Rock DJ

Album: Sing When You're Winning (2000)
Charted: 1
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is about a guy who is trying to impress a female disc jockey. He busts some braggadocios raps, but it has no effect. In the video, Williams tries to get her attention by gradually taking his clothes off. Even after he's completely naked, it has no effect, so he rips off his flesh and throws it around the club. When he is finally reduced to bones, that's when she goes for him.

    The video, which was directed by Williams' frequent collaborator Vaughan Arnell, caused major controversy at the time due to its gory content. Most television channels cut the video before Williams started stripping, with some running an alternative clip altogether showing Williams recording "Rock DJ" in the studio. The video was also banned in the Dominican Republic after allegations of Satanism.

    Despite the controversy, the video was critically acclaimed and won a number of awards, including British Video of the Year at the BRITs and Best Visual Effects at the MTV VMAs in 2001.
  • The Blockheads' Ian Dury of "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" fame was one of the primary inspirations behind this song. Williams and Dury became friends through their work for the children's charity UNICEF, before Dury's death in March 2000. According to Williams, Dury spiritually channeled this song through him: "I actually just went, 'Ian Dury, please send me a rhythm?' And then he went, 'Singing in the classes, music for your masses, give no head, no backstage passes.'"
  • Williams makes reference to A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" when he asks that question and is answered with "Yes you can." "Rock DJ" also paraphrases a quote from "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick ("But when I rock the mic, I rock the mic (Right)"). Williams said at the time: "I really struggled to write the lyrics, so what I've just done is I've robbed loads of really old rap lyrics."
  • Robbie Williams performed this song at the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony held in Moscow on June 14, 2018. In typically cheeky mood, he changed the lyrics just moments before sticking his middle finger up at the camera. The line in the song should be:

    Pimping ain't easy
    Most of them fleece me
    Every night


    But Williams belted out:

    Most of them fleece me
    I did this for free


    The UK coverage of the opening ceremony missed the controversial moment, but in the US, where giving the bird and big sporting events don't mix (like MIA's middle finger during her Super Bowl performance with Madonna of Give Me All Your Luvin'"), it was seen in all its glory. Fox quickly issued a statement distancing itself from Williams' digit.
  • This also samples the strings from Barry White's 1977 hit, "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me."
  • "Rock DJ" was used on the TV series Roswell in the 2001 episode "Heart of Mine." The Nevin's Future Ass Remix Edit was also featured in the 2001 movie Sweet November, starring Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves.
  • This was the lead single from Williams' third solo album, Sing When You're Winning. It became his third #1 in the UK after "Millennium" and "She's the One"/"It's Only Us." "Rock DJ" was also the fifth best-selling song in the UK in 2000 and won British Single of the Year at the BRITs in 2001.
  • The New Zealand pop star Lorde revealed that her 2021 comeback single "Solar Power" was inspired by this song. Speaking to Apple Music, Lorde explained: "I had my little Yamaha DX keyboard, and I just started singing and kind of figuring this thing out. I was like, 'What is this?' It almost felt like 'Rock DJ' to me, the Robbie Williams song. I was like, 'I don't know what's going on here, but I love it.'"

    Lorde even references "Rock DJ" in the lyrics when she sings, "Can I kick it? Yeah, I can."

Comments: 2

  • Alex from Newcastle Upon Tyne, United KingdomThrowaway pop artist? You mean one of the best selling artists ever? Yup, he sure is a throwaway...
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandOnce again a throwaway pop artist uses the word "rock" to gain credibility.
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