By Katie O’Brien and Nathaniel Coderre
- In 1987, local recording studio owner Todd Lockwood approached Mayor Bernie and asked him to collaborate on a folk album with other Vermont musicians. Surprisingly, Bernie loved the idea, telling Lockwood, “I have to admit to you, this appeals to my ego.”
- Bernie has been hammering the same line home since 1987, and it repeated throughout the album: “In the United States of America today, there is massive injustice, in terms of wealth and income equality.” His patented doom-and-gloom is a little weird when put up against a cheery, twangy, good ol’ America classic like “This Land is your Land,” but hey, there’s something to be said for ironic juxtaposition.
- Bernie was not meant for spoken word; I’m surprised a record storeowner came to this conclusion in 1987. I feel like spoken word requires a kind of soothing and rhythmic quality in one’s voice, the exact opposite of Bernie’s always aggressively shout-y and staccato’d tone. Picture him saying “We are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” and now picture it in the middle of soulful, church-choir protest song “We Shall Overcome.”
- Bernie has absolutely no sense of rhythmic diction, as exemplified by his belabored chanting of the lyrics of “This Land is Your Land:” “I roamed and rambled … I followed [awkward pause] my footsteps” and “I saw(r) above me … that endless skyway.”
- It’s really, really bizarre picturing Bernie’s voice coming out of a not-old man. Think about it.
- Hearing Bernie say the word “human” will never not be funny. And he says it a LOT in this album. “YOO-man brotherhood.” “YOO-man dignity.” “The YOO-man spirit. May it never be extinguished.”
- Back then, Bernie was a little more buddy-buddy with capitalism; it costs 4.95 on iTunes, while the Pope made his available for free. Bernie did sign an agreement to give the profits to charity, but there weren’t any.
- Bernie thinks this album was a “big mistake.” Cold, Bern, cold.
- Apparently, Pope-albums are a Thing: Pope John Paul II’s begat Pope Benedict’s and Pope Benedict’s begat Wake Up!, the album that Pope Francis dropped in November.
- So the Pope’s contribution to the album turns out to be just recordings of his speeches and homilies… Bernie actually went to the studio to record his parts. To be fair, the Pope has to lead one of the most powerful institutions in the world, and Bernie was at the time leading a town full of hippies and cheddar cheese.
- Bernie’s earnest, emphatic shout-singing provides quite the contrast to the Pope’s hesitant English lyrics, and soothing and smiley homilies in Italian and Spanish.
- As it turns out, I don’t mind listening to religious homilies if they’re not in English and set to prog-rock and ambient beats. Good way to draw in the crowds, Pope Francis.
- The Argentinian accent is really appropriate for a Pope. He says a sentence and I feel like he’s shushing me for talking in mass.
- The man singing in the song “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!” is DEFINITELY the guy from Rent. How did this all-star collaboration happen? Is Pope Francis a huge fan of a musical about young, New York artists dying of AIDS? Does he ever think about how his friend John Paul exaserbated the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80s? All good questions.
- The Pope is apparently a YOOge environmentalist. The third song on the album (which is my favorite for its sexy Latin beat) is called “Cuidar el Planeta” and opens with the Pope declaring “Dios siempre perdona. … La tierra no perdona nunca” (God always forgives. The earth never forgives.) So yeah, eternal earthly condemnation from the Pope to all you climate change deniers.
If you’re only going to listen to one spoken word album by an old, out of touch zealot, go with Pope Francis. If you are a diehard not ready to stop “Feeling the Bern”, go with Pope Francis. If you’re Todd Lockwood, still salty about Bernie trying to distance himself from the album, go with Pope Francis. Unless you’re Donald Trump, still feuding with the Catholic Church about a Mexican border wall, go with Pope Francis.