Pop Culture, Race & Politics

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.

Read more at Ebony.com

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Godzilla Jr.

    “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”

    The Frank Ocean song that has the male love interest (and masculine pronouns) is “Forrest Gump”.

    • SweetSass

      They both do.

      The lyric in this one is…

      “This unrequited love
      To me it’s nothing but
      A one-man cult
      And cyanide in my styrofoam cup
      I could never make him love me
      Never make him love me
      Love, love…”

      • Pseudonym

        [Frank Ocean scream]

        (My favourite part of the song!)

  • “Forrest Gump” also was about a male love interest. The “I can never make him love me” in the chorus of “Bad Religion,” though, was what started the speculation about his sexuality.

    • Godzilla Jr.

      When he says that in “Bad Religion”, I took it that he was talking about God. In “Forrest Gump” it’s a lot less ambiguous. I guess that’s what makes it art though, everyone has their own interpretation.

      • Chyna B.

        I agree you. I asked someone to translate ““Allah hu akbar”- it means God is the greatest. Frank Ocean reply is “don’t curse me”. I love the arrange of the song and am a fan of the album, but that line was pushing it.

  • That Ugly Kid

    I loved Bad Religion. My favorite Frank Ocean song was Pyramids, though. The second half of that song is majestic.

    • Sweet GA Brown

      I like that song too. But aint nothing like that Crack Rock. Lol

      • BeautifullyHuman

        Crack Rock is my favorite song off that album! But, people don’t be feeling me, though.

  • Cheekie

    I also feel in love with Bad Religion because how it, as you said, “moves, inspires, resonates, and reverberates.” You nailed my feeling about it.

    Then again, strings always tend to move me. LOL

    But seriously, the poignant lyrics definitely helped too.

  • Micthemessenger

    That whole fuggin album rocked out! I tried to pick a favorite song but kept deleting my answer everytime. I gave 0 f*cks about who he was singing about. Unless it was one of the hombres in the jeep with me, in which case the standard man law applies.

    • keisha brown

      ^^^^^^^ +1

  • Kaname

    Tie between Pyramids, Bad Religion & Pink Matter

  • Fiveisthenumber

    I cut for Pyramids as well

  • vanoussa

    Cheers and a blessed new year to all,
    While this is a bit off topic, in arabic music and poetry and love songs more specifically, all pronouns and wording are masculine. So a man is singing his love and longing for a woman, yet used the masculine genre. There is no confusion or insinuation. It just sounds better!
    I also love that track of Frank Ocean and the argument was well demonstrated.
    Peace for Montreal!

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