While the current leader of the Catholic Church has been a metaphorical rock star since his election, he’s now a literal one. With the release of Wake Up, a multi-lingual recording of his words and prayers, he joins Pope John Paul II as a recording artist.
Reviews have been more mixed than with his recent encyclical on the environment. The new music site Pitchfork notes that it humanizes Francis, but isn’t too happy with the orchestrations:
With collaborators that include a folk-swami, a theatrical lyricist, and a former member of Italian prog-rock band Le Orme, Wake Up! exists at a tremendously strange midpoint between a two-hour mass and a corporate recruitment video. It’s like you drank a bunch of cough syrup and went to Live Aid: The Vatican. Every track features a Barnes & Noble-CD-section pop instrumental, sometimes with additional choral or solo vocals, building momentum that halts when Pope Francis starts speaking.
The website Consequence of Sound gives the Pope ‘cool points’, but wishes he were more, well, cutting-edge:
The music never threatens to eclipse the message. If anything — and this might sound like a strange criticism of a Christian rock album — it’s too reverential. [Tony] Pagliuca and Don Giulio Neroni, the album’s producer and artistic director, seem uncomfortably aware that they’re working with one of the most powerful humans in the world. This prevents them from taking any true risks, not that a recording of this nature really demands any intense risk-taking.
The Associated Press‘s reviewer calls it a “hodge-podge”:
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.