Listed as the most successful duo in UK music history by the Guinness Book of Records, the Pet Shop Boys have won three Brit Awards and have been nominated for a Grammy six times since 1986.
Based off Neil Tennant’s Catholic upbringing and his education at St Cuthbert’s High School in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, “It’s a Sin” insinuates how the religion considers everything that provides happiness and pleasure to an individual is considered sinful. In a 2007 interview with British radio program “Desert Island Discs”, Tennant explains the title behind the song. “[It] always seemed to be taught that everything was a sin. Everything you wanted to do was a sin. And so I put that in a song.” The song was met with mixed criticism, with both compliment and insults from the Catholic community – some praising it for discussing the topic of sin, others criticising for insulting the religion.
The lyrics are quite simple, simply describing Tennant’s experiences with the Catholic religion. “When I look back upon my life/It’s always with a sense of shame/I’ve always been the one to blame/For everything I long to do/No matter when or where or who/Has one thing in common, too” – the first verse dives straight into the topic of Tennant’s childhood and how he felt about it, opening with very raw and honest lines. The chorus consists of: “It’s a sin, it’s a, it’s a sin/It’s a sin/Everything I’ve ever done/Everything I ever do/Every place I’ve ever been/Everywhere I’m going to/It’s a sin”. Again, there isn’t much hidden to analyse from the lyrics as they are extremely blunt. The second verse goes into more depth about Tennant’s school experiences, with him singing: “At school they taught me how to be/So pure in thought and word and deed/They didn’t quite succeed…”. The bridge consists of Tennant asking the Lord to forgive him as he still doesn’t believe what he’s learnt from him nor does he understand it. To wrap the whole song up, the duo recite a Latin passage, which translates to: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, act and omission, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
The music video was directed by experimental director Derek Jarman, “It’s a Sin” was one of the first of many collaboration with him and the Pet Shop Boys. It personified many of the lyrics of the song, depicting the seven deadly sins played by various actors. It also featured both members of the musical duo, with Tennant being under arrest with Lowe as his jailer. The video has almost 46 million views on YouTube, and is undoubtedly the synthpop duo’s most popular song, and a fan favourite.
Release Date: 15th June 1987
Songwriter/s: Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe
Song Producer/s: Julia Mendelsohn, Stephen Hague
Song Length: 4:59
Album: Actually (1987)
Record Label: Parlophone Records / EMI Records
Music Video Release Date: 2nd March 2009
Music Video Director: Derek Jarman
Chart Rankings: #1 in Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It also scored a position on the US Billboard Charts, with it ranking #3 on the “Hot Dance Club Play” and #9 on the “Hot 100”. It also was certified in many countries the same year the song was released, going Silver in the UK, Platinum in Sweden and Gold in Spain. In 1990, the song also received a Gold certification in Austria.