“There is nothing new under the sun.” — Ecclesiastes

It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with both the Bible and a high priest of the Church of Satan in the same week on the same topic, so I like to document the occasions from time to time.

Relax About Sam Smith And Kim Petras' 'Satanic' Grammy Performance

Ergo, this week’s column, about the topic everyone seems to be talking about, the Grammy performance of “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware, here’s a recap:

That doesn’t show you the whole performance, but it gives you a decent enough idea, and honestly, as someone who saw it, my first reaction was, “Man, Satan really needs to hit the treadmill!”

My second reaction was, “Is this a parody?”

Seriously. It was hard to tell, because the performance itself was pretty standard goofy devil imagery stuff, to the point where it was almost like something out of “The Simpsons” trying to joke about a “controversial” “satanic” performance. I mean, c’mon, people in skin-tight red leather devil costumes? Seriously? A singer in a cage with devils dancing around her? It was pretty lame.


Here’s where the Church of Satan agrees with me.

In an interview with TMZ, David Harris, a magister of the Church of Satan, said he thought Smith and Petras’ performance was “all right” and “nothing particularly special.”

Yup. Pretty much my reaction too. Meh.

More shocking than Sam and Kim’s performance was the creepy and odd appearance of Madonna, who looks like a plastic-surgery-gone-wrong cautionary tale. Of course, Madonna being Madonna, she grabbed the spotlight for herself after the show to contradict people like me who thought she looked like a friggin’ weirdo. She picked the wrong pulpit of self-righteousness to stand on though, saying that critics were misogynistic and ageist.

Yes, we’re misogynistic and ageist, but you’re the one who can’t embrace natural aging and be a positive example of women being beautiful regardless of age. Instead you’ve got to spend thousands of dollars chasing desperately after both the illusion of youth and an unrealistic beauty standard programmed into you by the society you claim to rebel against. Such a feminist icon!

Anyway, back to shrugging at the alleged satanic ritual.

Relax About Sam Smith And Kim Petras' 'Satanic' Grammy Performance

A chubby dude in a top hat? Really? This is what’s scaring you, Tucker Carlson?

Predictably, the right wing media and internet wags went absolutely apesh*t over the performance, with everyone from Fox News to Ben Shapiro and others wetting their pants over how Hollywood was pushing satanism to kids.

Trust me, if this was an advertisement for satanism, I don’t think kids are going to be interested. I’m guessing lame performances and chubby guys in spandex and devil horns aren’t exactly social catnip for Gen Z. I’ve seen the seductive power of TikTok, my friends, and this is no TikTok.

Aside from that, it’s nothing that hasn’t been seen or done before ad nauseam, with the predictable reactions from extremes on both sides.

I talked to various friends of various ages about the performance, and those of my friends who are not Gen X were amused by how unphased and snarky I was about the show. And, of course, as I have before, I pointed out to them that this is really nothing new or interesting to my generation. It seems like it’s the conservative side boomers (Hannity, Tucker, etc.) and millenials (Shapiro, Walsh, etc.) who tend to lose their sh*t over stuff like this. Gen X? We’ve seen it all before.


Satanic panic? Been there, done that. We were the generation growing up on having our parents fret over Dungeons and Dragons, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne.

Trans people? Dude, we grew up with Boy George, Marilyn, Pete Burns, Prince, David Bowie, and dozens of hair metal glam bands who wore more makeup and had bigger hair than most of the girls we went to school with. Something that seems to be overlooked and forgotten.

And speaking of overlooked and forgotten, it’s strange to hear Kim Petras talking about how groundbreaking she is for being the first trans person to win a Grammy. Boy George won a freakin Grammy almost 40 years ago. And before Boy George, who you might argue wasn’t totally trans and was just gay and dressed like a woman, was the truly groundbreaking Wendy Carlos, who I wrote about last year, who won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for six, going all the way back to the late 1960s. No gray area on Wendy Carlos, she was a trans woman. So, good for Kim Petras, but, let’s give some credit where it’s due to a previous winner who had to struggle a lot more mightily through far more repressive times than someone in this ultra-woke liberal entertainment environment that looks askance at performers that don’t push gender boundaries.

But it’s not just the far left that has a hard time recalling history, as the far right completely ignores it too. They seem to have a pretty short memory on just how many times the whole satanic sacrilegious button has been pushed over the past several decades to shock the eminently shockable, going back to metal bands in the ’60s and ’70s and through Madonna gyrating on crosses and making out with angels and such in videos in the ’80s and beyond.

Relax About Sam Smith And Kim Petras' 'Satanic' Grammy Performance

“Was that Madonna who introduced us, or a Monchichi?”

The trope has become de rigueur for LGBTQ artists over the past couple of years, looking at not just Sam and Kim, but Demi Lovato and her shifting genders laying on a cross, Lil Nas X and his satan gay sex video and others. There seems to be an ongoing eye-poking going on by the LGBTQ community towards the conservative religious crowd, basically saying to them, “Hey, if you’re going to condemn me to hell, I’m not just going to embrace it but I’m going to throw it into your face and make it look like a big gay party!”

Which, ok, again, fine, shock is typical of pop culture and entertainment, and it’s funny to see the uptight get tweaked, but after a while it just becomes routine and “meh.”

And, again, for my generation, Gen X, who grew up with the first real iterations of this stuff, not to mention gangsta rap (NWA), hardcore sexual lyrics (2 Live Crew), and openly gay performers (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Boy George, etc.), this isn’t anything new.

In fact, it’s strange to think that it was 40 years ago, during the height of the conservative Reagan/Thatcher era, that we were little kids watching all of this incredibly transgressive stuff take place. You look at something like Smith and Petras’ performance and it’s pretty tame and subtle in its sexuality and bold embrace of the LGBTQ lifestyle.

You want something REALLY in-your-face?

Check out the video for Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” from 39 years ago, in 1984. Now, just imagine for a moment how much different things were then and how much more conservative things were. And yet, here’s a worldwide top 10 pop hit that has a video that isn’t the band indulging in a satanic metaphor for homosexuality, oh no, it’s a video of a twink-looking guy being dragged into a gay leather bondage club where beefy, half-naked dudes gyrate about and engage in an orgy. AND THIS WAS ON MTV. AND WE WERE LITTLE KIDS WATCHING IT.

Somewhere, Tucker Carlson’s head just blew up.

My point being is that entertainment is going to have to start coming up with new ways to rebel, because at some point the old ways just aren’t going to work anymore. People are going to become shock-resistant, even those on the far right and left extremes. And it’s going to get to a point, as in this column, where the philosophy of “there’s nothing new under the sun anymore,” is going to be crossed with people just shrugging and going “meh” when someone tries to be stereotypically shocking.

You know what would REALLY be shocking?

If someone wasn’t shocking at all.

If someone just came out and was pretty laid back and low key.

I think that’s why the show “Ted Lasso” is so popular. It’s such an odd show compared to everything else on TV. The people are nice to each other, and the characters are largely good people who are complex but generally decent and good-hearted. There’s no real stretch to be controversial or push any buttons, it’s just pretty straightforward.

Of course, we’re only just nearing the third season.

For all I know, next year, Ted and Beard are going to be dressing up in red spandex with devil-horned top hats and being carried by rickshaw to a leather biker bar where guest-star Madonna is going to teach them all about Illuminati rituals.

And THEN, we’ll all see something truly controversial and shocking, maybe even as shocking as THIS

Relax About Sam Smith And Kim Petras' 'Satanic' Grammy Performance

Peace signs, or DEVIL HORNS???


Relax About Sam Smith And Kim Petras' 'Satanic' Grammy Performance
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.
Relax About Sam Smith And Kim Petras' 'Satanic' Grammy Performance

Free Breaking News
Alerts & Daily Digest
In Your Inbox!