Once dismissed as no more than "the fat dancer" from boy band Take That, Robbie Williams will this week be named in a select group of artists vying to be recognised as the creator of the greatest modern song by a Briton.
Williams is a leading contender beside Kate Bush, David Bowie and Sir Elton John for a special prize at this year's Brit Awards - the Oscars ceremony of the UK music business - for the best song of the past three decades.
The full list will be announced tomorrow and broadcast on Radio 2 in a show presented by Davina McCall. The Clash, Joy Division and The Jam are also said to be in line for the award.
Williams, 30, is the favourite to win with "Angels", the end-of-party anthem which shot him to stardom as a solo singer. In November he was chosen to be inducted into Channel 4's Music Hall of Fame as the greatest act of the 1990s, and in a Virgin Radio poll published last week, "Angels" was named fifth-greatest song of all time and the highest ranking track to be eligible for the Brits award.
One potential challenger, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", is out of the running for the award because it was released in 1975. The band have been included for their hit "We Are the Champions".
Although "Angels" peaked at number four in early 1998, it was a consistent seller, shifting more than a million copies. Williams is proud of the song, but irritated that many people assume it was written by his former co-writer, Guy Chambers, from whom he split after a row about money. He said recently: "It pees me off because everyone thinks Guy penned 'Let Me Entertain You' and 'Angels', but they're my songs."
Chambers has acknowledged the contribution: "In the main he was responsible for the lyrics and melody, and I did the music. It was very equal. Rob knew exactly what he wanted to say, and how he wanted to say it."
Other prize contenders, which will be voted for by Radio 2 listeners, include "Dry Your Eyes" by The Streets, David Bowie's "Heroes", "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
Stuart Maconie, who presents Radio 2's Critical List, was not convinced "Angels" was worthy of being ranked with the greats.
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"It isn't my idea of a great song but I can see what people might see in it. I have to say that I don't understand what 'I'm loving angels instead' actually means."
FAN MAIL AND HATE MAIL
The Clash: 'Rock the Casbah' (1982)
Fan mail: "The incendiary lyrics of The Clash inspired 1,000 more bands to spring up and challenge their elders." (Billy Bragg)
Hate mail: "They were beholden to cliché, their every discount riff, 'spontaneous' guitar demolition and mucus-filled roar plucked from the lichen betwixt the flagstones of 60s rock." (The Guardian)
The Streets: 'Dry Your Eyes' (2004)
Fan mail: "Half Dostoevsky's 'Notes From Underground', half Samuel Pepys." (Professor John Sutherland of UCL)
Hate mail: "The entire tone of his music is completely idle, as if he couldn't care less about who or what would be listening. It's boring to say the least." (Urban Wire magazine)
Queen: 'We Are the Champions' (1977)
Fan mail: "For total and utter unadulterated, no-holds-barred entertainment, you just cannot beat [Queen]. Christ on a bike, those guys know how to put on a show." (Justin Hawkins, The Darkness)
Hate mail: "Queen were always the most wildly over-rated band in the world." (Tony Parsons)
Robbie Williams: 'Angels' (1998)
Fan mail: "If there were more Robbie Williamses in this business it would be a great business to be in now. He works hard and he has his ups and downs, but he's almost the perfect pop star." (Simon Cowell)
Hate mail: "Sure there are tunes you can hum, passable vocals and what might even be classed as a clever lyric, but to see Robbie hailed as a Britpop institution alongside The Beatles, Tom Jones or Oasis is cringeworthy." (Daily Mirror)
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