Robbie Williams makes his long-awaited comeback later this year with an album released in November and his latest song, Bodies, regularly on the radio.
I'm not a massive fan of Robbie's music but there's no doubting that he's something of a cultural icon. His forthcoming album Reality Killed the Video Star is dominating the charts on future release charts. And to his credit, Bodies, his comeback single isn't safe: not a ballad, but a sound that will appeal to a slightly more adult audience.
There's no doubt that spirituality plays an important part in the track. It opens with Gregorian chant and ends with a gospel choir. And whilst the lyrics sometimes feel somewhat forced, there's some interesting mileage in considering their message.
One of the lyrics at the end of the track is 'Jesus didn't die for you / What do you want?' I happened to hear an interview with Robbie on the radio over the weekend and there's no doubt that in part this is an effort to attract headlines through shock. But I wonder if there's more going on in the song.
There are masses of spiritual references: not only to Jesus, but also to the Bodhi tree (where the Buddha apparently received his revelations). In the interview I heard, Robbie confessed that although he'd been raised a Roman Catholic, he no longer knew who to pray to. He joked that the previous night he'd prayed to the Archangel Michael because he liked the look of his muscles, and also intimated that he enjoyed reading atheist writings by Richard Dawkins.
And I wonder if that brings the hearer to the crux of the song. Robbie sings about 'bodies' ('Bodies in the Bodhi tree / bodies making chemistry / bodies on my family...). Yet the song seems to point to a conviction that humans are more than just bodies finding themselves in space and time at a particular point ('Praying for the rapture / Cause it's strange, getting stranger'). Perhaps above all, though, the song represents a fear that the need for Jesus is merely a psychological need that we all have: possibly the need to be accepted as we are ('All we've ever wanted is to look good naked / That someone can take it / God save me rejection from my rejection / I want perfection').
And so the song closes, with Robbie singing that 'Jesus didn't really die for you', whilst a gospel choir sings 'Jesus really died for you'. I wonder: is this an argument that is going on in Robbie's head? Is Jesus merely a projection of our needs?
For more on Jesus being a psychological crutch or wish-fulfilment, click here, or see my post Is God merely a psychological crutch for the weak?