”I don’t mind doin’ it for the kids,” sings U.K. upstart Robbie Williams on ”Kids,” an infectiously percolating number from his second U.S. album, Sing When You’re Winning. He’s presumably talking about making music, but you wonder if he’s targeting the right demographic.
Roughly half of ”Winning”’s songs are bittersweet ballads like ”If It’s Hurting You” and ”Singing for the Lonely” that feel several shades too sophisticated for an ‘N Sync lover. And young ‘uns are likely to scratch their heads at the retooled ’70s boogie of ”Forever Texas,” while lyrical allusions to Gloria Gaynor and John Coltrane in ”Supreme” will probably escape them entirely.
No matter. ”Winning” is a winner, offering ample reason for connoisseurs of great pop to rejoice, whatever their age. Alternately wistful and witty, introspective and invigorating, it’s arguably even better than ”The Ego Has Landed,” Williams’ 1999 Stateside calling card. As on ”Ego,” he cowrote most of the material with collaborator Guy Chambers, and the pair fit together like Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
While those who loved Williams for his trash talking, wiseacre arrogance may be brought up short by the increased sincerity here, the guy is handling the tricky business of artistic maturity like a mensch. And besides, anyone who can deliver a line like ”Do I care for sodomy?/ I don’t know/ Yeah, probably” can’t be that mature.