"Unholy" meaning
Entertainment & Playlists

Behind the Meaning of “Unholy” by Sam Smith

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Written By Will Fenton
Entertainment & Playlists

Behind the Meaning of “Unholy” by Sam Smith

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With how quickly songs adopted on TikTok fly to viral stardom, the platform has become an extension of the Billboard Top 100.

Having a track go viral as a sound on the platform nearly guarantees it will achieve commercial success, as “Unholy” by Sam Smith did.

The song is a poignant expression of the struggles and contradictions of being human, particularly when one’s actions or desires conflict with societal norms or personal beliefs.

In “Unholy,” Smith delves into their innermost thoughts and feelings, addressing their self-acceptance and religious identity struggles.

The song has resonated with many listeners who have also grappled with the same issues and has sparked discussions around the intersections of religion and LGBTQ+ identity.

This article explores the meaning behind “Unholy,” analyzing the lyrics and Smith’s intentions to gain a deeper understanding of the message they are trying to convey.

The True Meaning Of “Unholy”

In the song, Sam Smith reflects on feeling like an outsider and struggling with the conflicting messages they received from their religious upbringing.

They sing about the pressure to conform to societal expectations and the fear of being judged and rejected by others.

However, they also express a desire to be true to themselves and find acceptance within themselves, even if it means going against the norms of their upbringing.

The lyrics of “Unholy” suggest that the term’s true meaning is not about being evil or immoral but rather about feeling like an outsider or a misfit.

In reality, most of the song is in disgust at the man’s activities in the track, even going so far as calling them unnatural, rude, and unholy—in the sense that God’s judgment will be rained down on him.

Lines like “She’d kick you out if she ever, ever knew” and the constant use of calling his acts despicable by claiming he’s doing something “unholy” demonstrate the disgust.

The song itself is about adultery, but it isn’t just a single about a cheater.

It plays both sides, from the standpoint of someone calling out the man cheating on his wife and the perspective of the lady he’s cheating with.

Read more:  15 Best Songs About Secrets

One of the song’s ironic aspects is that the protagonist is terrible at keeping his deeds hidden.

He goes to the strip club to have sex behind his wife’s back, but everyone else seems to know about it except his wife. Even a simple check of the lyrics reveals that.

Mummy don’t know Daddy’s getting hot,
At the Body Shop,
Doing something unholy

Dirty, dirty boy,
You know everyone is talkin’ on the scene,
I hear them whisperin’ ’bout the places that you’ve been,
And how you don’t know how to keep your business clean

Then you can look at Petras’ lyrics to get the viewpoint of the woman he’s cheating with.

She’s bragging about all the expensive brands and money she receives from the man.

In the end, the song is quite simple.

It feels like a sexual, tense, and pop-inspired track about how awful infidelity is.

However, not everyone saw the song in that light, especially after some of Smith’s performances sparked controversy.

Controversies Surrounding “Unholy”

Unholy means that infidelity is wrong, damages families, and is an unnatural act that hurts people.

So, what was it about the song that infuriated so many people?

Smith and Petras performed “Unholy” live at the same Grammy Awards, where the duo received an award.

He sang the song while dressed in red, with red lights and fire exploding from the stage.

His hats featured devil horns, while Petras and backup dancers performed from inside cages while dressed as devils and holding whips.

Following the show, online users quickly labeled the act ‘Satanic,’ ‘evil,’ ‘demonic,’ and ‘deplorable.’

Some saw it as an act of Satanic worship, which they believe is expected in the music industry.

Others saw it as a means of introducing children to Satan worship.

However, the adverse reaction is the opposite of the intended meaning.

Because the song is about how bad infidelity is and how God will punish cheaters, the devil visuals fit and enhance the theme.

They’re demonstrating how awful cheating is and how devastating it can be to people.

Read more:  35 Best Songs About Loneliness & Being Alone

Some were offended, but they completely missed the point.

The ones who were upset over the music had a superior point.

Balenciaga is a now-canceled, disgraced fashion label mentioned in the track.

It was canceled because it ran inappropriate advertisements using children, labeling them as pedophiles.

Many criticized the artists for not changing the song’s lyrics to remove the name Balenciaga, despite the devil themes of the performances.

In the end, this was a much more fair judgment, though I wonder how the phrase would have read with a different brand tossed in there.

The song criticizes a wicked deed, and due to the controversy surrounding its performances, many people missed the entire message of the song.

The Writing And Success Of “Unholy”

“Unholy” is one of the most sexually charged singles to come out in recent years, thanks to its tension, enticing music, and the numerous references added to keep the subject matter in line with the song.

As a result, a brief list of references and samples should be supplied here.

The Body Shop was the first all-nude strip club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, beginning in the 1960s, and remains in operation today.

“Unholy” also samples and employs a chant from the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz.

Sam initially hinted at “Unholy” on TikTok on August 18, 2022, more than a month before its formal release on September 22.

Nobody had heard of the song before and the fact that Sam was teaming with Kim Petras came as a huge surprise.

It quickly became a viral trend on the app, creating an uncountable amount of sexualized, thirst-trap videos.

However, one factor that aided the song’s success was how well it was received on TikTok.

The initial video promoting the single has been viewed over 35 million times on the platform, giving it the most significant potential exposure to build anticipation for its release.

The fact that TikTok is the most crucial factor in a song’s mainstream chart success right now is not surprising.

But “Unholy” is a prime example of how announcing music with an unexpected new direction can pay dividends once it goes viral on the video-sharing app.

Regardless, it became the platform’s most prominent and most-used sound for several weeks, and you couldn’t escape it.

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“Unholy” was officially released on all platforms a few months later, becoming Smith’s first single in over two years. It would later be included on the artist’s 2023 album Gloria.

Although the viral trends related to the song increased its popularity, “Unholy” was also a commercial success.

It achieved 5.9 million streams in the UK in its first week on the market.

The song debuted at the top of the UK Singles and ARIA Singles charts, reaching the same position in Austria, Canada, the United States, Ireland, and New Zealand.

Outside those countries, it ranked in the top ten in seven more.

“Unholy” earned Smith and Kim Petras Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 65th Grammy Awards and was nominated for Song of the Year at the Brit Awards.

It would get an astonishing amount of international certifications, including platinum or double platinum status in 11 nations and quadruple platinum in Australia.

Cool Facts About “Unholy”

“Unholy” was made in Jamaica and Sam Smith has talked about how creating the song was one of the best creative moments of his career. 

“I’ve never had so much fun recording a song. It was so cathartic and liberating to experiment and break the rules”, said Sam. 

Smith and Petras collaborated on the song with Smith’s go-to writing collaborators Jimmy Napes, Omer Fendi, and Blake Slatkin, and producers ILYA, and Cirkut after a night of drinking.

After Smith and his team finished writing “Unholy” in Jamaica, he imagined Petras on it. 

He sent her the song, she loved it, and they met at Capitol Records in Los Angeles to record her part.

When “Unholy” reached the Billboard Hot 100, Sam Smith and Kim Petras were the first openly non-binary and transgender artists to do so.

Neither artist had previously reached this summit.

Smith reached number 2 in 2014 with “Stay With Me,” and Petras had never charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

Kim Petras has frequently expressed her admiration and affection for Rihanna. 

Petras referred to her idol in the lyrics.

“And he, he gets me Prada, get me Miu Miu like Rihanna. He always calls me ’cause I never cause no drama.”

You may also like: Best Sam Smith Songs

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Will Fenton

Introduced to good music at a young age through my father. The first record I remember being played was "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley, I must've been six years old. By the time I was seven, I was taking drum lessons once a week. The challenge but the euphoric feeling of learning a new song was addicting, and I suppose as they say the rest was history. Favorite album of all time? Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones Best gig you've ever been to? Neil Young at Desert Trip in 2016 Media mentions: Evening Standard Daily Mail

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