Sam Smith and Kim Petras took to the Grammy’s stage Sunday night to perform their controversial hit song “Unholy.” During the performance, Smith donned a devil-horned top hat, Petras danced in a cage and fire and red lights illuminated the stage.
“Unholy,” which won Smith and Petras the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, tells the story of a man carrying out an extramarital affair.
The performance was introduced by Madonna, who Petras, the first transgender woman to ever win the pop duo category, thanked for advocating for the LGBTQ community during her acceptance speech. According to People, while introducing Smith and Petras, Madonna asserted, “If they call you shocking, scandalous, problematic, provocative or dangerous, you are definitely onto something.”
Following the performance, host Trevor Noah pretended to answer a phone call from his concerned mother.
“No, mom, it wasn’t the actual devil. They were just dressed like the devil… Yeah, you did warn me about Hollywood,” Noah said. “She said she’ll be praying for all of us,” he added.
‘No, mom, it wasn’t the actual devil ... Yeah, you did warn me about Hollywood’ — Host Trevor Noah pretended to get a phone call from his mom after Sam Smith & Kim Petras’ steamy ‘Unholy’ performance at the #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/z6qBK1i4s7— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 6, 2023
The fiery performance sparked backlash on social media, with many Christians and conservatives labeling the performance “evil” or “diabolical.”
“Don’t fight the culture wars, they say. Meanwhile, demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan. I could throw up,” conservative political commentator Liz Wheeler tweeted alongside a clip of the performance.
Don’t fight the culture wars, they say. Meanwhile demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan. I could throw up.— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) February 6, 2023
“This…is…evil,” GOP Senator Ted Cruz simply wrote.
This…is…evil. https://t.co/SBrOgHfFcX— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 6, 2023
Christian apologist Solomon Buchi wrote, “If as a Christian, you think we are reaching when we talk about the dominance and normalization of Satan worship in pop music, you need discernment. Sam Smith’s performance at the Grammy’s last night was satanic, gory. No, it’s not art; it’s symbolic of who they serve.”
If as a Christian, you think we are reaching when we talk about the dominance and normalization of Satan worship in pop music, you need discernment. Sam Smith’s performance at the Grammy’s last night was satanic, gory. No, it’s not art; it’s symbolic of who they serve. pic.twitter.com/7pz2BlE9ei— Solomon Buchi (@Solomon_Buchi) February 6, 2023
After the show, Petras told backstage reporters that the performance was inspired by “not being able to choose religion.”
“I think a lot of people, honestly, have kind of labeled what I stand for and what Sam stands for as religiously not cool, and I personally grew up wondering about religion and wanting to be a part of it but slowly realizing it didn’t want me to be a part of it,” she said.
“So it’s a take on not being able to choose religion. And not being able to live the way that people might want you to live because, as a trans person, I’m already not kind of wanted in religion. So we were doing a take on that, and I was kind of hellkeeper Kim.”
In recent years, many music artists have used controversial religious symbolism to promote their work.
In 2021, singer Lil Nas X collaborated with a company called MSCHP to create a pair of sneakers that had a drop of human blood in the soles. The shoes were also decorated with a pendant of a pentagram and a reference to Luke 10:18, which says, “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.”
Last year, pop singer Demi Lovato released an album called Holy F**k. The album art is a photo of Lovato in a BDSM bondage costume lying on a cross.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Emma McIntyre/Staff
Kayla Koslosky has been the Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com since 2018. She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket newspaper. She has also contributed to IBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com.