When it was announced that Pope Francis I would be releasing an album, the first taste came in the form of "Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!," a sweeping prog number set to grand horns and killer guitar riffs. This led many to believe Wake Up! would be a full-on rock album. Smart move by the Holy See, but the reality is less Rush and more Yanni, set to a myriad of new age sounds, a "greatest hits" of speeches from Francis' career as the Pontifex pushes his message of charity, love, and inclusion.
Pope Francis' message of peace and economic justice has been an inspiration to millions of people all over the world. How's his music? Um ... infallible! Wake Up! sets his speeches and prayers (in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English) to pop, rock and classical compositions performed by Italian session musicians, several with roots in the country's Seventies rock scene.
When it was announced in September that the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church would be releasing a prog rock album, the lay public’s reaction was one of disbelief. Pope Francis has indeed been more progressive than expected since taking the Holy Office in 2013. But papal reforms are one thing. The idea of a 78-year-old man strapping on a guitar and screaming into a microphone is something else entirely.
"Pope Francis releases prog-rock album" could only be a better punchline if the genre was swapped out with "chillwave," and nonetheless, here we are. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 78-year-old Argentine, is the 266th man to hold papal office; he is the first to directly condemn climate change and revive liberation theology and to have worked as a bouncer, and although past popes have released classical/liturgical compilations, Pope Francis is the first to go straight pop. Pope John Paul II, for context, released three albums during his papacy.
The news of Pope Francis' "prog rock album" went viral when it was first announced, but, like a lot of seemingly exciting things on the Internet, the concept turned out to be a little misleading. Most disappointingly, the Pope is not headlining festivals fronting a freaky outfit of Italian experimentalists, adorned in theatrical Peter Gabriel-esque makeup and belting hour-long rock symphonies. .