Pope Francis’ debut album Wake Up! dropped internationally today, and the reviews are in: it’s not half bad.
As Russia Today reports, Pope Francis didn’t actually step into a recording studio himself and shred face-melting guitar riffs; rather, the album is a collection of Francis’ speeches, given all over the world between 2013 and 2015. Various Italian artists and producers provided the music.
The album, as a whole, is described by Newsweek as “prog-rock inspired.” “Prog-rock,” or “Progressive Rock,” was a form of rock music that involved elevating traditional rock and roll by adding complex instrumentation, non-traditional instruments, and often deep or surreal lyrics. The form peaked in the 1970s with acts like Kansas, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson.
True to Prog-Rock form, Pope Francis’ debut album covers a variety of musical forms, from Latin chants to soft rock, and just about everything in between. Amid the Andean flutes, string sections, choruses, and all manner of other instruments are some of the Pope’s speeches in Italian, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
“Wake Up! Is about as strange a journey as listening to the prog classic In the Court of the Crimson King. But as the Pope himself says (in Spanish) on the album, ‘faith is whole and does not liquify.'”
The album’s first track (“Wake Up! Go! Go Froward!”), which was released in Italy earlier this year, impressed Spin Magazine‘s Dan Weiss to the point that Weiss drew comparisons to Modest Mouse and The Police.
“The two things you’ll immediately notice about the song are 1. that it rocks and 2. that it’s not bad at all. It might even be really good; it’s got guitarists involved who understand the arched-bow bends of Modest Mouse’s ‘The Whale Song’ as well as Iron Maiden solos… And the Pope’s drummer builds enough tension on those hi-hats to make the listener at least flash on the arena-squared trickiness of Incubus or even the Police.”
The album’s second track, “Por qué sufren los ninos?,” (“Why do the children suffer?”) is described by Spin Magazine writer James Grebey as “kind of a bummer.”
Other songs on the album include “Cuidar el Planeta” (“Take Care of the Planet”), in which the Pope warns that “Earth never forgives,” and “La Iglesia No Puede Ser Una ONG!” (“The Church Must Not Be An NGO”) (NOTE: In this context, the Pope is referring to non-government organizations (NGO’s) — in other words, he’s saying the church must not reduce itself to being like the United Way or the YMCA).
Don Giulio Neroni, the album’s producer, says he was inspired to set the Pope’s speeches to music and record an album because of Francis’ humility, approachability, and down-to-earth attitude. Francis has eschewed the regal trappings of the Papal apartments in favor of humble dwelling in a Roman guest house. Unlike his predecessor, Pope Francis has endeared himself to Catholics and non-Catholics alike through taking a softer stance on Catholic doctrines in favor of reconciliation and inclusiveness.
May my visit to Africa be a sign of the Church’s esteem for all religions, and strengthen our bonds of friendship.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) November 26, 2015
“The idea was born from the moment that Pope Francis came out on the balcony and said ‘Dear brothers and sisters, good evening’. With that ‘good evening’ I saw that this pope was completely different from all the others.”
Ten percent of the proceeds from Pope Francis’ album will go to a charity that supports refugees, including Ehtiopian refugees currently littering the streets of Rome.
As of this post, it is not clear if the Pope’s speeches will be set to a follow-up album.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]