So, get this: the Pope is releasing a rock album. Need a minute? It's a pretty bizarre story, all things considered, considering the 78-year-old pontiff is notably not a musician, and he's never had an album out before. But nonetheless, his debut is scheduled for release in November, titled "Wake Up!" And if you're anything like me, you're dying to know what kind of sound he's going for with this thing — here's what the first track of Pope Francis' rock album sounds like. And there's a sentence I thought I would never write.
I'm talking about the first track that's been released (which is actually the seventh one on the album). It's called "Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!" It clocks in at a solid five minutes and 12 seconds — that's just 40 seconds shorter than Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," by the by. So, what does this thing actually sound like?
Suffice it to say, it's maybe the most literal interpretation of "Christian Rock" ever recorded, led by audio of Pope Francis speaking in English over some backing instrumentals. According to the magazine, the audio was taken from a trip to South Korea, where just over 10 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, back in 2014.
Look, it's easy to poke fun at things. Francis' singing voice — that is to say, his talking-over-music voice — isn't exactly the smoothest, most sonorous sound ever recorded. To the contrary, it's a little creaky in comparison to the soaring background music, which as Rolling Stone detailed in announcing the release, makes ample use of synth horns and electric guitar crescendos. It's fair to debate what precise category of music the track fits into — over at Consequence of Sound, Alex Young described it as prog rock, which is actually pretty spot-on from the sound of it.
Here are some of the lyrics from Francis' speech that play over the music, leading up to an outright song that starts in just shy of the four-minute mark. Needless to say, limiting the singing to the final fifth of a five-minute track is asking a lot of most music lovers, but this is a unique case — the people who really appreciate this album are probably those who're already in line with Francis' brand of Catholicism, and shared religious faith has a way of putting a perceptual shine on things. Here's some of what Francis actually says during the song — it's a partial transcription, as his English isn't always entirely clear.
Wake up. Wake up. The Lord speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations, and the sins ... to dull our sensibility to the beauty of holiness. ... invite us constantly to be glad, and sing for each other. No one who sleeps can sing, dance, or rejoice. ... Wake up! Go, go, go ahead. ... God, our God, has blessed us. From him, we have received mercy. ... It is by his mercy that we are saved. Asian youth, wake up!
In other words, it's fairly customary faith-based rhetoric, although amped up with the production value of an inspiration-driven rock band. In other words, it probably won't hold much for you if you're not the God-fearing type, or at the very least, someone with a sense of spirituality and a fondness for Francis' reformist image. But there are a lot of people for whom those things are true — the Catholic Church claims to represent more than one billion people around the world.
The album will also feature lines from Francis' speeches in a variety of different languages, which will certain help expand its reach. It'll boast 11 tracks in total, so ten you haven't heard already, and it'll be coming out on Nov. 27. If you think you want to purchase a copy, you can already pre-order it on iTunes.