Robbie Pattinson has been one of the UK’s most popular solo artists for years now, due in large part to his string of number one singles, memorable TV appearances and high-profile fashion collaborations.
But since the start of this year, things have taken a turn for the worse. The singer has been in and out of the public eye, with no apparent direction or focus. In January alone, he released a string of underwhelming solo singles, dropped his long-awaited fourth album, played a string of solo shows, and even appeared on television shopping channels. Perhaps most worryingly for his legion of fans, he played a series of poorly attended shows in London’s famous music venues – all while his label, Polydor, pursued an expensive legal case against a former protege over alleged theft of artwork.
It’s been a strange 12 months for the singer, who is currently on tour promoting his latest album, Heat Wave. Here, we explore the many twists and turns that have made this year such a significant turning point in his career.
To begin with, let’s examine his 2017 singles. The year started with the release of three new, standalone songs: Ride a Whitehorse, a funky reworking of his classic 1988 track, teamed up with Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Bieber; Close Your Eyes (Picture the Picture), a collaboration with Swedish DJ-producer Oliver Heldens, and a reworking of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas; and the title track, Heat Wave. The latter was released on 21 February as the lead single from the new album and became his 14th number one on the Official Singles Chart.
All three songs were received poorly by critics and fans alike. The singles were described as “bland”, “safe” and “uninspiring” by various publications, while Pattinson’s label dismissed them as “a wasted opportunity”. In what was perhaps a fitting end to the year, the British Board of Film Classification gave All I Want For Christmas three (3) rating – for music, lyrics and vocals, among other things – while Heat Wave was given a 12+ rating for “mature content”, including scenes of sexual violence and drug use.
Solo Shows, No Speakers Allowed
Pattinson has spent much of this year on the road, headlining gigs across the UK and Europe. But he shied away from the spotlight, only making brief appearances at award ceremonies, opening shows for other artists and doing interviews. Not that he ever really went away, as he still maintains an avid social media following. In August, he played to a sold-out crowd at London’s Wembley Stadium, making it the biggest solo show of his career to date.
Even then, though, he played an unplugged set, with only his piano, electric guitar and vocals. On social media, he has played his fans various teasers from the album, teasing the title track and even revealing the cover art – but never an actual song.
Too Much Information
Another significant event this year was the singer’s participation in the controversial reality show, The Fixer Upper. In the show, which aired in January on Channel 4, Pattinson helps wealthy housewives with interior design projects. While the singer was paid an undisclosed sum for his participation, he reportedly received little to no interior design training and was forced to work long hours for little to no pay. The event was criticised as “a glorified tax dodge”, with one tabloid newspaper branding it “the worst television show ever”. In April, the show’s creator, Katie Hillier, was forced to apologise for causing “unnecessary offence” with her programme.
Pattinson has also been the target of a number of cyber-stalking incidents this year. Websites have sprung up claiming to track the singer’s movements and offer up-close-and-personal photos of him as he sleeps and makes love, among other things. While the sites claim to be “leaked” material, they are, in fact, run by people seeking to intimidate and frighten the singer.
Tour De France
Also in April, the singer was a guest on BBC’s popular radio programme, The Now Show, where he was interviewed by presenter Stephen Merchant. During the discussion, the subject of cycling and the Tour de France was brought up and when asked about participating in next year’s race, Pattinson said he would love to but that he’s “too old”. He was then promptly mocked on social media.
A few weeks later, he took to Twitter to say he hadn’t meant to “sound old” and that he’d never been more determined to take part in the Tour de France. Later that month, he apologised for causing offence with his comments regarding the cycling team, Team Sky. But the damage was already done and the backlash was significant, with fans accusing him of being “divisive” and “discourteous”. A petition calling for him to be banned from the race started garnering signatures and in August, he was officially banned from the race for “insulting” Sky’s principal cyclist, Chris Froome.
Albums, New Music Video, And More
Pattinson didn’t waste any time in recording a new album in the wake of the scandal. In June, he released Robbie Pattinson, the singer’s first proper album in six years. One of the most talked-about albums of the year, it featured guest spots from British indie bands Mumford & Sons and Wolf Alice. It also featured a newly rewritten version of his massive hit, Hello My name is Robbie, as well as the aforementioned title track, which returned him to number one on the UK Albums Chart. The album’s lead single, Hello My Name Is Robbie, was met with a largely positive critical reception, with one source describing it as “an unqualified comeback solo album”.
Meanwhile, a music video for the album’s opening track, Hello My Name Is Robbie, was released in August and quickly became one of the year’s biggest viral videos. The three-minute clip, which was posted to the singer’s Instagram account, features behind-the-scenes footage of Pattinson as he records the album and shows the raw emotion on his face as he plays in bars and clubs around the UK. It also gives a rare glimpse at the singer’s private life, with fans getting a glimpse at the ups and downs of his personal life. The video also marked the first time that Pattinson had shared his studio floor with other people, with bandmates and Mumford & Sons contributing musicians John Carder and Marcus Mumford on hand for the recording.
Not content with one viral video this year, Pattinson followed up Hello My Name Is Robbie with a brand-new music video for the album’s title track. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker David LaChapelle and premiering on YouTube on 27 August, the video shows the singer slowly taking off his shirt, before doing a backflip and showing off his tattoos.
The video’s impact was immediate, with the clip gaining over 150 million views and becoming one of the most-watched videos on YouTube’s Music channel in the process. Much like his previous viral hits Kitty and Waterfall, the video shows just how versatile and charismatic the singer is. Not that he’s always been celebrated for his good looks. As one critic put it in his review of the album: “Robbie Pattinson’s face is like a piece of crumpled paper… His eyes are too close together. When he smiles it looks like he’s wearing a mask.”
One of Britain’s most-talked-about exports this year has been Dutch DJ and producer Oliver Heldens. Best known for his collaborations with Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, he also has a lengthy solo discography, having released seven studio albums and two extended plays. In July, he released his latest album, Hotel California, which spawned two hit singles, Tell Me What You Want and Without You. The album continues his tradition of making catchy, up-tempo dance songs and earned him two (2) stars from the influential UK publication, The Independent.
Meanwhile, Heldens made a triumphant return to the UK in October to play the final night of this year’s Isle of Wight Festival. His set was met with a capacity crowd and rave reviews, with one paper commenting: “What a triumphant return by Oliver Heldens. This was a career highlight for the Dutch superstar and a resounding end to an incredible night.”