Entertainment

Pope Francis releases rock album Wake Up

He's a global pinup who fills stadiums and thrills fans. And now Pope Francis has released what is, essentially, an album of spiritual spoken-word Euro-rock.

Meanwhile, mic-clutching photo of pontiff inspires #popebars

Pope Francis gives a blessing during a visit to St. Saviour parish in Bangui, in the Central African Republic on Sunday. A rock album featuring the pontiff has just been released, while social media playfully imagines raps by Francis under the hashtag #PopeBars. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

He's a global pinup who fills stadiums and thrills fans. And now Pope Francis has released what is, essentially, a rock album.

He doesn't sing, but the pontiff who has energized millions of Roman Catholics with his vision of a compassionate, socially committed church lends his voice to an album of spiritual spoken-word Euro-rock.

Wake Up! mixes excerpts from the Pope's speeches, homilies and prayers with Christian hymns that have been reworked by modern composers to include dollops of everything from Gregorian chant to rock guitar. (Soundcloud/Believe Digital)

Wake Up! mixes excerpts from the Pope's speeches, homilies and prayers with Christian hymns that have been reworked by modern composers to include dollops of everything from Gregorian chant to rock guitar.

Francis' words — in Spanish, Italian, English and Portuguese, with a booklet providing translation — touch on key themes of his papacy: youth, the environment, the joy of faith and the degrading effects of consumerism.

The musical settings take in Pan pipes, sinuous beats and a veritable tsunami of synth. It's a bit of a hodgepodge and clearly the work of many hands, with credits for more than half a dozen composers and arrangers as well as artistic director Don Giulio Neroni.

The mix is at its most arresting on the lead single — yes, Francis is a pope who releases singles — Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward! The track sets the Pope's exhortation to embrace "the beauty of holiness" amid wailing guitar licks and rousing trumpet bursts.

If that sounds odd, it is. At times Wake Up! feels like a 1980s middle-of-the-road rock album interrupted by soft-spoken spiritual musings. But while it's not always a heavenly mashup, it's a heartfelt offering that should burnish Francis' image as the people's pope.

Unofficial papal rap

Meanwhile, an image of the pontiff looking stern and clutching a microphone — snapped during his speech on Sunday urging unity amid civil strife in the Central African Republic — has inspired a flurry of social media posts. Sharing the image of Francis inadvertently striking a rap emcee pose, people are musing about just what kind of rhymes he might deliver under the hastag #PopeBars.

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