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Grammy Awards

The uproar behind Sam Smith’s Grammy Awards performance

The English singer is facing some backlash following his 2023 Grammy Awards performance.

Update:
Kim Petras, Sam Smith, Violet Chachki y Gottmik.
DAVID SWANSONREUTERS

Sam Smith’s hit song ‘Unholy,’ which features German artist Kim Petras, has garnered controversy since the song’s release in September 2022, and that’s only continued since his performance at the Grammy Awards.

Critics offended by the “unholy” themes of the song

The lyrics, music video, and subsequent live performances of the song have been called by some critics, including Senator Ted Cruz, as “evil”, with the references to hell and the devil attracting critics.

The 2023 Grammy Awards performance of the controversial song was introduced by Madonna, an artist that is no stranger to controversy herself.

“Here’s what I’ve learned after four decades in music — if they call you shocking, scandalous, troublesome, problematic, provocative or dangerous, you’re definitely on to something,” Madonna said before introducing Smith and Petras.

The performance saw all performers and backup dancers decked out in red, with Smith sporting a red top hat with devil horns, red latex leggings, and platform heels.

Petras performed her portion of the song in a cage, with renowned drag stars Violet Chachki, and Gottmik dressed as devils with whips dancing outside the cage. The drag duo also appeared in the song’s official music video.

Robby Starbuck, a republican politician, took to Twitter to denounce both the performance and the Pfizer commercial that aired right after.

Defense of the song

Reverend E. Carrington Heath, a United Church of Christ minister from Exeter, New Hampshire, didn’t have any issue with the performance. Instead, she called out the attention critics placed on the song and its performers rather than focusing on more serious topics that affect everyday American society.

She continued by saying that when paying attention to the song’s lyrics, it becomes apparent that the song ultimately condemns the actions of a man cheating on his wife.

Despite the controversy, the song has become a hit, becoming Petras’ first song to chart on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Smith’s seventh song to chart overall. The song’s success earned the duo the ‘Best Pop Duo/Group Performance’ award at the 2023 Grammy Awards.