Music on Monday: Supreme by Robbie Williams

We pick our favourite Robbie track and discover that it borrows more than I Will Survive!

If you watched the films Bohemian Rhapsody telling a kids-glove take on the Freddie Mercury story or Elton John’s mea culpa Rocketman, you might have wondered which music legend would be next on the musician biopic conveyor belt. To be honest, Robbie Williams was not the first artist to leap to mind.

But still Better Man – reportedly “a fantastical coming of age story about the unlikely rise of celebrated singer/songwriter Robbie Williams” – is in pre-production with The Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey set to fill the director’s chair.

It did get us thinking about the former Take That singer.

Robbie isn’t the greatest singer: in fact, at times, he doesn’t even have a particularly pleasant voice to listen to (Candy and his cover of 9 to 5 are particularly unpleasant). His music has neither been cutting edge nor influential. And certainly he couldn’t find the zeitgeist if it had a target on it.

So how come Robbie Williams has scored 30 solo top ten hits, was able to pack Knebworth over three days, achieved the fastest selling music DVD of all time with “What We Did Last Summer?” and has won a staggering 13 solo Brit Awards.

Possibly as Take That’s troublemaking bad boy, Robbie begin to attract the public’s affection. When he tried to grab a bit of Britpop cool on going solo, he was cruelly dismissed as the “fat dancer from Take That” by Noel Gallagher. But everything changed with the release of that maudlin karaoke classic Angels resonating with the public’s collective sentimental nerve (even though it reached no higher than #4 in the charts!)

What it did establish was Robbie’s hugely successful songwriting partnership with Guy Chambers. The pair would go on to write mainstream hits such as Let Me Entertain YouMillennium (Robbie’s first solo #1), Rock DJKids (with Kylie Minogue), Eternity and Feel.

And it’s a Williams / Chambers song that is our #MusicOnChoice this week: Supreme.

It’s a dizzying string-heavy mid-tempo track with a hypnotic beat. From the opening vinyl crackle followed by the insistent repeated strings riff, Supreme immediately demands attention as a classy number.

The lyrics display Williams’ trademark tongue-in-cheek wordplay:

“And all the best women are married
All the handsome men are gay
You feel deprived

A soaring chorus and a mercifully short rap section are surrounded and supported by Chambers’ glossiest production.

While the bridge of the song slides seductively into Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, it perhaps isn’t so well-known that this isn’t the only piece of music that Supreme borrows from.

Check out the late François de Roubaix’s dramatic Dernier Domicile Connu composed for a 1970 French-Italian film of the same name and see quite how much the string section of Supreme ‘borrows’. Strange that François doesn’t receive a writing credit in the song.

Regardless of these not-entirely original elements, the song comes together so effectively, it feels like an inspired original.

The promo video for the song is equally imaginative. Robbie plays a pipe-smoking race car driver in 1969 – an arch rival to real life British Formula 1 champion Jackie Stewart. Williams is digitally inserted into archive footage to produce a stylish video. Enjoy!

Play Video

A couple of final pieces of trivia about Supreme:

  • It is used as the theme music for the Polish TV drama series Londyńczycy (that’s Polish for The Londoners) – watch the titles: click here
  • Robbie recorded a version of the song in French – it was released in France and reached #12
  • The band McFly subtly sampled the song’s riff late in their 2010 track “I Need A Woman”
  • The song is called Supreme and not Love Supreme. A particular peeve here at The Recs HQ.

So enjoy our latest choice and if you have any suggestions for future #MusicOnMonday selections, please do drop us a line on any of our socials.