In 2014, I thought I was so smart.
I was working on this particular project -- finding pop songs that could be used to reinforce theory topics in a music class -- and scouring message boards and other hobbyist theory websites. I did a lot of the gruntiest grunt work in the weeks between the end of the school year and my monthlong study abroad in London, where I would complete my graduate degree. This particular song came up a lot as an interval example, but I had never heard it. And I consider myself to be relatively knowledgeable in terms of pop music of lots of varieties. I'd heard of Williams, and remembered that his "Millenium" song & video had gotten a lot of airplay in MTV in late 1999. So after multiple listenings of this song and deeper research into Robbie Williams, I was sure I would have a better understanding of British pop music culture and that the Brits would take me as one of their own, having some understanding as to why this song is considered a British pop anthem.
And then I got to London. What did I hear in London (and in Paris and in Edinburgh)? American songs. Everywhere I w. Me, with my newfound knowledge of Robbie Williams and The Stranglers and increased Kate Bush knowledge and increased time spent listening to Cocteau Twins just to acclimate myself to hearing more British pop music in everyday life. I had been so excited for it.
You know what two songs I heard more often in Europe than any others during the summer of 2014? Ariana Grande's "Problem" and Jay-Z & Alicia Keys's "Empire State of Mind." That particular aspect of musical life in Europe was disappointing.
“Angels” - Robbie Williams
Intro: Beginning his career as a member of British boy band Take That, Robbie Williams’s solo career began with his 1997 solo album Life Thru a Lens, from which “Angels” was released as the album’s fourth single. The song peaked at only #4 on the UK singles chart, but maintained enough commercial longevity to sell over 2 million copies in Great Britain and over 3 million copies across Europe. Legend has it that the song took on a new life when Williams performed it at the 1998 Glastonbury Festival. He has won 17 BRIT awards (more than any other artist) and eight German ECHO awards. Williams was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in the organization’s first such ceremony, alongside The Rolling Stones and Queen. Williams continues to perform with the reformed Take That and as a solo artist.
Analysis: Although sung in a relatively low range, making it harder to discern, the first two vocal notes of the song (between the words "I sit", heard below at 0:15) are a major sixth apart. This interval appears several times at the start of phrases in the verses. The large interval heard toward the start of the chorus is a perfect fifth (1:09-1:11; between the words "it - all") and this interval occurs throughout the repetitions of the chorus.
Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no objectionable lyrical material and a generally upbeat, positive message, likely intended to show gratitude and inspire. It serves as a totally non-controversial listening example for teaching melodic intervals. The video, however, does feature a short scene of Williams wearing only his underwear.