This past September, Pope Francis dropped his first single,“Wake up! Go! Go! Forward!” from his new album Wake Up!. Rumors surrounding this bold artistic choice have circulated for months, calling the album “Christian rock,” “pop rock,” “progressive rock,” and “rock-infused,” along with all manner of generally confused commentary. Well, the album came out on iTunes on November 27, so the rumors can finally be put to rest.
The album includes eleven tracks which feature His Holiness’s speeches in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese along with arrangements from prominent Italian artists like Tony Pagliuca, Giuseppe Dati, and Dino Doni, whose talents span several genres, from progressive rock to orchestral music. A portion of the album’s proceeds will go towards the support of refugees, though precise details such as organizations or percentages have not yet been announced.
The Vatican press release characterized the album as “hymns…reimagined by contemporary composers and musicians with Pope Francis’ voice” containing commentary on “universal issues such as peace, the environment, taking care of the people most in need, faith and family.” The BBC’s review contains some mixed impressions, referring to “a vibe of 80s rock” and the “hauntingly beautiful” quality of some of the tracks. In his Rolling Stone interview, Don Giulio Neroni, the producer of the album, explained that “the voice of Pope Francis in Wake Up! dialogues music…and contemporary music (rock, pop, Latin etc.) dialogues the Christian tradition of sacred hymns.” Neroni has worked with two previous popes as well. John Paul II’s original devotional compositions made up Abba Pater (1999), and Benedict XVI’s Music From The Vatican: Alma Mater (2009), closer to the format of Wake Up!, featured “modern classical music” alongside speeches and hymns performed by the pope.
While unconventional at first sight, it seems as if Pope Francis is continuing the budding, largely unnoticed tradition of papal participation in pop music. Yes, this is really happening. No, it’s not a prank. You can preview the album yourself on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Spotify (see playlist below).
Photo credit Rolando Mailo Wikimedia Commons.