“It’s a Sin” by Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin” was conceived primarily by its singer, Neil Tennant. It is based on his real-life experiences, as he was raised as a Catholic. And accordingly he was able to give birth to this tirade against religious absolutism in just 15 minutes, even though he never really meant for “It’s a Sin” to be taken seriously.

This track is premised on the idea that everything the singer wanted to do or actually had done in his youth somehow drew the ire of the Church. And due to these beliefs being an ingrained part of his being, when he looks back on his life he feels a deep sense of “shame”. Thus in the bridge he is asking God to forgive him. However, these references are sarcastic instead of literal. And in all, what he is basically doing is criticizing the Church based on his inferred belief that they set unrealistic and indeed oppressive moral standards.

And that is the gist of this classic. Based on the sentiment the singer is relaying, the titular “it” can be practically anything he likes. And whereas he clearly has a beef with the moral goals set before him by the religious establishment, at the same time he still feels ashamed that he could not live up to them.

Lyrics of "It's a Sin"
The late English film director Derek Jarman directed this video. It stars the late English actor and singer Ron Moody.

What Neil Tennant said about the meaning of “It’s a Sin”

In an interview he granted BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2007, Tennant explained the meaning of this classic. According to him, his strict Catholic background always made him feel that everything he loved doing was a pure sin.

Neil Tennant explains the meaning of "It's a Sin"

A Great Success for Pet Shop Boys

“It’s a Sin” was a big hit, particularly in Europe where it topped the charts in these countries:

  •  Austria
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Sweden

And most importantly, in the Pet Shop Boys’ native country of the United Kingdom, it also rose to number 1.

Outside of Europe it also peaked at number one in Israel and South Africa. And as far as how it fared in the United States, the song performed impressively well. It managed to peak at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Owing to its massive success, this classic is a perpetual part of the Pet Shop Boys’ setlist when they go on tour.

Release Date of “It’s a Sin”

EMI Records in partnership with Parlophone Records released this classic on September 7th, 2019. The track was the lead single from the Pet Shop Boys’ renowned sophomore album. This album is titled Actually.

 Actually also produced the following hits:

False Accusation and Court Case

The Pet Shop Boys got into a beef over this song when a British DJ and television personality named Jonathan King claimed they jacked the melody. According to King, Pet Shop Boys stole the song’s catchy melody from another classic hit – Cat Stevens’ 1971 song entitled “Wild World”. King even went as far as, in addition to making the claim in a popular newspaper, releasing a cover of “Wild World” himself in order to prove his point. That song did not succeed, as in it flopped. And accordingly the Pet Shop Boys eventually sued him. The Boys eventually won the case and received monetary compensation from King. They donated the money they collected to charity. 

What language is spoken at the end of “It’s a Sin”?

The outro of “It’s a Sin” is spoken in Latin and keeps to the religious theme of the song.

Who wrote “It’s a Sin”?

Neil Tennant wrote this hit single along with the other half of Pet Shop Boys, Chris Lowe. The lyrics are specifically based on Tennant’s experiences as a student at St. Cuthbert’s High School located in Newcastle, which is a boys-only Catholic school. Reportedly he got into beef with some of his former teachers there due to the nature of this song.

 Australian record producer and engineer Julian Mendelsohn was the producer for “It’s a Sin”.

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