Openly gay pop singer Sam Smith’s most recent album The Thrill of it All includes a song entitled “Him,” which addresses Smith’s struggles with the Catholic Church as a gay man.
Smith, who was raised Catholic, wrote the song as an “accusatory anthem” that directly challenges institutional Catholicism’s anti-LGBTQ ideas. My So Called Gay Life, an online news outlet, reported that Smith’s song was less of a coping mechanism for him and more a song for his fans. Smith says:
“That song isn’t about me, it’s a coming out story, it’s for any boy or girl in the world who struggles to come out to their parents.”
The lyrics of “Him” address two different audiences. In the first verse, the narrator addresses God:
“Holy Father, we need to talk.
I have a secret that I can’t keep.
I’m not the boy that you thought you wanted.
Please don’t get angry. Have faith in me.”
In the chorus, the tone and audience shifts as the narrator addresses the wider institutional Church in a more “accusatory” manner:
“Say I shouldn’t be here but I can’t give up his touch.
It is him I love, it is him.
Don’t you try and tell me that God doesn’t care for us.
It is him I love, it is him I love.”
My So Called Gay Life reported that the “him” addressed in the chorus is a play on “hymn,” as in a church hymn. I would add that the ambiguity of “him” opens the possibility that the narrator is referring to either his lover or God/Jesus. This daring ambiguity suggests that the narrator can be in love with Jesus and a person of the same sex.
The song communicates both a sadness and an anger with the Church and with all people who are still not accepting of LGBTQ+ identities. In speaking about the tone of the song, Smith said:
“There’s an anger in that song. I am angry, I’m a gay guy, I have had a very lucky upbringing and had beautiful people around me who are very accepting of who I am, but no matter how amazing your upbringing is as a gay man, there’s still people on this planet who don’t want you here.”
“Him” takes care to separate God’s love for LGBTQ+ people from Christian people that say that LGBTQ+ people are unwelcome or even unloved by God. Smith’s message to his fans is not only that it is okay to be gay, but that gay people are not any less loved by God and being gay should not be grounds to treat people differently. He said:
“I get homophobic abuse every day on my social media, even though I don’t pay attention to that shit, but it’s important to talk about it. It’s important to say ‘it’s him I love’ because that’s the key. I love men and I fall in love with men and its the same as anyone else, that’s what I wanted to get across.”
To listen to Smith performing song, watch the video below, which includes the lyrics:
—Lizzie Sextro, New Ways Ministry, January 14, 2018