As a proud pop music nerd from the UK, I’m obsessed by first-week US sales figures. How, for example, can the highest first-week sales for an album – Adele’s 25, with 3,378,000 copies – differ so much from the lowest: 2019’s Hoodie SZN by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, with 58,000?
One artist whose first-week sales have always fascinated me is Pink. Over the latter half of her career, they’ve gotten better and better.
When Beautiful Trauma hit number one with 408,000 copies in 2017, I was delighted for her. I’ll admit, I’m more partial to Just Like a Pill than her newer material, but I always root for Pink to sell by the bucketload. After all, she is an outspoken supporter of the LGBTI community.
So, I was disappointed to hear her new LP Hurts 2B Human will likely land at number two next week, with lowly sales (85,000-106,000). Even more unfathomable to me is the success of the band likely to beat her.
Hillsong UNITED – the rock band formed within trendy megachurch Hillsong – could sell as many as 108,000-116,000 copies of its latest album when figures are announced next Monday.
Am I the only one to find this watershed moment in pop culture totally perplexing – if not worrying?
Of course, this has less to do with a dip in Pink’s commercial appeal (I hope she bounces back next time) and more to do with the symbolism of a band so closely linked to a homophobic organization triumphing over a known LGBTI advocate.
A quick reminder: gay actress Ellen Page called Hillsong ‘infamously anti-LGBTQ’ earlier this year while calling out Jurassic World actor Chris Pratt for supporting it. (To be fair to him, an array of celebrities and public figures, including Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, have also reportedly attended).
Chris, of course, responded. ‘I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone’ he insisted on social media. Hillsong itself also issued a statement to the same effect, claiming: ‘Hillsong Church Loves ALL People’.
However, many found their words wishy-washy and the Church’s actual position on LGBTI rights too vague. That’s certainly how I feel. Some who’ve attended have written about the church’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘ policy around sexuality.
‘Pop music should be for everyone’
I’m myself an agnostic ex-Christian. If I could say with complete confidence that Hillsong UNITED and Hillsong are LGBTI-inclusive, I’d happily celebrate Hillsong UNITED’s ascent, whatever their chart result.
But as it stands, this church’s takeover of popular culture is making me increasingly uncomfortable. Why aren’t LGBTI people and allies speaking out more to condemn it? And what if those within our ranks are actually listening to the music in question? The thought leaves me cold.
By its very nature, pop music should be for everyone to enjoy, including the religious. Unless, that is, that music covertly denies our existence as LGBTI people. That makes it another genre entirely – namely, unlistenable.