Album: In This Skin (Revised Edition)
Robbie Williams’ “Angels,” originally recorded in 1997, was on his first hit album. After Kylie Minogue broke into the U.S. market in 1998, his record company decided to launch his American career. The U.S. album, “The Ego Has Landed,” featuring songs from Williams’ past two albums (including “Angels”), flopped in the U.S.
However, “Angels” is getting a second chance. Jessica Simpson opted to release it as her fourth single from “In This Skin,” and it’s currently in the Top 40.
As recorded by Williams, the single is a moving love song dedicated to his significant other. Romantic and tender, it begins as an adult comtemporary ballad. By the bridge, it has become a power rock ballad, with him defenseless to the love he feels. It’s also well-written. Love is something in which he is patient to receive (“I sit and wait/does an angel comtemplate my fate….’cause I’ve been told salvation lets their wings unfold.”) In the chorus, he is grateful for his “angel’s” qualities (“and through it all/she offers me protection/and a lot of love and affection/whether I’m right or wrong.”) He also knows that without his love, he will able to make it through the hard times and pull through. Filled with hope and sweetness, “Angels” is a rare, excellent pop song.
Simpson’s version takes a different turn. She made the usual change of turning all the “she’s” into “he’s” in the lyrics. By doing this, she also put a religious spin on it. The love she is expressing is spiritual and the angels in the single are now literal. This is apparent in the during the chorus when she sings: “when I come to call he won’t forsake me/I’m loving angels instead.” Turning it into a metaphysical song dulls the romantic theme and takes the intial power away from the lyrics. The lyrics become internal and difficult to be able to connect.
She also overexaggerates her vocals. Perhaps desiring to match Williams’ every clear note, she ups the drama quotient and drags the notes out as long as she can. It is unfortunate, though. If this had been on her first album, it would’ve been restrained and limited to only the bridge. The bridge is her only good vocal moment on the song. However, it’s embarassing to hear her copy Williams’ phrasing, including his accent. It’s quite funny to hear and ultimately distracting.
Simpson also changes into a pure adult comtemporary song. The rock elements are taken out and are replaced with strings. However, she managed to best Williams musically in the bridge. The music swells, with a quiet choir in the background, cymbals, and an orchestra. It’s an awe-inspiring and beautiful moment in an otherwise passable cover.