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Pop stars fighting for an encore

Fans let a young Robbie Williams entertain them in 2004. Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty

Being a pop star starts out terribly exciting, says Nick Duerden in The Guardian. But for many singers, the spotlight moves on too quickly. When The Boomtown Rats disbanded after eight years together, singer Bob Geldof remembers slinking back home and drawing the curtains. “I thought: ‘That’s it? It’s over? Had the best years of my life already passed?’ I was 30. What a brutal business pop music is.” Geldof, 70, found a new career with Live Aid, but for decades, all he wanted was to return to music. “In my passport, my profession is listed as musician, not saint.”

Robbie Williams feels the same. The 48-year-old was a boy band sensation in the 1990s. Now, his songs are more likely to be played on Smooth Radio than BBC Radio 1. Unperturbed, he’s still relentlessly striving for pop stardom: “Do I unashamedly want to still be one of the biggest artists in the world?,” he says, “Yeah, I do.” For now, Williams is biding his time – making music, but also judging talent shows and selling paintings. “I’ve had an interesting first half of my life. I’d like an interesting second half, too.”