“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”.

“It’s a Sin” Television Series

This song’s title inspired the 2021 hit British TV series of the same name. The Russell T. Davies-created TV series centers on the lives of a group of teenagers in London and their battles with HIV/AIDS. The song features in Episode 4 of the series. It is played when one of the characters named Ritchie Tozer finds out that he has been infected with HIV.

6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great song that depicts the catholic church back in the bad ol days the church and its establishment were never crossed but we have the church set deep in our minds !! This is a great song and always will be well done pet shop boys !!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Closet catholic bi man trying to make life work for which I feel shame. Song has always resonated with me. Cracking melody too. Thanks Pet Shop Boys

  3. Anon2275 says:

    I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important songs ever made. From reducing the power and authority of morally perverted organised religion to helping with the acceptance and non-judgement of people with different sexual proclivities to our own, this song helped change the moral landscape of the world.

  4. Mama's Advice says:

    Funny how we hate being told something is “bad” when we’re young, yet we can see clearly why it was when we get older.
    We love our Freedom, but Freedom without structure is chaos. We are free to sin or to not. But Actions always have consequences. Some seen. Some unseen. Some now. Some later.

  5. Think First says:

    Mama’s Advice, please keep in mind that over the centuries we have been told a lot of things as children that aren’t true – that we children are worthless, stupid, ugly and will never amount to anything, that women are inferior, that blacks are subhuman not even the same species as the white-skinned, that slavery is a necessary evil, that the world is flat, that it is okay to beat a woman or child whenever they disobey, that homosexuality is the worst crime anyone can commit and is far worse than murder, that Santa comes down the chimney, that a King has divine rights, that war is noble, that any religion isn’t just a man-made concept, that indigenous people need to be extinguished because they are somehow more dangerous than the rest of us, and so on, ad infinitum. Having a healthy amount of skepticism as a child is far better than blindly accepting whatever truths are on sale from our parents.

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