Robbie Williams, "Reality Killed the Video Star"
The United States may not even have noticed he's been away, but there's been a Robbie Williams-shaped hole in the rest of the world's pop landscape since his experimental last album, "Rudebox," flopped in 2006. On his newest effort, "Reality Killed the Video Star," such lyrics as "Get the message to the troubadour/ The world don't love you anymore" may suggest that "Rudebox" is still preying on Williams' mind. But musically, it's never happened. Instead, he offers string-drenched ballads ("Morning Sun"), slick George Michael-style electronic dance-pop ("Starstruck," "Last Days of Disco"), Elvis Costello-esque clever wordplay ("Blasphemy") and the slightly cheesy, supremely catchy MOR pop he made his name with ("You Know Me," "Won't Do That"). Only the garish '80s-style rocker "Do You Mind" fails. The end result may not be enough to convince America it's missing out, but expect this album to bring the already-converted back onboard in droves.-Mark Sutherland