The Christmas Present (Deluxe)
“What is it about Christmas music that people love so much?” Robbie Williams wonders aloud to Apple Music. “Well, music is an enhancement of everybody’s lives and it becomes a fixture and a time machine to good times and bad times. I would suggest that for most people, Christmas is a joyous occasion so they get euphoric recall where they’re taken back to moments that they can’t quite remember but know that they were times of comfort and joy and happiness. I’m here for it, I get it.”
With a double album celebrating all sides of the season—burnished by guests including Rod Stewart, the boxer Tyson Fury and his own father—Williams is most certainly here for Christmas. It’s a natural fit. The pop icon lavishes everything here with full-wattage charm, and as 2001’s big-band covers record Swing When You’re Winning showed, he knows his way round a timeless standard.
Those standards are fine additions to the traditional Christmas canon (there’s crackling chemistry with German superstar Helene Fischer on “Santa Baby”, and the bombastic take on Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” is a glitzy treat), but it’s the playful originals that provide the star atop the tree. “Snowflakes” is gloriously arch, “Bad Sharon” celebrates debauched, resolutely British fun, while “Happy Birthday Jesus Christ” is a personal Williams favourite. “It’s the most enjoyable song to sing on the album,” he says. “It’s subversive and funny and a damn fine lyric if I do say so myself.” Sample line: “Everything’s so overpriced/Like Justin Bieber’s merchandise.” And how would Williams himself describe his bumper festive offering? “Joyous. Comforting.” A pause. “And expensive.”