When it was announced that Pope Francis I would be releasing an album, the first taste came in the form of "Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!," a sweeping prog number set to grand horns and killer guitar riffs. This led many to believe Wake Up! would be a full-on rock album. Smart move by the Holy See, but the reality is less Rush and more Yanni, set to a myriad of new age sounds, a "greatest hits" of speeches from Francis' career as the Pontifex pushes his message of charity, love, and inclusion. From his election day welcome in 2013 ("Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum!") to an appearance in the Philippines in 2015, the collection focuses mostly on speeches from the first year of his papacy (and a handful from 2014), covering audiences at the Vatican, South Korea, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, and Manila. There's some soothing Gregorian-esque chanting, ethnic flair (specifically Spanish, Middle Eastern, and East Asian), and Gothic choir histrionics. "Wake Up!" manages to be the most interesting, rousing, and exciting track here, while the somber "¿Por qué sufren los ninos?" ("Why do children suffer?") drives his ethos home in the most affecting way. Though there are some slower moments ("La iglesia no puede ser una ONG!"), Wake Up! is an inspirational and positive plea to Catholics around the world. Using soothing and familiar music to soundtrack Francis' message, it will likely be popular with devout followers and younger members of the church. To a casual listener, it may not connect, but considering the Pope released an album with an electric guitar, he deserves credit for having some edge. Whether listeners are religious or not, these are messages that are universally comforting in dark times. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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