The devil is a sly one. Old Scratch realized that if you want to control the hearts and mind of men and women use the hypnotic force of the spectacle of pop music. Not everyone, of course, is aware of how deep the influence goes. Some believe the devil is merely a prop, used by an even more nefarious—and secretive—group known as the Illuminati, who are believed to be, depending on what side of the political or religious spectrum you fall, Freemasons, Jews, Communists, the Rockefellers, The Council on Foreign Relations, and every corner and facet of the United States government. But despite their reach, there is still no better vehicle for total domination than the Super Bowl halftime show.
Soon after as it was announced that Katy Perry would be performing at halftime (an event watched by even more people than the Super Bowl itself), the evangelical pundit Jan Markell talked at length with AM radio host Paul Ridgeway of the dire spiritual consequences of Ms. Perry's appearance, bringing "maximum evil" to the masses. Even more damning was Perry's own enthusiasm for the honor of being asked to perform: "I do know the incredible amount of responsibility I have for this performance, and i think when the universe gives you these things, it's just asking you if you're ready for the next level. And I'm getting ready." Thanking the universe, and not god, is further proof of where her true allegiance lies.
Katy Perry opening the show riding a golden lion was gift-wrapped for their fears. Alex Jones' Infowars quickly posted a carving of an ancient goddess standing atop a lion. The next day, the website Now the End Begins explained: "The New World Order and Illumination agenda is being hammered into our children at a feverish rate, using catchy lyrics and a non-stop droning drumbeat with overwhelming power chords."
Fears of pop music's deal with the devil is as old as the Blues, but stretches back even further to any music that was suspect in its physicality or its secular appeal. The spirituals of the American slaves were once sung in secret. Their shouts to God were believed to be barbaric, chaotic, and unbound. By the time Elvis Presley's hips were causing young women to faint, pop music would never be free from accusations of demonic or other nefarious influence.
While Katy Perry's lion (and dancing sharks) were so much kitsch with not a hint of esoteric symbolism, Madonna's 2012 halftime show appeared to more deliberately cultivate the paranoia of the occult conspiracy theorists. Madonna, clothed in a dress reminiscent of a Roman emperor with a horned crown staged the pop-equivalent of Egyptian mystery rite. It was tailor made for what she could only have imagined would be the talking points, called a "12 minute display of Satanic symbolism" and a "massive Illuminati ritual," to name a few.
Madonna must have begun to tire of it all, as her now leaked upcoming album Rebel Heart includes the song "Illuminati" in which she tries to set the record straight. The lyrics are surprisingly smart, insofar as Madonna rightly makes note that the original 18th century society espoused mainly Enlightenment ideals. Otherwise it's a call to dance and to party (but as many will warn you, this is where Satan lies in wait, on the dancefloor handing you a drink)
The Illuminati as an occult secret society is a myth, but the power of that myth, and others like it, is a formidable part of the collective pop consciousness. All it takes is a simple but conscious effort and some part of our proverbial third-eye opens when we encounter these symbols; Egyptian-lite Art-Deco trappings on the stage, a pentagram on an album cover, fingers held in the shape of a triangle. Since the rumored death of Paul McCartney in the 1960s, even those for whom conspiracy theories hold no weight, people have been poring over album covers, listening to lyrics, and even inspecting the personal lives of musicians in the hopes of uncovering some secret truth. What that truth is will, again, be dependent on whether you are already a believer in certain spiritual ideas, and if so, which ones. A teenager hoping a spirit will materialize in her room while she is listening to Ozzy Osbourne has a very different relationship to that music than someone like Alex Jones who sees Ozzy as just another pawn in the New World Order's scheme.
Katy Perry didn't have a chance. Once she agreed to perform, the deck was already stacked against her. And since she once claimed to be a born-again Christian, her turn to the dark side is particularly egregious for those who are looking for the devil in the most glaring moments of pop culture. One might have thought that the absurdity of the stiff and awkward palm trees trying their best to dance in rhythm next to her would have squashed any fears Perry was secretly calling forth Satan. But then again, it wasn't until I thought about it further that those palm trees were likely pagan phalluses, and the beach balls dancing in front of them, I shudder to think of the demonic horror that has seduced us all.