Sam Smith and Kim Petras' performance of "Unholy" left some calling it a satanic ritual.
Depending on which corners of social media you call home, few happenings from the 2023 Grammy awards were as divisive as Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ performance of the song “Unholy.” Was it a historic moment of inclusion or a historic display of a Satanic ritual broadcast to the world?
On the one hand, the pair made music history. After winning the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Smith became the first non-binary artist to win the category, along with Petra who became the first trans woman to win the category.
However, not everyone was a fan of their live hell-themed performance, featuring Smith clad in red leather and sporting a top hat with devil horns and Petras dancing in a cage surrounded by dominatrixes.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz took to Twitter to call the act “evil,” and his fury was quickly echoed by other conservative influencers who declared it an example of mainstream devil worship.
“Don’t fight the culture wars, they say. Meanwhile demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan. I could throw up.” wrote conservative political commentator Liz Wheeler.
However, it doesn’t take a lot of research to find out what the artist’s original intentions were behind the song.
In a previous interview with NME, Smith shared that the song was about “liberating oneself from the clutches of others’ secrets.” The song’s lyrics explicitly suggest that the story is about adultery, and touches on the way certain taboo desires are viewed as sins and therefore kept hidden or repressed. For such a large portion of history, this has been a harsh reality of the LGBTQ experience, which makes the theme seem like a creative no-brainer rather than a literal endorsement for satanic worship.
Petras also responded to backlash over the song, telling Variety that the performance was inspired by not feeling accepted by mainstream religion as a trans person.
“I personally grew up wondering about religion and wanting to be a part of it but slowly realizing it didn’t want me to be a part of it. So it’s a take on not being able to choose religion. And not being able to live the way that people might want you to live, because as a trans person I’m already not kind of wanted in religion,” she said.
Taking it from the song creators themselves, it seems the message really being put out is that of acceptance. Or at least paving your own way when acceptance doesn’t come.
Watch the video below: