Dec 15

SHAGGY ft RAYVON – “Angel”

Popular24 comments • 3,035 views

#899, 9th June 2001

shaggy angel “Angel” looks like a momentum hit – a song carried along in its predecessor’s slipstream. It’s the weakest Shaggy song we meet, with none of the chutzpah or fun you’d expect from him. But three weeks at the top here and a Billboard #1 suggest this more reflective, romantic Shaggy won an audience in its own right. “Angel”, after all, is kit-built for wide appeal. It has the bassline from Steve Miller’s “The Joker”, the melody line from a much-recorded country standard, and Shaggy’s gruff toasting deployed – as on “It Wasn’t Me” – in brief, newcomer-friendly, patois-free bursts.

The smoothness of the blend does cloy – Rayvon is no help in that – and “Angel” is dancehall at its most diluted. Next to other crossovers of the time – like the arcade game soundscape of Beenie Man’s “Girls Dem Sugar” – “Angel” seems especially uninspired. But there’s a little more depth to it than I imagined. The theme is “Always On My Mind” rewritten for a hard-knock life, with Shaggy’s narrator thanking his long-suffering lady for standing by him through prison and bad behaviour. It’s the mirror of “It Wasn’t Me” – Shaggy as an ageing player again, but this time a repentant one. If he pulls it off at all, it’s because – just like on the earlier hit – he has the most forgiveable of voices, that lived-in baritone which can make this weak material listenable.



  1. 1
    JLucas on 30 Dec 2015 #

    A fairly cynical #1 here from Shaggy, but as you identify it’s saved by his charismatic delivery. Given how spotty his chart career has always been, I suppose you can’t blame him for playing safe.

    I remember this as being absolutely massive – it was a perfect summer chart topper really, very warm, relaxed and radio friendly. It was helped by a surprisingly quiet month for new releases too. Highest new entries in each of its weeks were Sing by Travis (#3), We Come 1 by Faithless (#3) and All I Want by Mis-Teeq (#2), none of which posed a serious threat.

    The next time Shaggy challenged for a #1 – and mercifully didn’t quite get there – was on ‘Me Julie’ with Ali G, a shark jump moment for both characters, although Shaggy had a few more minor hits and a modest revival just this year. Sacha Baron Cohen would of course retire the Ali G character shortly afterwards and reach greater heights with other characters who thankfully resisted the temptation to release novelty records.

    5 for this. Uninspired, but I can’t bring myself to dislike it.

  2. 2
    mapman132 on 31 Dec 2015 #

    The best known version of “Angel in the Morning” in the US would probably be Juice Newton’s #4 hit in 1981 – I’m guessing that never made it across the pond.

    As Tom mentioned, this also hit #1 in the US, for just one week though. I think I covered the strangeness of Shaggy’s US chart career in the IWM entry. This was his last appearance on the Hot 100 (not counting a Featuring credit on a minor hit from 2014 that I have no memory of).

  3. 3
    lonepilgrim on 31 Dec 2015 #

    I think I want Shaggy to be more disreputable than he is on this song – it’s as if he wants to make amends for his attitude on ‘It wasn’t me’ and show a more positive attitude towards women. I still love the way he wraps his tongue around in-CARSSA-RAYSHUN which at least hints that his wicked side may be temporarily suppressed.

  4. 4
    Mark M on 31 Dec 2015 #

    Re2: The Juice Newton version got to No43 in the UK chart, so almost but not quite a proper hit. As has been mentioned in Popular’s past, Angel Of The Morning was written by Chip Taylor, who also wrote Wild Thing… And is a trivia quiz question fave, being Jon Voight’s brother and thus Angelina Jolie’s uncle.

  5. 5
    Chelovek na lune on 31 Dec 2015 #

    Magic FM in London (as I think Melody Radio) had become by then, had been playing the Juice Newton version on heavy rotation in the very late 90s/early 2000s – not sure how much of a crossover between Magic FM listeners and those likely to have bought this there is though…

    But yeah, kind of a kit-of-parts record made for MTV from Shaggy and co ; but, hey, the parts are pretty decent, as are the performers. In no way dislikeable. 6

  6. 6
    AMZ1981 on 31 Dec 2015 #

    Angel was, as Tom says, a slipstream number one with the odd distinction of spending two weeks more at number one than its predecessor. This was largely timing as It Wasn’t Me had two massive number one singles on its heels while Angel came out during a relatively quiet sales period. It still sold enough to wind up the eighth biggest seller of the year.

    Angel probably sounds a bit so so when listened to fourteen years on; I suspect at the time (I was still skulking in my bedroom with depression so can’t be certain) it translated well on the radio and probably soundtracked a fair few summer romances.

    I’ve just had a glance of Shaggy’s discography on Wikipedia which made for interesting reading (I’d forgotten all about his take on Piece Of My Heart which was his biggest hit between Boombastic and It Wasn’t Me). I can’t think of any other artists who have scored four number one singles over an eight year period and yet ended up so little remembered. That said there are plenty of artists who have had their hits come in bursts with lesser hits and flops inbetween – Shaggy’s achievement was to do this during an era where the fanbase artist ruled.

  7. 7
    thefatgit on 31 Dec 2015 #

    I’d be surprised if anyone had this on their summertime playlist, even if it seems tailor made to be on one. That being said, there’s nothing at all wrong with “Angel” other than it relies a little too much on the cleverness of the mashup. I definitely think Shaggy is phoning it in here, but despite this, there’s something about “Angel” that persuades me to rate it a 5.

  8. 8
    enitharmon on 31 Dec 2015 #

    Ah yes, a rip-off of Chip Taylor’s Angel of the Morning, a hit in about 1968 for (I think) PP Arnold in the UK and Merrilee Rush in the US (making it surely the best-known version in the US, not some subsequent 1981 cover. I have a recollection that a lot of people had a go at it at the time but not all of them made it. Merrilee Rush’s version got a lot of airplay in the UK alongside PP’s. Both versions IMHO far, far more deserving of a number one slot than this pile of excrement!

  9. 9
    Ronnie on 1 Jan 2016 #

    > (making it surely the best-known version in the US, not some subsequent 1981 cover.)

    As an American, pretty sure you’re wrong about this.

  10. 10
    Mark M on 1 Jan 2016 #

    Re8/9: What’s your reasoning/evidence here, Rosie? The Juice Newton version was the biggest hit. (Genuine inquiry, not attempted shutdown).

  11. 11
    Erithian on 1 Jan 2016 #

    Bit of a curiosity this. The biggest UK hit version of “Angel of the Morning” had also been a kind of mash-up: with another Chip Taylor song, “Any Way That You Want Me”, a No 27 hit in late 1977 for Mary Mason, a British singer who Wiki tells me had lost out in Eurovision to “Rock Bottom” earlier that year. I think I was aware at the time that it was an older song, possibly by way of Noel Edmonds who played a lot of this type of thing and might have played Merrilee Rush, although the name’s not familiar to me.

    Agree with others upthread on how hard this is to dislike – maybe not for dancehall purists but a well-worked crossover incorporating country and a rock riff, and the vocals are charming – while savouring that “incarssa-rayshun” line I was even reminded of “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”! And that line “closer than my peeps you are to me” – is this the spirit of Harry Enfield’s Stavros popping up? Note too that we were pretty much spared Shaggy’s opinions on setting fire to homosexuals, which made him the more palatable face of dancehall – although from what I could find online just now, absence of homophobia appears to have been a commercial rather than purely moral decision.

    Time for the traditional annual review. Here’s where we’ve been at the end of each calendar year:
    2003 Great Balls Of Fire (#66, Jan 58 – 5 years 2 months, 66 entries in the year)
    2004 A World Without Love (#167, Apr 64 – 6 years 3 months, 101)
    2005 Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine (#222, Aug 66 – 2 years 4 months, 55)
    2006 Get It On (#302, Jul 71 – 4 years 11 months, 80)
    2007 Lonely This Christmas (#362, Dec 74 – 3 years 5 months, 60)
    2008 This Ole House (#477, Mar 81 – 6 years 3 months, 115 (plus the Pistols!))
    2009 I Want To Wake Up With You (#575, Aug 86 – 5 years 5 months, 98)
    2010 World In Motion (#646, Jun 90 – 3 years 10 months, 71)
    2011 No Limit (#685, Feb 93 – 2 years 8 months, 39)
    2012 Doop (#703, Mar 94 – 1 year 1 month, 18)
    2013 Forever Love (#742, Jul 96 – 2 years 4 months, 39)
    2014 I Have a Dream/Seasons in the Sun (#844, Dec 99 – 3 years 5 months, 102)
    2015 Angel (#899, Jun 01 – 1 year 7 months, 55)

    So the second shortest timespan we’ve covered in a year, although we’ve had a few years with fewer entries. 2015 saw the same number of entries as 2005, when we were looking at the 60s’ greatest years (although that was before some of us had discovered Popular). We’re 2 years 3 months, 62 entries, away from a landmark in this project, and maybe that’s the target for this year. A happy new year to all Populistas.

  12. 12
    mapman132 on 3 Jan 2016 #

    FWIW, I just googled “angel in the morning”. Juice Newton came up first.

  13. 13
    Andrew on 3 Jan 2016 #

    #11 is the landmark the single that was at number one when Popular started?

  14. 14
    PurpleKylie on 3 Jan 2016 #

    I forgot this song existed. Just a boring reworking of an older song that has had virtually zero staying power unlike the original. Fanbase hit indeed.


  15. 15
    Erithian on 3 Jan 2016 #

    #13 indeed, although it’s a pea-sized dot on the horizon for now.

  16. 16
    Tommy Mack on 4 Jan 2016 #

    How 2001 is that artwork?!

  17. 17
    James BC on 5 Jan 2016 #

    This is great – so likeable, affable, charming and endearing but still with an edge from the lyrics about going to prison. It’s true there isn’t much to it, but its lightly worn sincerity is such a delight that it can’t outstay its welcome. Full marks to Shaggy for having another gem ready to put out after the utterly unexpected novelty-driven success of It Wasn’t Me.

  18. 18
    enitharmon on 6 Jan 2016 #

    Ronny @9 and Mark @10 – because it was known to an earlier generation from 1968 and presumably had at least some radio coverage in the intervening years before Fig, sorry, Juice Newton came along! Ok, ok, perhaps the best known version to my generation, which happens to have been the generation to have heard the song first!

    Always a tricky one, this ‘best-known’ version thing. When I was doing University Challenge as a mature Open University student I came horribly unstuck (fortunately in rehearsals), misidentifying the performers of Eloise (Barry Ryan, innit, not The Damned) and Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum (qv), naturally).

  19. 19
    Mark M on 6 Jan 2016 #

    Re18: I wonder whether in this case the ‘best-known version’ question is actually the key one. Until this week, if you’d asked me, I would have said that obviously I know the song, and have heard it dozens of times, but I couldn’t put a name to it. And having listened to both the Juice Newton and Merrilee Rush versions, I didn’t feel I recognised the arrangement of either – they sounded more distinctly early ’80s and late ’60s respectively than how I hear the song in my head. It might be that the first version I heard was a ’70s country version, but my point is that it’s essentially become a standard – i.e. it ‘belongs’ to nobody/everybody.

  20. 20
    Mark M on 6 Jan 2016 #

    Re18/19: And, perhaps relevant in the context, there have been a bunch of Jamaican versions, starting with Joya Landis already in 1968, and including (in one of the rarer male-sung versions) the great Pat Kelly.

  21. 21
    James BC on 7 Jan 2016 #

    I’ve realised I did know Angel In The Morning from somewhere – it pops up as a little interlude during the Fugees’ Rumble In The Jungle. This has no real relevance but I wanted to say that I’d forgotten about that track and it sounds even better now than it did then. Wyclef/John Forte/Lauryn/Q-Tip/Other Quest guy/Pras/BUSTA RHYMES is quite the parade of MCs.

  22. 22
    Mark M on 16 Jan 2016 #

    Re: assorted – the Juice Newton version of Angel Of The Morning crops up as a jukebox oldie during a key present day scene in True Detective season one. They’re talking over it so you would struggle to hear which version it was if you hadn’t just seen it being selected in the jukebox.

  23. 23
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2016 #

    Angel Of The Morning version watch: it’s Juice Newton (again) over the opening credits of Deadpool.

  24. 24
    Gareth Parker on 6 Jun 2021 #

    A routine run through of a good song. 3/10 imho.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page