Videos with Religion as core subject: “It´s a Sin”, “Sadness Part 1” and “Like a Prayer” have been a big part of our popular culture.
“It´s a Sin” – Pet Shop Boys
It is the first time one of my favorite bands is featured here and that is none other than Pet Shop Boys. I will write more about them in a post. SOON. The song is the lead single for the band´s “Actually” album. It was released in June 1987. The song was written by Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant (one of the most distinguishable voices in electronic music?) and it quotes Latin masses, specifically “The Confiteor” (its name meaning “I confess” and is one of the prayers that can be said during the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass in the Roman Rite in the Catholic church). Tennant has said that he wrote the lyrics in 15 minutes, purging his emotions in a moment of frustration and anger.
“When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too”
“At school they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn’t quite succeed”
The last thing I have to say about that is I am glad they didn’t succeed.
“Like a Prayer” – Madonna
It´s been four months and I can´t believe this is the first post of ours to deconstruct a video by Madonna…I promise I will make up for that and do another post about her. She is certainly royalty and I will not ignore her any longer. (Victor, I know you are reading, so here you go <3). It was released in March 3- 1989 as the Lead Single for her album with the same name as the track. It was written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, and it showed Madonna´s more personal approach to songwriting. The video was directed by Mary Lambert and evokes images of rape, white supremacy, cross burning, the singer dreaming about having sex with a black saint and the struggle between doing what is easy (running away) or doing what is right (testify as a witness in defense of the wrongly accused). The video created WORLD WIDE CHAOS…the reaction from different groups, the media and the Church was astonishing. You could not pay for the amount of publicity that video got (or could you? Maybe she did and that is why she became known and respected as an artist that could “sell a concept” ? Maybe theories about her being a puppet for the Illuminati are true and “they” paid for it? These are questions for you to ponder, I have enough things going over and over in my head). Growing up in a Catholic country, I cannot overstate WHAT A HUGE SCANDAL it was. This is a country where we still have Senators (legitimately elected politicians) still discussing music videos. Just last month there was a National Scandal with the declarations a Senator made against Shakira and Rhianna´s latest video. AS IF THEY DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT!
As mentioned before, the video does present very strong and racy images. This one with the crosses burning in the background while she shows us her cleavage is something that if today we might find a tad controversial (and may I ask, unnecessary?) in 1989 was the strongest thing out there. It was almost “Blasphemy”. The definition of blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God, religious or holy persons or things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Another strong moment in the video is when she presents herself as a Stigmata (body marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to Jesus Christ´s crucifixion wounds).
The Catholic Church, Muslim and Jewish leaders joined together to condemn her. I remember the video was a conversation going on in dinner parties, school and my aunts card game ( one day I will write about that card game and the words and wisdom and also the “wrongness” of it) and many people went as far as suggesting she be excommunicated. I personally don´t think she goes to church every Sunday. Also, in the 25 years since the video came out (SHIT! I NEED TO STOP COUNTING YEARS, this is another reason I am afraid of numbers, few things can make me feel as old as numbers). Anyway,though the past quarter of a century the video went to a second place to be replaced by her live performances of this song (there are several in my mind, but I can recall the Live 8 performance she did in Hyde Park in the year 2005…the song went from being a “controversial” song to becoming almost an anthem for Spirituality. Plus, I don’t think Gospel has ever sounded so funky.
“Sadness Part One” – Enigma
“Sadeness (Part I)” is a song by German musical project Enigma. It was released in 1990 and became an international hit. Of the three videos, it is personally the one that impacted me the most and I actually remember the first time I watched it I was scared. I was confused by the moaning in the Gregorian chants and in general I just felt they had gone too far. That was probably because I used to go after school with my mom to my grandma´s house and listen in on the card game conversation. Today, I find the song one of the more memorable ones of the 90´s and the video as well. I found 2 interesting interpretations of the song:
The lyrics are in Latin and French and include a quotation of the Psalm 24:7 – 8. The first part of the Psalm is:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
The man who falls asleep at the beginning of the video is the famous Marquis de Sade. The song plays with the idea of sadism as a sexual/spiritual practice.
Sade, tell me
Sade, give it to me (“give it to me” is a sexual reference)
Let us come in peace (a play on the word “come”)
In the name of Christ, Amen (a teasing sacrilegious reference in this context).
I will let you chose the one that suits you most.
These videos have several things in common: They were released in the late 1980´s, beginning of 1990´s, they were all “dance” records but they all had a deep message, introvert and personal, the singers wrote the songs, and the songs were used later on as anthems for the oppressed, specially the Gay community. That time lapse was also an important moment for that community as a whole, when artists started coming out more frequently and there was a sense of community because of all the deaths resulting from the AIDS epidemic. When they came out, they generated controversy and ire from radical groups and people around the years. But, as I read a few days ago (can´t quote because I don’t remember who or the exact words) but it said something like the objective of art is to shake the comfortable and comfort the shaken…these songs, although considered attention seeking and temporary its, became for a large fragment of music fans the comfort, the relatable quality, and formed links between the artist and the audience, the kind of closeness and intimacy that only comes from sharing one´s dark side. When that connection happens, when there is no longer a division between “you” and “me” , when there is a sense of “oneness”…it is almost a religious experience. That is what music does.It doesn’t matter to me what “established religion” might have to say about an artist and their creative risks: if it elevates you to a place of oneness and love and understanding, then that for me is what spirituality is all about. That is my type of religion. Music is my religion.