Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ Grammy Performance of “Unholy” Called ‘Satanic’ by Conservatives on Social Media

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Sam Smith performs during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Timothy Norris/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Sam Smith and Kim Petras won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo Performance for their 2022 hit “Unholy.” Petras was the first transgender woman to win this award, and Smith, the first non-binary person to win, graciously gave her the floor to deliver a heartfelt acceptance speech, in which she honored the trans artists who came before her.

The duo sported matching red ensembles, and later performed the song during the show. The song is famously a departure from Smith’s more introspective ballads, and discusses the notion that homosexuality is still viewed as a sin by several world religions. With this theme in mind, Smith and Petras delivered a tongue in cheek performance wearing devil horns and the inclusion of a Hell-ish backdrop.

The performance was announced by Madonna, who has had several performances receive public criticism, notably for her 1984 MTV VMA’s performance of “Like a Virgin.” The veteran performer was sure to remind audiences that artistic controversies are only meant to spark deeper conversations. Madonna is also an avid supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, and was likely referring to their shared criticism of Christianity’s homophobia problem.

The performance drew comparisons to Lil Nas X’s 2021 hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, which featured similar imagery. Lil Nas X has spoken about his childhood in Georgia, at the heart of the Bible Belt, and the role it has played in his artistic journey. Some music critics called out the ongoing religious rooted homophobia that inspires the same performances that primarily Christian communities condemn.


Christian media personalities were surprisingly divided on the performance. Amid mounting criticisms of several sects of Christianity promoting homophobic beliefs, some Christians understood where the performance was coming from. Moments like these tend to distract from the progress that some churches have made towards more inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, notably Pope Francis’ recent comments condemning the criminalization of homosexuality.

While some Christian media personalities cited the much larger world issues to be concerned about rather than a Grammys performance, others took to social media to describe what they perceive as Hollywood’s “evils.”

One TikTok creator went as far as saying that she believes Sam Smith and Kim Petras sold their souls for fame and success.



not the devil horns #samsmith #kimpetras #unholy #grammys2023

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Several Republican politicians were quick to condemn the performance, including Senator Ted

Cruz and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Greene specifically returned to her roots, citing conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 vaccines are tied to “satanic rituals.”

Other onlookers pointed out that the performance was relatively tame in comparison to 80s awards show performances from rock and metal bands that portrayed similar themes.

Despite its controversies, Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ song and performance still made history, and fans of the pair applauded their dedication to being unapologetically themselves.

In the words of Madonna last night, artists who push boundaries in the name of positive progress for marginalized communities are still “seen, heard, and appreciated”,  no matter what critics have to say.

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