Most people assume REM’s 1992 hit “Everybody Hurts” is meant to be depressing, because it sounds like a somber song. But you’ll hear that it’s quite uplifting if you listen to the words.
The lyrics of the song is an acknowledgment that everyone does experience pain from time to time and that no one should feel alone. The key to the song is its refrain “Hold on”. It’s a song about strength and better days ahead.
Understandably, different covers of the song evoke different emotions, but Father Ray Kelly wowed the crowd and judges at the 2018 Britain’s Got Talent auditions with his soulful take on the 90s hit.
Even though it’s curious enough to see a Catholic priest take the stage, this wasn’t the first time Fr. Kelly has been in the spotlight. In 2014, he went viral in 2014 after someone shared a video of him surprising a bride and groom with an impromptu performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at a wedding ceremony. Now that video has been viewed over 70 million times.
But this was his first time on stage as a singer and not primarily as a priest. Nevertheless, he took us all to church and back with his performance.
He began the audition by explaining his background and song choice to the understandably skeptical judges:
“It’s a song that’s kind of near and dear to my heart. I suppose being a priest you get in touch with a lot of pain, a lot of joy, and happiness as well…”
Then, the room fell silent and he began to sing with a good exorcism joke out of the way.
The priest’s voice is perfect and gentle and even a little reminiscent of REM’s lead singer Michael Stipe. It’s perfectly clear that it’s going to be a lovely performance.
When Simon Cowell smiled, it was a sign that everything is going well from the judges’ perspective as well.
But will that be enough to be anything more than a perfectly serviceable cover? There’s going to be some stiff competition from singers with powerful vocals after all.
Then it’s the time for his first pass as the chorus. His voice deepens and it’s clear he can belt out a good tune. This audience cheers and is mesmerized by the haunting performance. It really is a song that brings out a lot of emotions when it’s done well.
And there’s something even more moving about it coming from a priest. It feels like he is giving us a gentle, good advice.
Despite the fact that over 12 million people have watched the video since it was posted in April 2018, it is not a mind-blowing vocal performance. But it is an indication that there are likely more good things to come from Fr. Kelly.
And luckily, the judges were eager to give him that chance. They called the performance “brilliant” and “beautiful,” and moved him on to the next round with unanimous yeses. And Simon sends him off with a great compliment:
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, to be honest with you. But, I want to tell you something… This is one of my favorite ever auditions.”
Simon was even the first one out of his seat for a standing ovation, followed by some hooting. Such a rare sight from the hard-to-impress judge!
Fr. Kelly is overjoyed at the reception and it’s hard not to smile at his reaction.
Even though he didn’t go on to win the competition that year, he made it to the semi-finals. As per usual, fans were irate at the elimination of a crowd favorite, but the priest took it all in stride and assured his fans that his singing days aren’t over yet.
Everyone make sure to scroll down to see the beautiful audition.