It is hot girl summer, yes. But maybe it is also blasphemous babe beach season? (Question mark intended to be read aloud for emphasis.)
Rarely can you find a more interesting and profound mix of religion, sex, and love than in the music that artists of past and present have blessed us with. Included below are songs for you to meditate on the power and practice of love, lust, and longing, in whatever form they may take this summer.
1. “Like A Prayer” by Madonna (1989)
Like a virgin...oh no, wait, wrong song. Arguably, there is no one more iconic for bringing sex and religion into the public square of pop culture. She is a pop legend and so is this song. She performed “Like A Prayer” for 2018’s Met Gala, themed “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," and also a cover of the following song.
2. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (1984)
Stuffed with biblical and religious imagery, Cohen’s enduring classic is forever penetrating and perennially dissected. It feels like a prayer because it is one: a prayer on music and the inarticulable emotions of life (the hallelujah) that often come from all kinds of religious or non-religious experiences.
3. “Take Me To Church” by Hozier (2013)
In the track that first raised the Irish singer-songwriter to prominence, “Take Me To Church” combines the central metaphor between the singer’s romantic relationship to a religious experience with a sharp critique of the Catholic Church’s dogma. Catchy and rhythmic, the song is a perfect celebration of sexuality.
4. “I had gay sex with god (it could’ve gone better)” by Jackfruit (2021)
Released this year, “I had gay sex with god” is a narrative tale of precisely what the title suggests. The track of the 19-year old’s debut EP can be played on repeat the whole summer without tiring the premise or the easy vocals. Less of a celebration than other songs on the list, it provides a compelling illusion for an unhealthy relationship.
5. “Blood of Eden” by Peter Gabriel (1992)
The English musician’s ‘92 single is a ballad about the dissolving of a relationship and the failing efforts to patch it back together through an Adam/Eve metaphor. Perfect for a breezy day at the park.
6. “Sunday Candy” by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment (2014)
With vocals by Chance the Rapper, this song is full of summer and the joy of falling in love, combined with the ecstasy of gospel music. “Take and eat my body like it’s holy” will always be one of the most singable verses I’ve heard.
7. “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” by The 1975 (2020)
The 1975 came out with a song perfect for watching a summer thunderstorm begin to roll in. Especially if that is accompanied by a new unrequited summer love.
8. “River” by Leon Bridges (2015)
Like the classic soul music of the past, Bridges is exceptionally talented at letting emotion flow through his music without surrendering charm. The gospel influences are obvious and beautiful.
9. “...Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears (1998)
And lastly, Britney. It’s not the most nuanced lyrical collision of religion and sex. But, I think we can all agree to let it slide because it’s Britney, bitch. And she was going to Catholic school in the video, so it’s religious... at least for me, it is.
Top Photo Credit: screenshot via Youtube
More from BUST
Kelsey lives in New York City and is a student at Barnard College, where she studies Anthropology.