Angels (Robbie Williams song)

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Angels cover.png
Single by Robbie Williams
from the album Life thru a Lens
Released1 December 1997 (1997-12-01)
Length4:24 (album version)
3:58 (radio edit)
Attributed to Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers (see below)
Robbie Williams singles chronology
"South of the Border"
"Let Me Entertain You"
Music video
"Angels" on YouTube

"Angels" is a song by Robbie Williams. It was included on Williams's debut solo album Life thru a Lens (1997), and released as a single in December 1997.[1] "Angels" was written by Williams and Guy Chambers, based on an earlier song written by Ray Heffernan. It is Williams' best-selling single and was voted the best song of the previous 25 years at the 2005 Brit Awards.

"Angels" has been covered by artists including Jessica Simpson, David Archuleta, Beverley Knight, All Angels and Declan Galbraith. It has been recorded in Spanish (as "Ángel") by Mexican singers Yuridia and Marco Moré, and in Italian (as "Un Angelo") by Patrizio Buanne. Williams also recorded a Spanish version. In a 2005 poll, Britons voted "Angels" the song they most wanted played at their funeral.[2]


In 2011, Robbie Williams said he wrote "Angels" with collaborator Guy Chambers in 25 minutes about his aunt and uncle. By his account, he and Chambers were sitting outside a cafe watching a water fountain, which inspired them to write the chorus.[3] In 2016, Williams said: "It was the first of our songs that we wrote together. We could tell and hoped and prayed that we got something incredibly special. After we wrote the song ... I hailed a cab down. [The taxi driver] played it and said 'that is great, that is, Robbie, 'that is gonna be number one', and you know what: it never was number one."[4] Williams has expressed irritation that some assumed Chambers was the sole author, saying: "It pees me off because everyone thinks Guy penned 'Let Me Entertain You' and 'Angels', but they're my songs."[5]

Irish singer-songwriter Ray Heffernan asserts that he wrote the first version of "Angels" in Paris in 1996, after his partner had a miscarriage.[6] According to Heffernan, he met Williams in a pub by chance in Dublin. He showed him an incomplete version of the song, and that week the two recorded a studio demo.[7] Williams confirmed that he had recorded a demo with Heffernan but said he rewrote the song significantly with Chambers.[8]

When Heffernan learnt that a version of "Angels" would appear on Williams' debut album Life thru a Lens, he accepted an offer from Williams's management to buy the rights for £7,500.[7] Heffernan is thanked in the UK CD2 single liner notes.[9] Williams said: "We could have gone to court, and it all would have been down to whether what way the judge wakes up that day out of bed ... So I gave him some money, and he went away."[8] In 2011, Heffernan said: "For a long time, I was angry about this, but as you get older you see things differently ... the 'Angels' connection has opened doors to publishing companies and earned me a few quid."[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Aberdeen Press and Journal wrote that "Angels" "is perhaps the strongest cut" from the Life thru a Lens album.[10] Larry Flick from Billboard described the song as "a sweet ballad that never gets sappy". He noted that the "production is first-rate, the lyric is thoughtful and ear-grabbing, and his smoky, crisp vocal is a sheer delight. All that and a chorus to kill for."[11] Irish Independent called it an "epic ballad".[12] Music & Media commented that "with songs of the quality of Angels, Robbie Williams is on his way towards extending his audience by drawing in older listeners." They also added that the song "distinguishes itself from its indie rock inspired predecessors Old Before I Die and Lazy Days by exchanging their guitars for a more mellow, piano-based arrangement."[13] Dave Fawbert from ShortList called it a "genuinely brilliant song", adding that it has "a pretty understated vocal from Robbie. Nothing too over the top, just sincere."[14] In 2003, Q ranked "Angels" at number 237 in their list of the "1001 Best Songs Ever".[15] I

Music video[edit]

The video for "Angels" was directed by Vaughan Arnell,[16] and filmed at Saunton Sands. Filmed largely from the air, Williams walks around a beach, stares at the sky, kicks a football and rides a motorbike with a woman while a helicopter flies around them.[17]

In November 2013, English singer-songwriter Olly Murs released a music video promoting his song "Hand on Heart", imitating the video to "Angels". Also directed by Arnell, and shot in black-and-white, the video featured a cameo appearance by Williams. He said: "Imitation is the highest form of flattery. I am easily flattered, and I love Olly. We always have a good time together and this was no exception."[16]

Chart performance[edit]

"Angels" was the 38th-bestselling single of 1997 in the UK, and the 26th of 1998. It was the 34th-bestselling single of the decade. Despite only reaching a peak of No. 4, it is Williams' bestselling UK single and according to Official UK Charts Company figures passed the million sales mark in June 2009, with a combination of both physical and download sales. It has sold 1.2 million copies in the UK as of November 2012.[18] It was released in 1999 in the US, after Williams' debut there with "Millennium".[citation needed] "Angels" re-entered the ARIA Top 100 at #91, on 5 May 2008.[19]


At the 2005 BRIT Awards, "Angels" was voted by the British public the best song in the past 25 years of British music, though it had only reached number four on the singles chart. Williams performed the song live with Joss Stone then. In a survey by UK digital TV station Music Choice, Britons chose it as the song they would most like played at their funeral.[20]

Live performances[edit]

Williams and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina performing “Angels” at the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow, Russia

In 2009, Williams performed "Angels" at the final of the sixth series of The X Factor with Olly Murs. On 14 June 2018, Williams performed "Angels" with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.[21] On 23 June 2018, Williams performed the song as a special guest at American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour concert at Wembley Stadium in London.[22]

Formats and track listings[edit]

  1. "Angels" – 4:24
  2. "Back for Good" (live) – 3:59
  3. "Walk This Sleigh" – 3:01
  1. "Angels" – 4:24
  2. "Karaoke Overkill" – 3:31
  3. "Get the Joke" – 3:03
  4. "Angels" (acoustic version) – 4:27[23]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Belgium (BEA)[56] Gold 25,000*
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[57] Gold 45,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[59] Gold 187,000[58]
Italy (FIMI)[60] Gold 25,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] 2× Platinum 1,200,000[18]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Cover versions[edit]

Jessica Simpson[edit]

Jessicasimpson single angels.jpg
Single by Jessica Simpson
from the album In This Skin
Released6 June 2004[62]
Songwriter(s)Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers, Ray Heffernan
Producer(s)Billy Mann
Jessica Simpson singles chronology
"Take My Breath Away"
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"

Jessica Simpson's cover of "Angels" was the fourth and final single released from her album In This Skin in 2004. It was produced by Billy Mann.

Music video[edit]

The video for "Angels" opens a visibly anxious Simpson on an empty stage rehearsing for a performance. She can be seen in intercut scenes staring into space, as if she has lost her self-confidence and ability to perform. As the song progresses, however, white roses can be seen scattered around her as a sign of hope, and soon Simpson begins to regain her confidence. The song then shifts into its instrumental bridge to correlate with the emotions of the characters, as Simpson proceeds to climb to the top of the building for her final performance. There she is greeted by a youth orchestra, and finishes the song.

Chart performance[edit]

Simpson's version of "Angels" failed to break into the Billboard Hot 100 (though it did reach number six on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles). However, the song did become a moderate success[clarification needed] on the Top 40 Mainstream and Hot Digital Tracks charts. Both Simpson, and her father and manager Joe Simpson, had hoped this song would lead to her first Grammy nomination, as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, her 1990s rivals, had each already been nominated as well as winning. The song's downloads were not allowed to help it.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Angels"
  2. "Angels" (Stealth Remix)
  3. "Fly" (B-side)
  4. "Angels" (enhanced video)


  • "Angels" (album version) – 4:00
  • "Angels" (Dave Anthony Remix) – 4:53
  • "Angels" (Junior Vasquez World Mixshow) – 6:32
  • "Angels" (Stealth Remix) – 3:12
  • "Angels" (acoustic) – 4:07


Chart (2004) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[63] 27
Canada CHR/Pop Top 30 (Radio & Records)[64] 29
Romania (Romanian Top 100)[65] 78
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[66] 6
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[67] 23


Single by Yuridia
from the album La Voz de un Ángel
GenreLatin, pop
LabelSony BMG
Songwriter(s)Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers, Ray Heffernan
Yuridia singles chronology
"La Maldita Primavera"

In 2005, Yuridia, former contestant of the popular Mexican show La Academia, released "Ángel", a Spanish version of the song which she had interpreted during her stay in the reality show, as her debut and lead single. In Mexico, as well as in other parts of Latin America, "Ángel", became an instant hit, leading her debut album of almost the same name to achieve Diamond status in Mexico and becoming one of the most recent best selling Mexican singers and the best female Mexican seller of the past decade. The singer received two gold certifications for 20,000 copies sold in Mexico.

Chart performance[edit]

"Ángel" reached 32 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart and La Voz de un Angel managed to climb into the top 20 on the Billboard Hot Latin Albums chart, peaking at 16. In Mexico the song became the most successful song of 2005, leading the charts during 13 week.


Chart 2005 Position
US Billboard Hot Latin Songs 32

Beverley Knight[edit]

In March 2006, British soul singer Beverley Knight recorded a live gospel version of "Angels". The track, performed live on BBC Radio 2 with musician Guy Chambers, was included on her Voice - The Best Of Beverley Knight album. The inclusion came after Knight performed the song at the Live 8 concerts in July 2005.

All Angels[edit]

Single by All Angels
from the album All Angels
Released18 December 2006 (2006-12-18)
LabelUCJ (Universal)
Songwriter(s)Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers, Ray Heffernan
All Angels singles chronology
"Nothing Compares 2 U"

In December 2006, British classical crossover group All Angels released a cover version of Angels, with a classical touch to the song. Bookmakers put odds of 7-1 on them for getting a UK Christmas number-one single with their cover.

The single is the first ever Christmas single to be released in association with the Royal British Legion and their Poppy Appeal. Incidentally All Angels performed at the Festival of Remembrance (2006).

  • Track listing

CD single

  1. "Angels" – 3:18
  2. "Silent Night" – 3:14
  3. "Fly" – 3:45

David Archuleta[edit]

Single by David Archuleta
from the album David Archuleta
Released27 October 2008 (2008-10-27)
Length3:33 (American Idol studio version)
4:09 (album version)
Songwriter(s)Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers, Ray Heffernan
David Archuleta singles chronology
"A Little Too Not Over You"

David Archuleta initially covered this song during the 7th series of American Idol, in 2008. A studio version of this cover was produced and made available for purchase as a digital download exclusively via iTunes Store for a limited period.

Later in that year, he decided to re-record the song, with a different arrangement and production, for his debut album. The version is also available for digital purchase since 27 October 2008, when it was released to help promote the pre-order of Archuleta's album.

Formats and track listings[edit]

Digital download
  1. "Angels" (main version) — 4:09
  2. "Angels" (promotional version) — 3:33

Chart performance[edit]

Archuleta's version of the song has become the second highest charting version in the United States after the original performed by Robbie Williams. It managed to enter the Billboard Hot 100 at #89 due to digital downloads. On the Canadian Hot 100 the song peaked at #64.


Chart (2008) Peak
Canadian Hot 100 64
US Billboard Hot 100 89


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External links[edit]