Paolo Nutini - Iron Sky

The song: Paolo Nutini - Iron Sky [Abbey Road Live Session] - YouTube 

The song’s lyrics: Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky Lyrics | Genius Lyrics   

Chaplin’s full speech (a separate post will be made discussing this): [Best Version] The Great Dictator Speech - Charlie Chaplin + Time - Hans Zimmer (INCEPTION Theme) - YouTube 


Known for his blue-eyed soul and rock sound, Paolo Nutini rose to prominence in 2006 after the release of his song Last Request. Often singing with his eyes closed, Nutini is known for his passionate performances and gravelly tone. In 2014, he released his third studio album, Caustic Love, which reached number one on the UK Album Charts that year. The album quickly gained critical acclaim for its unique depth and intensity. 

On this album is a song called Iron Sky.  

Following the Paris shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2015, Iron Sky was re-released as a single and quickly climbed the charts. Championed for its use of a famous audio excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) - a film ultimately inspired by Chaplin and Hitler’s familiar facial hair but celebrated for its seriousness (1) – Iron Sky touches on issues of hopelessness, violence, mass-confusion and nihilism. However, it is not a song without hope. Nutini sings for a future in which society will find unity and clarity in a world that is “free and beautiful”.  


We are proud individuals, living for the city, but the flames couldn’t go much higher. 

We find gods and religions to paint us with salvation but no one, no nobody, can give you the power to rise, over love, over hate. 

According to Ezekiel, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their pride, gluttony and selfishness, not using the wealth they were gifted to “aid the poor and needy” (16:49 NRSV). Similarly, God sent the Great Flood in Genesis because He was ashamed by “the wickedness of humanity” and the corruptness of an earth “filled with violence because of them” (6:5-13). Obsessed with the fleeting pleasures of the material, humans, in the eyes of God, are considered irredeemable in these passages. Nowadays, as people sit idly posting posed pictures of themselves on the internet while industrial flames coat the clouds above cities tainted with violence on streets dirty with discarded litter, what must God think of us?  

Additionally, as Nutini suggests, God’s name is used frivolously in our vocabulary as a way to moralise our behaviours. For example, despite being an officially secular country, “God bless America” has become the expected phrase with which US candidates should finish their speeches. This phrase was coined by President Nixon in 1973 at the climax of a speech intended to control the damage caused by the Watergate scandal, a major political humiliation that eventually led to his resignation. Despite mistrust, outrage and frustration from his people, Nixon, the most powerful man in America, endowed the country with the blessings of God because such an ally must mean they were doing something right. 

According to Corinthians, “the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power” (1 Corinthians 4:20); not on empty words but on actions. And yet, we are often apathetic when people treat other people cruelly and inhumanely; we belittle those who do not believe the same things we do, throwing cyber stones at them because it makes us feel powerful (John 8:70). We drain the earth of its essence to feed our cars and houses, shave its head and fill its chest with plastic because we can - not because we need to. It’s easy to assure ourselves that God’s silence when we pray constitutes acceptance of our choices. However, until we start taking action in the pursuit of a better world, we leave ourselves comparable to the cities which devasted God’s faith in humanity. Charcoal is charcoal, even if painted gold. 

Nonetheless, though some might argue that humans today are irredeemable, Nutini offers a suggestion: independence. God resides in all of us, meaning it’s there that power can be best understood. Not in the flag of America, the mountains of Peru or even, necessarily, on consecrated ground. Sometimes the best place to find power is from within the place that power seems most subdued and discouraged, in times when you feel most hurt or alone. Change begins with the individual. Only then can the collective begin to rise so that - over love, over hate - a power that is peaceful can be relearnt.  


Oh, that’s life that’s dripping down the walls of a dream that cannot breathe in this harsh reality.  

Mass confusion, spoon fed to the blind, serves now to define our cold society. 

In 1373, following 16 visions of Christ from her deathbed, Julian of Norwich became the most famous anchoress in the world. Within mere days she recovered fully from her bedbound sickness. A way of life which ended after the reign of Henry VIII and his Dissolution of the Monasteries, anchoresses or anchorites were people who willingly became religious recluses. They were often locked in small enclosed cells attached to churches (usually) never to leave, as was the case with Mother Julian who died in St Julian’s Church hermitage in 1416. Food was passed to her through a single small hole in the wall where she was also visited by those seeking blessings or spiritual advice. Saint Julian of Norwich did this as a testament to her faith and to encourage her continued connection with prophecy and mysticism, which she believed could be used to ease earth’s ailments and the suffering of people. She was visited by countless individuals throughout her life of physical seclusion. The Bible talks a lot about the importance of prophecy, which can appear dreamlike. They reveal the intensions of God (Amos 3:7). The visions which Julian of Norwich and other mystics experienced provided people with clarity, never confusion, regarding how God wanted them to treat others.  

Yet, in this day and age of technology and social media, unlike the anchoress, we have never been less connected to God and to each other. Our visions of the future are stretched further away from us as we are given the extraordinary ability to watch other people’s dreams unfold, we answer fewer texts and struggle to keep in touch while watching every terrible news event play out across our screens. The fingers of fake news curl around our phones as we are spoon fed cynicism and anxiety alongside knowledge and opportunity, seldom sure which one is which. Why must we add to the harshness and the coldness of society just because the walls of the internet lie between us? 

Matthew 15:14 states that “if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit”. While no one is sinless, without guilt or pain and everyone to some degree sightless, we must take responsibility for the roads down which we are led. Only by questioning ourselves and whether we are truly acting in the name of God can we begin to see the cracks in the pavement created by the red bottomed shoes of millionaires, see the overgrowth of mindless television, the colours of conspiracy graffitied on the walls and the river running thick with oil. With sightedness, and acknowledgement of our shortcomings, we can fill the cracks, trim the roughage, scrub the bricks and clean the water in the pursuit of a clearer path for everyone. 


From which we’ll rise, over love, over hate.  

Through this iron sky that’s fast becoming our mind. Over fear and into freedom. 

You’ve just got to hold on. 

To rise, not because of, but, in spite of circumstances is an exceedingly powerful thing to do. Though Nutini has never confirmed this, the iron sky he sings about could be a reference to Churchill’s idiom Iron Curtain. This expression represents the invisible division within Europe following the end of World War Two until the end of the Cold War in 1992. The iron sky which Nutini sings about is illustrative of the same kind of invisible divides in our minds which we use to separate ourselves from other people, places or situations. These divisions inhibit our personal and social growth by assuming that unity is not an option.  

Fear of the other will only serve to widen the skies between us, some of which have been parted by real concrete and fencing. Walls have helped bring about peace in the past, however, never have they ended the reign of fear or hatred between the people they separate. So, over fear and into freedom, the iron which divides us must be ripped down and our anxieties faced head on. Fear can be rooted in instinct and self-preservation, however, also “fear has to do with punishment” and condemnation of those we perceive as our opposites (1 John 4:18). In order to achieve unity, we must look inside ourselves before we pass judgement over others because “there is no fear in love” nor contempt in kindness (1 John 4:18). “Hold fast to what is good” and know that goodness comes in all shapes and sizes (1 Thessalonians 5:21), including that which you are.  


We’ll discuss some of the theological importance of Chaplin’s speech, excerpted in Nutini’s song, in another blog. In the meantime, try to think about how you as an individual not only try to combat harshness or coldness within society, but also how you contribute to it on a smaller scale. Do you cast judgement over people who are less academically gifted, or those who know less than you on a particular topic? Do you consider immoral those who have different opinions to you? Do you block or ghost people online, even though (or precisely because) you know you’ve hurt them? Do you ever litter or knowingly buy non-recyclable products because they are cheaper? Do you ever pick doing what is easy for you over doing what is right by someone else?  

How should we, as individuals and a collected, approach tearing down the iron sky between us? If you’re prone to overthinking, rather than be regretful and self-deprecatory, try to focus on how you can use the past as a doorway to a clearer path and a future that is brighter than your mistakes and more joyous than your broken heart can see right now. You’ve just got to hold on.  


Cited Reference:  

1) Barber, N. (2021). ‘The Great Dictator: the film that dared to laugh at Hitler’, BBC Culture. Available at: The Great Dictator: The film that dared to laugh at Hitler - BBC Culture (Accessed 26th January 2022).