Robbie Williams wants to take Christmas back from Michael Bublé – and I am here for it

He was going to call his newly announced Christmas album 'Achtung Bublé'

So this is Christmas.

Well, no, it’s October – but proper pop star Robbie Williams has started the season in earnest already, having announced the release of his upcoming festive album, ‘The Christmas Present’, along with the news that he’s hosting a massive ‘Christmas Party’ at London’s SSE Arena on December 16.

The album’s (slightly weird) artwork depicts Robbie as a sort of Dickensian character brandishing a copy of his own album. Robbie’s never been shy about his egotism, and it’s easy to imagine him wrapping up a copy of his own record to under slip under the Christmas tree. I just wanna feeeeeel the package to see if I can guess what it is.

He made the announcement at a swish club in central London last night, which was like a cross between a Christmas market and an episode of The Only Way Is Essex. The mulled wine flowed, waiters paraded around with silver trays of teeny, tiny mince pies and a selection of the seasonal tracks – there are 28 of buggers – blared from the speakers. And then Robbie arrived to dish out quotes like twinkling stocking fillers.

“You’re always looking for a reason to go into the studio,” he told interviewer Scott Mills during a short Q&A. “And I thought: ‘Why don’t I own birthdays like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder? Or New Year’s Day like… U2?” He then thought twice about Bono’s ode to Polish trade union battles in the 1980s. “Well, it’s a bit depressing, that one, isn’t it? You wouldn’t put that one on for a shindig.”

Mills countered that festive crooner Michael Bublé, who seems to have had the monopoly on Christmas since Santa was a lad, shouldn’t get all the work. “This album was gonna be called ‘Achtung Buble’, Robbie replied. “I fucking love Michael, but it must stop. It must end now.”

Imagine: 28 tracks of pure festive Robbie. I don’t wanna rock, DJ, but you’re making me feel so Christmas spice. Some are covers of festival favourites, others are brand new compositions. There’s one called ‘Snowflakes’, a newbie on which Robbie winks, “We’re all just liberal snowflakes”. He also ropes in Jamie Cullum to have a go at Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas’ – and it’s not even a lump of coal.

Rod Stewart’s on the album. So’s Bryan Adams. The rowdy knees-up ‘Bad Sharon’, another new one , features guest vocals from boxer Tyson Fury.

Wait –­ what?

“That makes sense in some sort of universe,” Robbie insisted. “I got my residency in Vegas [in 2017 and last year] and while I was out there, I went to his dressing room. Do you call it a dressing room when it’s a fight? Anyway, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you sing after bouts’. So I asked him and he said yes. The song itself, ‘Bad Sharon’, is a very boozy office party somewhere in the Midlands. To be fair, Tyson smashed it.”

It’s amazing that Robbie’s never done a Christmas album before. He’s done enough bloody swing albums – it’s kind of the next logical conclusion. There’s been something of a Robbie renaissance in recent years, from his blockbuster Hyde Park show over the summer – which NME saw as a smash-hit try-out for what would surely be a legendary Glastonbury slot – to the fact that ‘Rock DJ’ became an unofficial anthem for the #Cans4Corbyn movement, back when everyone thought Jeremy Corbyn was good.

So it’s brilliant to see him preparing to become a Christmas staple, transition from boyband bad boy to uncle Robbie complete. What an end to the decade.

Still, he really should have called the album ‘Achtung Bublé’.

‘The Christmas Present’ is released on November 22. Robbie Williams plays London’s SSE Arena on December 16