Dark Light

Released: 2017

“Pray” by Sam Smith is a heartfelt introspection of a man battling with his skepticism on spirituality, all while yearning for a connection with a higher power. The song revolves around the guilt and brokenness that he possesses, while trying to cope with the chaotic state of the world. The lyrics are enriched with self-doubt, several religious references, and a desperate plea for guidance and relief.

Starting off the song with, “I’m young and I’m foolish, I’ve made bad decisions,” Smith sets the tone for a raw confession. He acknowledges his youth, mistakes, and acknowledges that he’s been running from the hard truths, turning his back on religion. This is an angle common in hip-hop, the self-awareness that comes with maturity – where the rapper reflects on his past actions, decisions, and their consequences.

The refrain, “Maybe I’ll pray,” is a turning point in Smith’s narrative. Despite his skepticism, he’s willing to break his own rules and norms in search for solace. The repetition of the refrain carries the weight of his desperation – he’s so lost, he’s considering surrendering to faith. Hip-hop often explores this complicated relationship with religion, being a genre born out of hardship and struggle.

Smith’s assertion, “You won’t find me in church (no) reading the Bible (no), I am still here and I’m still your disciple,” is mighty profound. He distances himself from organized religion, yet perceives himself as a disciple or a follower. This might seem contradictory, but it’s a common perspective in hip-hop, where many artists see themselves as spiritual rather than strictly religious.

In the verse, “I’m not a saint, I’m more of a sinner, I don’t wanna lose, but I fear for the winners,” we’re hit with more introspection. He acknowledges his flaws, his sins, but also expresses a fear for those who seem to have it all. It’s a common theme in hip-hop, discussing the pitfalls of success and how it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

The last stanzas focus on the idea of divine communication and freedom. Smith, through his lyrics, pleads for a one-on-one with God – a personal, intimate form of communication. The notion of freedom entwined with prayer seeks to manifest that everyone, in some form or the other, prays in their end times, an idea again consistent in hip-hop’s exploration of existence, morality, and spirituality.

Overall, “Pray” demonstrates Sam Smith’s introspective journey, his battle with skepticism and his desperate need for guidance, akin to the broader themes in hip-hop pertaining to struggle, faith, and redemption.