In this song, Robbie Williams sings about his guardian angel, who offers him both protection and affection.
Williams told his biographer Chris Heath that this song is about his fascination with the paranormal: "I believed that stuff when I wrote 'Angels' – that's why I wrote 'Angels.'
'Angels' isn't about anybody, it's about the thoughts that loved ones that have passed on come back and take care of you." (Source: The Daily Telegraph November 6, 2009).
Williams had previously been a member of boy band Take That, but quit the group in 1995. His solo career stalled until "Angels" was released on Christmas 1997.
The main songwriter and frontman of Take That was Gary Barlow, whose solo career started well, (his song "Love Won't Wait" being co-written with Madonna), but soon dried up, the opposite of what happened to Williams. Barlow went on to become a professional songwriter and X Factor
judge. He wrote hits for Alesha Dixon ("To Love Again
") and Matt Cardle ("Run For Your Life
Although it only reached #4, "Angels" spent 27 weeks on the UK chart and is by far Williams' biggest-selling song. He quickly cemented his stardom in Britain, scoring a series of hits, including the #1 duet with Nicole Kidman on "Somethin' Stupid
." He has also dueted with Kylie Minogue, Neil Tennant (from The Pet Shop Boys) and Neil Hannon (from The Divine Comedy).
This is regarded as a classic in the UK and is a massive karaoke favorite. It's one of those songs that is constantly played on pub jukeboxes. A review of it said that it "taps into the sentimental old git in all of us."
There was a lot of press rivalry with Williams and the Gallagher brothers from Oasis, one of their more printable insults of Williams being "That fat dancer from Take That." Many Britpop fans felt that "Angels" was an attempt to cash in on the then huge Britpop craze by writing a mainstream song in a similar style.
After this song, Williams became a huge star in the UK despite criticism that he was a glorified cabaret singer. He has tried many times to break the US market, all attempts being unsuccessful. He eventually said that he gave up and "couldn't be arsed."
Williams co-wrote "Angels" with the Irishman Ray Hefferman, then Robbie's longtime collaborator Guy Chambers transformed it into his biggest worldwide-selling single. Hefferman recalled in an interview promoting the 2006 Manchester Irish Festival how he earned a paltry £7,500 from the song: "We (Hefferman and Williams) met in a Dublin pub during the Christmas holidays of 1996, and proceeded to go out and have a few beers etc. He ended up staying in my place, as we had said we would try to write some songs together. I had one that I had written in Paris called 'An Angel Instead,' which he liked, and we worked on it together. He called Louis Walsh, who organised a studio for us, and we recorded a version of it here in Dublin. He went back to England after that, and we lost touch. I was therefore very surprised to hear that 'Angels' was on his new album. I got in touch, and essentially signed a waver of my rights to the song for just £7,500 and the rest is musical history, I'm still writing songs and selling albums independently and he is a corporation."
As "Angels" was unknown in the US, Jessica Simpson covered it in 2004. In the UK, most reviewers were less than impressed with her take on it.
In a UK based VH1 poll of best #1s, worst #1s and songs that should have got to to #1, this was voted the top song that should have topped the charts.
Adam - Dewsbury, England, for all above
The drummer on this song, Chris Sharrock, went on to become a founder member of Liam Gallagher's post-Oasis band Beady Eye.
The black-and-white video was directed by Vaughan Arnell and shot at Saunton Sands beach in England. It was the first of many Robbie Williams videos directed by Arnell; others include "Bodies
" and "Heavy Entertainment Show
Robbie Williams performed a duet version of this song with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. He also sang "Let Me Entertain You
" and "Rock DJ
" but he provoked an angry action on social media by flipping the bird at the camera during his performance of the latter song.