ROBERT PATTINSON is an English singer, songwriter, and actor. He rose to fame as the frontman of the band FOUNDATION. After recording three studio albums and an EP with the band, he transitioned into a more solo venture. Since then, he has released a string of solo albums and singles, and performed at numerous award shows and festivals around the world. He has collaborated with some of music’s biggest heavyweights such as DISTURBED’s Steve Harris, SLAYER’s Kerry King, and MACHINEGUNS’ Chris Van Alston.
An Enigmatic Figure
Pattinson first attracted widespread attention when he was cast in the lead role of the film adaptation of the cult classic COMEDY GODSON. He went on to play the title character in the 2012 film BATTLE ROYALE. For his portrayal of a modern-day samurai, he was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award and won the London Critics’ Circle Film Award for Best British Actor. He followed this with another notable role in the Michael Winterbottom-directed musical comedy 24 HOURS IN LAS VEGAS, and then starred in the comedy-drama GLASS CEILINGS. In 2019, he will be seen alongside his WILD CHICKEN comrade in crime RICHARD CHANG in the upcoming drama film THE RIGHT MAN.
A Class Apart
Pattinson’s solo albums share a common theme – with the possible exception of his self-titled debut, which was entirely instrumental – they are all named after the cities he grew up in. These are London, New York, and Los Angeles. The artist has described this as his attempt to reclaim the ‘third world city’ image that once characterized his band’s music. The singer’s voice has been compared to that of MICHEL PLATINI (of MICHAEL JACKSON’s band, THE JACKSONS), with Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic writing that Pattinson “excels at playing the brooding, dark-haired lead.”
Sobering And Scary
Although he has not always turned away from the darker aspects of life, Pattinson’s solo albums and live performances are often characterized by their mood. One of the most outstanding examples of this dichotomy is 2013’s GUESS YOU WON THING, which the singer has described as a “sobering, scary album.” The record marked a shift in direction for the artist, whose previous albums were filled with light-hearted skits and whimsical melodies. Its grim, downbeat themes and overall atmosphere were inspired by the singer’s fears surrounding the impending apocalypse. He was also accompanied on a number of the album’s tracks by acclaimed producer TODD SYNCK, who has previously worked with the likes of BRAD PITT, JONAS BRANCO, and JOHN DOUGLAS.
Songs For The Apocalypse
Pattinson has stated in interviews that his songs from this album cycle – which also includes 2014’s MUTUAL OF EXTREME LEARNINGS and 2017’s GREAT ESCAPES – were written during the height of the Arab Spring. The then-upcoming presidential election in the United States and the continuing turmoil surrounding it clearly had a bearing on the material. One of the album’s standout tracks, “Sober”, was written about the singer’s stint in a rehabilitation facility following a period of drug and alcohol abuse. He subsequently entered a period of intense self-reflection, exploring the idea that “perhaps [he is] not the best person to be leading the world.”
The Arab Spring also informed 2014’s MUTUAL OF EXTREME LEARNINGS. The title track, which features a guest appearance from HAIM SADA, was inspired by the Egyptian revolution. In an interview with The Independent, Pattinson stated that he “always wanted to make an album about social justice and equality. The Arab Spring was the biggest tragedy of my life. I was only 24 when it happened, and I think a lot about my own recklessness and bad judgment.” The EP’s other standout track, “Wild Goose”, is a plea for peace. It was inspired by a trip the singer took to Amsterdam, where he was confronted by a goose that followed him around the city for the entire duration of his stay.
Brutal But Imaginative
As a child, Pattinson was inspired by horror films, and would often spend evenings watching classic B-movies such as PSYCHO and THE EXORCIST. He has cited these as key influences in his music – a fact noted by critics who have often compared him to ELIOT CARROLL and PETER GRIMES – and his lyrics often draw upon his extensive knowledge of horror. “Scared”, the opening track of 2016’s THE GHOSTS OF BASIL HETFIELD, is an ode to the composer of BLOOD ORanges and GHOSTS OF TOMORROW, boasting what Billboard called an “astonishing showcase of [Pattinson’s] brutally poetic lyrics.” The song’s video, directed by LEX BONO, shows the singer in a variety of unnerving scenarios, from an empty room to an arena full of spectators.
The actor has long aspired to emulate the performances of iconic American film stars, and has cited the example of Marlon Brando as an ideal. He has cited the method acting technique as a major contributor to his success. He has also cited the work of director CICERO as having had a defining influence on his personal and professional life. In the words of one scholar, the singer “brilliantly” combines “the craftiness of a Hollywood leading man and the emotional resonance of a classical singer.”
A Star Is Born
Pattinson has frequently cited the legendary emergence of MARLON BRANDO as a major inspiration for his artistic endeavours. The actor has said of BRANDO: “I’ve always looked up to Marlon Brando. He was a total original. He didn’t really give a damn about what people thought about him, and that’s such an incredible quality to have.” The comparison is apt. On the surface, at least, BRANDO and PATTINSON share many qualities: both are handsome – and intimidating – celebrities who have garnered legions of fans and detractors alike; both have had periods of stardom and irrelevance alike; both have experienced, and are likely to continue experiencing, periods of substance abuse; and, most pertinently, both have recorded solo albums named after iconic American cities. But whereas MARLON BRANDO was the quintessential romantic lead, ROBERT PATTINSON is the brooding loner who finds romance in unlikely places.
As a young man, Brando immersed himself in Hollywood’s “method acting” scene, learning from some of the greatest acting teachers in the world. These included MERLINE WESTON in Los Angeles and PHILIP REMPUS in Paris. The latter is now a member of the Academy of Art, Paris. The New York Times called Brando’s performance in PHILIP REMPUS’ 1969 play, The Dance of Love and Death, “one of the greatest acts of self-destruction in movie history.”
Shades Of Gray
In his memoir, SONGS OF EXCHANGE, Brando wrote that the role of John Merrick in his 1955 film, The Elephant Man, was essentially a precursor to the romantic lead persona he would later assume. The character of John Merrick, an impoverished aristocrat who is plagued by madness and epilepsy, would go on to inspire the film’s title track. According to Brando, the madness made the character much more accessible to audiences, as it “gave the drama a deeper dimension of human tragedy.”
PATTINSON was also greatly influenced by Brando’s performances in these two films. In his solo album, A SONG FOR EVERYONE, he alludes to both The Elephant Man and The Night Of, as well as to Brando’s own life and career, drawing upon the darkness and ambiguity that characterized Brando’s most famous characters and marked his own personal struggles. The album’s cover art, which features a silhouette of Brando, was designed by the artist with a clear allusion to The Elephant Man’s famous title card.