Angels (Robbie Williams song)

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"Angels"
Angels cover.png
Single by Robbie Williams
from the album Life thru a Lens
B-side
  1. "Walk This Sleigh"
Released1 December 1997 (1997-12-01)
StudioMatrix Maison Rouge (London, England)
Genre
Length
  • 4:24 (album version)
  • 3:58 (radio edit)
LabelChrysalis
Songwriter(s)Attributed to Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers (see below)
Producer(s)
Robbie Williams singles chronology
"South of the Border"
(1997)
"Angels"
(1997)
"Let Me Entertain You"
(1998)
Music videos
"Angels" on YouTube
"Angels (XXV)" on YouTube

"Angels" is a song by the English singer-songwriter Robbie Williams. It was included on Williams's debut solo album, Life thru a Lens (1997), and released as a single on 1 December 1997. "Angels" was written by Williams and Guy Chambers, based on an earlier song written by Ray Heffernan.

Williams said he wrote "Angels" with Chambers about his aunt and uncle. Heffernan asserts that he wrote the first version in 1996, after his partner had a miscarriage, and finished it with Williams after meeting him by chance in Dublin. Williams confirmed that he had recorded a demo with Heffernan but said he rewrote the song significantly with Chambers. To avoid a lawsuit, Williams bought the rights to the song from Heffernan before it was released.

"Angels" is Williams's best-selling single, and the 34th-bestselling UK single of the 1990s. It was voted the best song of the previous 25 years at the 2005 Brit Awards, and in 2005 Britons voted "Angels" the song they most wanted played at their funeral. It has been covered by artists including Jessica Simpson, David Archuleta, Beverley Knight, All Angels, Declan Galbraith and Josh Groban. It was recorded in Spanish (as "Ángel") by the Mexican singers Yuridia and Marco Moré, and in Italian (as "Un Angelo") by Patrizio Buanne. Williams also recorded a Spanish version.

Writing[edit]

In 2011, Robbie Williams said he wrote "Angels" with his 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.[1] 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."[2] Williams expressed irritation that some assumed Chambers was the sole author.[3]

The Irish singer-songwriter Ray Heffernan asserts that he wrote the first version of "Angels" in Paris in 1996, after his partner had a miscarriage.[4] 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.[5] Williams confirmed that he had recorded a demo with Heffernan but said he rewrote the song significantly with Chambers.[6]

Before the song's release, Heffernan accepted an offer from Williams's management to buy the rights for £7,500.[5] He is thanked in the UK CD2 single liner notes.[7] 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."[6] 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."[5]

Chart performance[edit]

"Angels" was the 38th-best-selling single of 1997 in the UK and the 26th of 1998. It was the 34th-bestselling UK single of the decade. Despite only reaching a peak of No. 4, it is Williams's 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 1.8 million copies in the UK as of April 2021.[8] It was released in 1999 in the US, after Williams' debut there with "Millennium".[citation needed] "Angels" re-entered the ARIA Top 100 at No. 91, on 5 May 2008.[9] After announcing his XXV album in June 2022, and releasing a reworked version of "Angels", titled "Angels (XXV)", the song placed at number 92 on the UK Official Singles Sales Chart on 10 June.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

The Scottish newspaper Aberdeen Press and Journal wrote that "Angels" is "perhaps the strongest cut" from the Life thru a Lens album.[11] John Bush from AllMusic noted Williams' "crooning".[12] Larry Flick from Billboard described it 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."[13] Daily Record wrote, "The ex-Take That star shows he has come of age with this melodic pop ballad."[14] They also added, "Surprisingly grown-up sounding Robbie on what is his best tune to date."[15] Irish Independent called it an "epic ballad".[16] Pan-European magazine 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 it "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."[17] A reviewer from Music Week gave it four out of five, calling it "[a] brave ballad for Christmas which further suggests it will be Williams and not Barlow who will really come through."[18] The magazine's Martin Aston added, "Class power ballad in Elton John vein that builds to stirring string-driven climax."[19] Dave Fawbert from ShortList declared it a "genuinely brilliant song", noting that it has "a pretty understated vocal from Robbie. Nothing too over the top, just sincere."[20] In 2003, Q ranked "Angels" number 237 in their list of the "1001 Best Songs Ever".[21]

The Guardian wrote in 2022 that "Angels was so ubiquitous for so long that it is almost impossible for anyone of a certain age to listen to it objectively: throughout the late 90s and 00s, it wasn’t so much a song as an unavoidable fact of daily life. Most pop songwriters would kill to come up with something with such impact and longevity."[22]

Awards[edit]

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 2005 survey by UK digital TV station Music Choice, Britons chose it as the song they would most like played at their funeral.[23]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Angels" was directed by Vaughan Arnell,[24] 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.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27]

Formats and track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits are taken from the Life thru a Lens album booklet.[35]

Studios

  • Recorded at Matrix Maison Rouge (London, England)
  • Mixed at Battery Studios (London, England)

Personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Belgium (BEA)[72] Gold 25,000*
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[73] Platinum 90,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[75] Gold 187,000[74]
Italy (FIMI)[76] Platinum 70,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[8] 3× Platinum 2,000,000[77]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United Kingdom 1 December 1997
  • CD
  • cassette
Chrysalis [78]
United States 7 September 1999 Contemporary hit radio Capitol [79]

Cover versions[edit]

Jessica Simpson[edit]

"Angels"
Jessicasimpson single angels.jpg
Single by Jessica Simpson
from the album In This Skin (reissue)
Released8 June 2004 (2004-06-08)
GenrePop
Length4:05
LabelColumbia
Producer(s)Billy Mann
Jessica Simpson singles chronology
"Take My Breath Away"
(2004)
"Angels"
(2004)
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"
(2005)

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)

Remixes[edit]

  • "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

Charts[edit]

Chart (2004) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[80] 27
Canada CHR/Pop Top 30 (Radio & Records)[81] 29
Romania (Romanian Top 100)[82] 78
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[83] 6
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[84] 23

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Angels"
Region Date Format Label Ref.
United States 8 June 2004 Contemporary hit radio Columbia [85]

Yuridia[edit]

"Ángel"
Single by Yuridia
from the album La Voz de un Ángel
Released2005
GenreLatin, pop
Length4:17
LabelSony BMG
Yuridia singles chronology
"Ángel"
(2005)
"La Maldita Primavera"
(2006)

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.

Charts[edit]

Chart 2005 Position
US Billboard Hot Latin Songs 32

David Archuleta[edit]

"Angels"
Single by David Archuleta
from the album David Archuleta
Released27 October 2008 (2008-10-27)
Recorded2008
GenrePop
Length3:33 (American Idol studio version)
4:09 (album version)
LabelJive
David Archuleta singles chronology
"Crush"
(2008)
"Angels"
(2008)
"A Little Too Not Over You"
(2009)

David Archuleta initially covered this song during the 7th season 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.

Charts[edit]

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

Blessing Chitapa[edit]

"Angels"
Single by Blessing Chitapa
from the album Count My Blessings
Released14 November 2020
Recorded2020
GenrePop
Length4:10
Label
Blessing Chitapa singles chronology
"Angels"
(2020)
"I Smile"
(2021)

In November 2020, Blessing Chitapa, winner of the ninth series of The Voice UK, released a cover version of "Angels" as her winner's single. The song is included on Chitapa’s debut album, Count My Blessings.

On 14 November 2020, Chitapa performed the song "Angels" live on The Voice UK grand final, with the single being released after the show was finished as a digital download.

Charts[edit]

Chart (2020) Peak
position
UK Singles Downloads (OCC)[86] 50

Release history[edit]

Country Release date Format Label
United Kingdom 14 November 2020 Digital download

Other notable versions[edit]

  • In June 2021, an artist collective named Kindred Spirit that included Glen Matlock, Steve Norman, Marcella Detroit, Earl Slick among others, released a cover version of the song titled "Angels (Of The Nations)" to both commemorate music producer Steve Brown who died in 2021 and raise money to offer angel sculptures as gifts to the families of UK doctors who died of Covid whilst working for the British NHS.[87]

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External links[edit]