Why “Bad Religion” Was My Song of the Year

If you would have told me a year ago that, sometime next summer, I would be seen be driving around the hood, volume up, windows down, and jamming away to a love song made by a man clearly and unambiguously speaking about his unrequited romantic love for another man, I would have done two things.

1. Ask what prompted you to make such a randomly specific prediction

2. Say that you must have been mistaken

Why? Well, out of the 1500 or so songs currently stored in my car, maybe 1460 of them are rap related (The other 40? Tracks from the Kill Bill soundtracks.), and I’m just not a “listen to R&B while riding in the whip” type of guy. Also, as much as I’d like to say that the gay thing wouldn’t have mattered because I’m enlightened and intellectual and shop at Trader Joe’s, it definitely would have.

Listening to music is a uniquely personal experience — listeners relate to musicians in a way we rarely do with other types of performers — and hearing it in a car or while rocking headphones is even more intimate. And, while I didn’t consider myself to be particularly homophobic, I would have said that this hyper-intimacy would prevent me from feeling a song I couldn’t “relate” to. Basically, a song about a man falling in love with a man wouldn’t resonate because I’ve never fallen in love with a man.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that “Bad Religion” — the Frank Ocean track whose use of a masculine pronoun prompted Ocean to come out and confirm that he was, in fact, referring to a man when writing it — is the song I’m referring to. (Perhaps the title of this story gave that away.)

What prompted the change from “I wouldn’t do that because I couldn’t relate” to “Not only am I listening, but I’m listening in a way to let everyone within a two block radius know exactly what I’m listening to?” “Bad Religion” is a great f*cking song. That’s it. It — as great art is supposed to do — moves, inspires, resonates, and reverberates. Feeling it wasn’t a political statement or an expression of my level of personal progression. I like it because I like it.

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