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Bad Religion by Frank Ocean: Lyrics Meaning and Interpretation

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Christopher Breaux, popularly known as Frank Ocean in the American music industry, is a singer/ songwriter and a rapper too. He is an amazing songwriter and famous for the idiosyncratic music category. Bad Religion is probably one of the heartbreaking songs from his album Channel Orange. It is about unrequited love. Frank Ocean is the first African American RnB singer who sang a song about this unrequited love which he had for another man on an American television show. He also posted something related to this song on his Tumblr that his first love, who was a man, didn’t love him back. Bad Religion lyrics meaning shows the turmoil that Frank feels inside as a gay person and how unaccepted he feels in the world for loving a same-sex person. 

What does the title mean

Looking at the title Bad Religion and observing some of his lines from the song like Allahu Akbar meaning God is great in Arabic, you might think that he is dissing Islamic religion. While in reality, he hates every religion because no religion accepts homosexuality. Not one religion sees it as natural as heterosexuality. He just took Islam as representative of every religion’s view towards homosexuality. He refers to his love for the guy as bad religion because just like religion the other guy is not accepting his love. If the religion were good it would accept him as a gay person. So it is bad religion because it is not accepting his homosexuality just like the guy didn’t accept his love. And this very religion asks him to deny his homosexuality because it sees it as a phase but nothing more than that. This is why he is calling it a bad religion.

Verse 1 – What does it mean

“Taxi driver, be my shrink for the hour

And leave the meter running

It’s rush hour

So take the streets, if you wanna

Just outrun the demons, could you?”

Bad Religion lyrics meaning in its first verse hold a conversation between Frank and a taxi driver. This taxi driver is an Arabic speaker Muslim. Out of helplessness and brokenness, he starts his song. He is finding someone with whom he can have a good talk and who can share or rather lessen his dismay. So, he asks this taxi driver to be someone. He is asking this stranger driver to bring a solution to his issue. He wants him to drive away all his demons. But, these demons are nothing but his conscience only. He feels he always tries to escape from the reality of him being a homosexual. However, these demons follow everywhere he goes. It is the truth that he can’t outrun. He loves this guy and he can’t deny this or erase it from his heart. 

Bad Religion lyrics meaning in its chorus show his disliking for religion. He finds them bad because they deny homosexuality and see it as a phase that one can outgrow.

What does the chorus mean

“He said, “Allahu akbar

I told him, “Don’t curse me”

Bo Bo, you need prayer”

I guess it couldn’t hurt me

If it brings me to my knees

It’s a bad religion

This unrequited love

To me, it’s nothing but a one-man cult

And cyanide in my styrofoam cup

I can never make him love me

Never make him love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love me

Love”

After asking the Arabic driver to outrun these demons. He replies Allahu Akbar means God is greater. After hearing these he feels like he has sinned by feeling the way he feels. Thus, this taxi driver is asking him to ask God to help him because only God can outrun these demons. But Frank feels disheartened after hearing this expected reply. He questions religion. In his later lines, he recalls Jim Jones, the cult of people’s Temple who made his followers drink the Kool-Aid imbued with cyanide. He feels he shares the same kind of relationship with religion as the followers of Jim Jones used to share with him. It is tormenting him emotionally and psychologically. It breaks him from inside that he is asked to seek the help of God to drive away these demons but in reality, these very demons are the source of his happiness. 

 Religion is bad because it asks him to deny his true feelings. When he says if it brings him to his knees then it is bad religion. It implies two different things. One if this religion is not accepting him for who he is then the religion is bad not him. Secondly, it suggests the act of oral sex. He says when he goes down to his knees to give oral sex to the man, the religion finds him a sinner. This very imposition of religion makes him feel like his love for the Almighty is the same as the love for his man, it is unrequited. It is neither reciprocated by the Almighty nor by the man. They both don’t understand his love and it’s hurting him. 

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Verse 2 – What does it mean

“Taxi driver, I swear I’ve got three lives

Balanced on my head like steak knives

I can’t tell you the truth about my disguise

I can’t trust no one

Bad Religion lyrics meaning in verse2 show Frank’s helplessness. He can’t tell the reasons behind his doing because he can’t trust anyone. He tells the taxi driver he can’t reveal his true self to him. He can’t share everything with him because he would not understand. He thinks that it is better not to share too much of his life trouble, it is better to remain silent. This very religion forces him to deny his homosexuality 

What does the outro mean

“It’s a, it’s a bad religion

To be in love with someone who could never love you

Oh-oh-oh, only bad, and only bad religion

Could have me feel”

Bad Religion lyrics meaning in outro shows Frank’s realization. He realizes that he has to cut off his bonds with this bad religion because it asks him to deny his homosexuality. Because it is futile to love someone who will never love you back or to accept you for who you are. He feels religion can not treat him in that way if it was good. Because true religion does not ask people to hide their true selves. Real religion would accept his real personality and would accept his love.

Conclusion

This whole song shows the turmoil of Frank for being gay. The fear of coming out. And how it feels to be accepted by the religion. He also describes his unrequited first love. In this entire piece, he struggles between whether to reject his sexuality or to reject his religion. Although we can feel the uncertainty in his tone throughout the song. Just like his first unrequited love, the follower of God doesn’t get to know whether their love is accepted or not because nobody has ever seen God. So they can never know the answer. Nobody has ever seen God in front of their eyes. So, getting an answer from there or to know whether they have accepted their love or not, there is no chance for knowing. The whole song is underrated, it deserves more love. It shows the struggle that a gay person feels inside his heart. The pain is visible throughout the song.

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