Tag Archives: music

Robbie Williams is (nearly) back

Robbie_Williams-Bodies-300x300Of course, if you’re a female in your 30’s or you watch the X Factor you almost certainly know that already. And I’m guessing you’re either delighted and have your pre-order in with iTunes for the album’s release next Monday, and you’ve been sneaky peeking the previews or you’re trying to drown out the every mention of his name (in which case you’re probably not reading this).

Love him or hate him, Robbie likes to court a little controversy. It’s good for sales figures, after all.

I’ve been pondering what his latest single, Bodies, is getting at. Here’s an excerpt…

God gave me the sunshine 
Then showed me my lifeline 
I was told it was all mine 
Then I got laid on a leyline 
What a day, What a day… 
And your Jesus really died for me 
Then Jesus really tried for me

U.K. in entropy 
I feel like it’s fucking me 
Wanna feed off the energy 
Love livin’ like a deity 
One a day, One day 
And your Jesus really died for me 
I guess Jesus really tried for me

Bodies in the bodhi tree 
Bodies making chemistry 
Bodies are my family 
Bodies in the way of me 
Bodies in the cemetery 
And that’s the way it’s gonna be

All we’ve ever wanted 
Is to look good naked 
Hope that someone can take it 
God save me rejection 
From my reflection 
I want perfection

Praying for the rapture 
Cause it’s strange and gettin stranger 
And everything’s contagious 
It’s a modern middle ages 
All day, every day 
And if Jesus really died for me 
Then Jesus really tried for me

Profound? meaningless? I’m not sure. According to comments, the song’s a criticism of  George W Bush and the Iraq war. If so, did Jesus really need to come into it?

Someone said to me once that they thought the reason people who claim they couldn’t care less or don’t believe in God take his name in vain is that they realise on a deep subconscious level, that there’s huge power in God’s name, and that “For J…. sake” implies “for the sake of the highest thing I can think of”, even if that’s not what you think you really believe. I’m not sure it’s right, but it’s an interesting thought. And although I’m not sure I agree with it, I’m not sure I can come up with a better answer as to why an atheist, who might be expected to have no reason to make reference to God in any context, would blaspheme…

So what’s Robbie about here? He probably says it’s got nothing to do with God. And yet he can’t quite stay clear of the topic somehow, can he? No big deal. Except that if God’s so irrelevant, why does our talk so often keep coming back round to him?

Bono & God

bonoThe spirituality of U2 in general and Bono in particular has hit the news a few times. If you regularly fill a pew somewhere, it’s quite likely that you heard about it in church, but if you don’t do church it’s quite possible you haven’t heard that Bono has a “God thing” going on.

Why is that? Maybe people simply aren’t interested in whether celebrities believes in God. But I don’t think so. You only have to look as far as Jade Goody to find tabloid media interest in a celebrity’s faith journey. Instead, I think it’s just that we’re happy to read cliched, non-threatening accounts of belief, but we don’t want to be challenged. Many of us had childhood experiences that led to us thinking of religion as boring and untrue. Maybe you remember them too: old, cold churches half empty and devoid of the young; sermons delivering a tired message and  dirge-like music from another century.

As adults, we like to have recourse to some sort of comfort in hard times, so we’re vaguely encouraged by stories like Jade’s that God was there for her. Often we tolerate “traditional” church events and expressions of belief – christenings, weddings, funerals –  as part of the furniture of our lives. We’re used to them; they wash over us; and we take comfort in their familiarity whilst ignoring the irrelevancies.

Bono doesn’t fit that mould, though. We can’t write off his beliefs as a “crutch” in the way we might have been tempted to for Jade Goody, or as a matter of habit. It’s not obvious why Bono would need God. He seems already to have it made based on modern society’s criteria for success and happiness. And yet he has a faith. If you doubt it, have a look at this:

I first heard that about Bono when I was pretty anti-God. I started to read about it a little. I couldn’t understand how I’d missed the theme in U2’s lyrics. More than that, I couldn’t understand how this guy, whose language was as bad (ok, maybe not quite) as mine, and who had a hugely successful, mainstream, rock’n’roll career, could possibly conform to my image of “nice, good, christian”. I thought it was interesting that he didn’t have the hugely annoying smugness I so often identified in christians. There was an authenticity about him. It was a massive challenge.

More than that, it had motivated him to do things.

To me, Jesus was a fairy story. He was a man with beard, long flowing hair, white robe, standing in the sun with a lamb clutched under his arm. Yet here was one of the worlds biggest rock stars, ill shaven, intermittently ill-behaved and with nothing to prove to anyone taking on the world’s superpowers to campaign for the eradication of third world debt. And he did it all with reference to  a God who was in amongst, and who loved the dirty and the broken. Who wanted justice and transformation for them. How could my preconceptions of God and my judgment of christians stand up to a God described like this:

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”. – Bono, Annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, Feb 2006

Last Sunday, Bono wrote a piece in the New York Times. You can read it  here. The jury seems to be out on whether he’s any good as a columnist, but I liked it. I think it’s good that we have someone who can capture the public’s attention and who’s outside the traditional religious mould commenting on things. It’s a shame he was writing in the US rather than the UK. There’s so little coverage in the mainstream press of the radical, positive teaching the bible has for us. Bono, or any other modern, radically minded christian writer, would be a happy addition to the Sunday papers.