune moment to detour leftfield and indulge the sort of swinging Sinatra, big band recordings he'd "always dreamed of making" that harked back to the 'theme' albums of Frank's glory days on Capitol Records (Williams' 'Swing When You're Winning' album was symbolically released on the 'Capitol' label to complete the homage). Indulge? Or self indulge - musically at least, this 'Somethin' Stupid' shadowboxes the Sinatra(s) 1967 version down to the last plucked string of Billy Strange's arrangement, making it a straight re-tread rather than a fresh interpretation of an old song.

In fact, the most significant difference between the two versions are the vocals themselves;
despite not being a professional singer by trade, Kidman nevertheless matches Williams note for note, and whereas Nancy skirted round dad's dominant lead like a shy child awed, she isn't so cowed and faces down Williams as an equal. But then Robbie is no Frank either, and by keeping a tight lid on his usual fervour himself then this unfortunately becomes scant praise. In truth, both phone in a lullaby turn of politeness that has neither chemistry nor any spark of passion (which, with the awkward incest angle of the 1967 recording now defused, should have been pushed to the fore).

It's not folly, far from it, but then it's far from definitive either and my main bugbear is that it never even tries to raise itself higher than pastiche, a state of affairs that makes me question the point of such an enterprise; surely the aim of these 'American Songbook' type recordings is to take the opportunity to re-fashion/re-interpret the standards in your own style instead of indulging in an ego stroking vanity project? Which, ultimately, is what 'Somethin' Stupid' is - it takes more than a Fedora and a loose tie to take on Sinatra's mantle, and by pulling up at the first fence Williams (can't blame Kidman here) presents a hollow heart of a recording that lacks the courage of its own convictions. And that's not something I can readily buy into.

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