It's Christmas now. Not because Tesco has started blasting Slade and selling battered Brussels sprouts, not because Black Friday deals have already begun to boot their way into your inbox offering "28 PERCENT OFF VACUUM CLEANERS NOW!" and not because the John Lewis advert is out – but because Robbie Williams said so. The release date for his album The Christmas Present is today, you see, officially ringing in the next five weeks of office parties and IBS flare-ups like an international head of state opening the New York Stock Exchange.
Unlike every TV presenter's desperate bit for Christmas album supremacy Robbie has, technically speaking, gone the fuck in. As a result, we decided to delve into this festive treat for a closer look. Only thing is this baby is a whopping two discs long, so we selected some choice cuts to review.
"Time For Change"
Lauren: If you picked up this Robbie Williams album thinking you were going to just get a load of half-arsed covers of “Driving Home For Christmas” or whatever you clearly don’t know what to expect from HRH of The Craic Robbie Williams. Robbie’s middle name is ‘Versatility’ and both (!) discs of this album are testament to why.
On this little number he’s throwing it back to his Take That years (there’s some “Back For Good” in that guitar, no?) with added Christmas cheer – some “Little Drummer Boy”–esque percussion; I could swear there’s even a triangle in there. This is basically a heartwarming and overly idealised ode to spending time with your family at Christmas. My advice is that, as such, you put it on as you sit around the table on Christmas Eve, your mum having got pissed off with your brother for missing dinner and then showing up two hours later steaming with a pair of reindeer antlers on, unable to explain where they came from. The tension will be cut through like brandy butter.
Hannah: While this track kicks off surprisingly, with an abrupt “FA-LA-LA-LA”, set to an unexpected 3/4 time signature, "Rudolph" soon become quintessential Xmas Robbie. It’s smooth and jazzy, with plenty of key changes and lines to rival any in Robbie’s discography. Take the following for example, which should be either written on my tombstone or tatted – somehow in its entirety – on my knuckles:
“Mrs Claus will go mad / I’ll be dealing with that / But it’s all in the plan / And she knows I’m the man [enter key change]!”
Years after he sang “Frozen (Let It Go)” as his wife strained and pushed on a hospital bed to release their baby into the world, here is Robbie and the missus’ relationship documented once more in his art.
"Let's Not Go Shopping"
Emma: I did not expect to find an anti-consumerist bop combining barbershop harmonies with Broadway musical sensibilities, all nestled in a Robbie Williams Christmas album. But I’m completely on board. I, too, find that shopping during the festive period fills me with fear and sadness. I, too, would rather stay inside – away from the traffic jams and people scrapping over 3-for-2 gift sets at Boots – and simply vibe. This is ‘respectfully doing basic swing steps with a colleague at the office Xmas do’ music in its most pure form. This is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” without the rohypnol, but also without the ham-fisted attempts at cramming a message about consent into a Christmas jingle. This is someone’s nan doing an impression of a chorus girl before backing up into a table and flying arse over tit in a video sent to You’ve Been Framed. This is wholesome chaos. Robbie… thank you.
"Merry Xmas Everybody ft. Jamie Cullum"
Hannah: Here we bloody go: some big brass bastards going off before Robbie lets rip like Dark Bublé on everyone’s favourite Crimbo classic. What he’s done here is reasonably special. He’s managed to do a cover that everyone in the family will accept is decent – centrist Dad, drunk Nanny and deliberately obtuse younger brother, all should be in favour. Nothing much to say about this because we all know the score, but it does end a nice sign-off: Rob wishing us “Merry Christmas, mate.” And yourself, son.
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) ft. Bryan Adams"
Emma: Ah yes, it isn't Christmas without a feature from… Canadian rocker and ambassador of humanitarian causes Bryan Adams! A particularly impassioned duet, this cover of Darlene Love’s 1963 breakup song is a timely reminder of what the 25th of December is truly about: pain, loneliness and regret.
Just kidding, haha! What do you think we listen to Christmas songs for, the lyrics? Grow up. We listen to them because their lovely bells and throbbing trumpets pump us through two to three hours of necessary potato peeling, sprout halving and parsnip roasting. It’s background music for having a pint at 10AM and drowning out whatever your uncle is saying so there isn’t a fist fight before dinner. They are forces of blind optimism, and I cannot think of anything more spiritually boosting than Robbie Williams and Bryan Adams gutturally roaring the words “CHRISTMAAAAAS!” and “PLEASE!” in unison.
"Santa Baby ft. Helene Fischer"
Lauren: Robbie Williams is a shagger if ever I saw one, so of course he pulls off “Santa Baby,” the horniest Christmas song ever committed to wax, with ease. Christmas horniness is famously an epidemic (explain to me why so many people you know were born in September??) and it’s arguable that “Santa Baby” is at least 50 percent responsible: something about doo-wop backing vocals and innuendos based on the words “slip” and “chimney” (sorry) are apparently catnip for parents. Upon hearing this version by the Robster and the German singer Helene Fischer (her voice is what you hear when you say to your phone “Siri what is the exact sound that turns dads on”), expect that statistic to increase to about 90 percent.
"Bad Sharon ft. Tyson Fury"
NB: “Bad Sharon” by Robbie Williams ft. Tyson Fury (?) is such a banger that we argued over who would get to write about it for quite a long time until it was decided that we could just all do it. Behold the mini-”Bad Sharon” roundtable:
Hannah: This Bad Sharon could only evoke one woman for me, so obviously I’ve immediately got a Sharon Watts and Phil Mitchell montage on the brain. The intro takes you right back to the godforsaken Franz Ferdinand-Kaiser Chiefs era of indie pop-rock, and for a second, wearing an imaginary fedora and waistcoat, I worried Rob had gone off course. Naturally I should have trusted him. Those nasty little sax lines have their part to play in Robbie’s twisted romp.
Emma: The name "Sharon" carries very specific connotations. Sharon is not a shy or timid figure. She’s not someone who shows up, has a quiet one and leaves. She’s a wildcard, a character, a ballbuster. The kind of woman who has altercations in Superdrug and a mini-fridge full of vodka mixers at home. Robbie, voice of ‘everyday’ England that he is, knows this – and that’s why he’s selected ‘Sharon’ as the vivid centrepiece for what is surely the greatest original Christmas belter of the century.
Lauren: And what a belter it is. Instrumentally it’s basically an enormous, Christmas-themed rip off of “It Must Be Love” by Madness (well known as one of the best songs to be blind drunk and draped over your friends to), and conceptually I think you’ll find it’s a festive emancipation of the worker. “Grab Bad Sharon from the office,” Robbie instructs. Free her from the shackles of her enforced labour! And then “nick the champagne” – re-appropriate the signifiers of the bourgeoisie! – for good measure!
Hannah: Only He would tell us repeatedly to “go get off your face”. I also love that he nods to the two vital tenets of the millennial post-nuclear family Christmas: “Love your friends” and “spend spend spend”.
Emma: It seems to me that Robbie, clean and sober since the year 2000, is keeping the flame of his former partying days alive through his music, which explains why it’s so virile. This track (featuring heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury calling everyone “dossers” for some reason?), is flanter incarnate. This track is wearing a paper hat and sticking it on you at Pitcher and Piano. There’s no other way to put it: this track is having an absolute laugh. Astonishing, really, for something that sounds like it was written by The Script.