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Sunday, February 2, 2014

 (Try the player down below if this one doesn't work)

Bad Religion from Frank Ocean's debut studio album, Channel Orange, is one of my favorite songs. So like many, I went online to read reactions to the song, see different interpretations of the lyrics and just get a general idea of how everyone else took it. HOPING that the majority would love it as much as I did. But alas, this is the internet and I was a fool to think anything is universal besides the need to breathe and consume food.

The song is pretty self explanatory… IF ONLY PEOPLE WOULD LISTEN to the lyrics and actually comprehend their meaning they wouldn't take the title nor the song as a whole as a diss to religion. He's basically comparing unrequited love to a cult.

Not all of these are my interpretations but I feel they're pretty accurate.

[Verse 1]
Taxi driver
Be my shrink for the hour

Frank asks the taxi driver to be his therapist, many of you are familiar with passengers telling their problems to a  taxi driver (Taxi Cab Confessions anyone?)

Leave the meter running
It's rush hour
So take the streets if you wanna
Just outrun the demons, could you
Rush hour has busy traffic, so he’s telling the taxi driver that he can take the streets, so that he can have time to talk and get his emotions out. He could also be referring to the society (drivers around him) as demons trying to chase his belief, and wants his personal space to reflect.

He said "Allahu akbar", I told him don't curse me

Allahu Akbar means God is Greater and is a common Muslim prayer.
The taxi driver is telling him that no matter how big your problem is, God is greater and He is capable of anything. That’s why he repeats the chorus after he mentions his other problems. But ultimately, prayer doesn’t matter and Frank’s dilemmas are unsolved. He’s basically telling god to put his money where his mouth is.The taxi driver could also be saying God is greater because he is genuinely concerned for Frank and doesn’t know any other way to help him. 

"Bo Bo, you need prayer" - I guess it couldn't hurt me
If it brings me to my knees
It's a bad religion
If Frank has to beg forgiveness within a formal religion, then he considers it to be a bad religion because it doesn’t accept him for who he is.

This unrequited love
To me it's nothing but a one-man cult
Un-returned affection can often build to fanatical devotion, especially if you internalize it like Frank did. Cults are often formed around a charismatic leader who doesn’t really care about his followers and just uses them to advance his own agenda without truly devoting himself to them.

And cyanide in my styrofoam cup
A reference to Peoples Temple, Jim Jone's cult where hundreds were forced to drink cyanide kool-aid.

I can never make him love me
Never make him love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me

This hook is the most overt depiction of love for a man on the album. It’s likely inspired by the man from Frank’s Tumblr letter, who didn’t return his feelings (either because he was in denial about his own sexuality or he just didn’t like Frank that way).

The him itself is covered up a little bit, so some people initially thought Frank was saying ‘em.

Frank's Open Letter

[Verse 2]
Taxi driver
I swear I've got three lives
Balanced on my head like steak knives
Balancing steak knives on your head is very challenging, Frank’s having a hard time balancing all of these lives. Frank is referencing the fact that he is one of three sexualities and is not sure yet. He is either bisexual, straight or gay, which each lead to a different life.

In the end, whichever one he picks will make people angry/happy. The slightest phrase/movement can kill his career in the eyes of certain fans, just like the slightest movement can push over the steak knife and make it cut through his head.

I can't tell you the truth about my disguise
I can't trust no one


It's a bad religion
To be in love with someone
Who could never love you

The bad religion is his unrequited love— expressing his disappointment of his first love and taking a jab at the lack of gay tolerance in the religious communities. He’s basically saying that he worshiped his first lover in the same way he worshiped God— in a different, but very similar way. That’s also why he uses the phrase one-man cult. Cults have an excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. In both instances, he did not feel the love was returned.

I know
Only bad religion
Could have me feeling the way I do

(That outro should really help you tie the song together)


Here's another interpretation of the song,
"At first glance, this could be taken as a “diss” or denouncement of Islam, but it appears to be more of a critique of all religions. Ocean scrapples with the fact that he is expected to beg to God for forgiveness for his sin, when his sin is what is tearing him apart from God in the first place.

In Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and more—homosexuality is forbidden in text and in belief. What is the point in praising a God who—with all the good he may do in his life—will not acknowledge his devotion because he fell in love with another man?

I, too, have asked myself this question. But as a heterosexual woman, it presented itself to me in the form of modernity versus tradition. Me, you, and Ocean are all products of a sinful world. What then are we to do with ourselves when the conformity we experience as a product of our modern society conflicts with the traditions of time?

The man he loves is not in a place to love him back. The love he felt for him was more like a cult, a one-sided love. He was thankful for the way this love made him feel, allowed him to grow, and forced him to reckon with his truths. But in the end, it made him resentful of this feeling, realizing that it was never to be reciprocated. A bad religion: having love for a man who is unable or unwilling to love you back.

A bad religion: having love for He who is unable or unwilling to love you back.

Ocean met criticism about his open declaration of sexuality because some found it unnecessary for public knowledge or a ploy for media attraction. But in the artistic world, where your creations are literally the products of your life, how does one escape this fate? To keep it to himself would equal denying him the space to freely express his emotions to complete his art true to his experiences.

Ocean isn’t an LGBT spokesman. He’s not the leading man in front of the rainbow flag for your Pride Parade. He isn’t the R&B Gaga. Maybe he will be a variation of some sort, some day, if he so chooses. All we know of him today is that he’s human; artistically, unapologetically human."

- Source


  1. Yes, the song is clearly not about religion at all, but about the misery of unrequited love. Perhaps he's suggesting the the passion of romantic love is as intense and deep and is some peoples religious passion. But I don't see that he is denigrating religion.

  2. Religious fights have become the characteristic feature of today's life. Being citizens, we ought not to encourage such evil traits.guarantor

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