The Great Debate

Album: Dark Matter (2017)

Songfacts®:

  • During this eight-minute epic, Randy Newman pits "true believers" against atheist scientists. The song examines evolution and the 'dark matter' of the album title with the religious side coming out on top, largely thanks to the power of music. Asked by Pitchfork why faith comes out on top, despite not being a believer himself, Newman replied:

    "Faith wins because it's got Dorothy Love Coates, the Golden Gate Quartet, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, everybody. I don't know whether I am a music lover, strictly - it's hard to say how I feel about it - but I love good gospel music. No doubt. My side, the agnostic, atheist side, has got nothing like that. There's no great song that's like, 'Let's all not believe and play our agnostic hymnals!' They got everything: the high ceilings, the confessions - man what a hit idea."
  • "The Great Debate" is one of several songs on Dark Matter that switches narration several times between different people. "Some of them took me a long time because they're so goddamn complicated," Newman told American Songwriter regarding the album.

    "It's not a step anyone else is going to be dumb enough to take, but it's what I do," he added.
  • This is Randy Newman's longest ever composition. He admitted to Mojo: "I'm wondering now if the song's too long. Maybe I should have taken the two songs in there, done different versions of them instead."
  • Randy Newman told Uncut: "I definitely do what I'm accused of doing in that song, I create characters as objects of ridicule. 'He doesn't believe anything he has you say nor does he want us to believe anything you say.'"

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