Tyler Glenn, lead singer of Neon Trees (remember “Everybody Talks?”), has gone through some crazy life-changing events since his band faded from Billboard charts in 2014. He publicly came out as gay in a Rolling Stone issue, left the Church of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon Church) because of major anti-LGBT policies, and then wrote an incredibly intense, angry, emotional album about it all, appropriately titled Excommunication.
You can learn more about Tyler Glenn’s life and the LDS Church’s actions against LGBT rights in the 2018 documentary Believer. The film follows Imagine Dragons’ lead singer, Dan Reynolds, in his fight to support LGBT Mormon youth with an annual concert called Loveloud. Much of the documentary focuses on the specific policy that virtually excommunicated Glenn: a policy that prevents children of same-sex parents from being baptized and joining the church.
The announcement of this new policy triggered Glenn’s faith struggle, which ultimately led to him renouncing the LDS religion. His thoughts, emotions, and inner struggle are all beautifully documented in Excommunication. The album features thirteen songs that show different aspects of his journey to find his beliefs, saying he “still believe[s] in Jesus” in one song while confessing that he “gave up God and Jesus all in the same night” in another. The album also focuses on Glenn’s acceptance of his sexuality and loss of his ex-boyfriend (the title has a double meaning: both religious excommunication and literal “ex” communication, as in talking to his ex).
Below are a few songs from the album that I think are especially powerful.
Photo by Mike Deerkoski via Flickr
2. G.D.M.M.L. GRLS
Go on give up on me, I think my father still loves his son
I tried to kill myself and I’m not the only one
I’m not the only one
Right off the bat, Glenn is not afraid to get to the hard truth with his powerfully emotional lyrics. He addresses the rapid increase in youth suicide rates in Utah, which many have linked to the LDS church’s anti-LGBT messages. “G.D.M.M.L. GRLS,” short for “God didn’t make me like girls,” also implies that he still believes in God, just a more accepting God than the one the Mormon church preaches about. He also calls God “she,” which is a power move I think we can all appreciate.
In all of this, I lost myself
Maybe I’ll see you in hell
Okay, whatever, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure
The song itself is angry and accusatory, but the video takes Glenn’s anger to a whole new level. The music video shows Glenn painting a red X on his face, ripping up the Book of Mormon, and spitting on paintings of the founder of the church. This is the most combative song on the album, and probably reflects his initial reaction to the church’s policy.
4. Gods + Monsters
I believed in gods and monsters, too
‘Till I found out they’re all imposters just like you
I lost the Lord then I lost you
Then I mixed my dignity with gin and fruit juice
This song is my personal favorite. I love how he intertwines all his emotions together in these lines: sadness, desperation, and a lot of anger. Both his ex and the God he believed in his whole life are now “imposters.” The song is powerful, relatable, and surprisingly catchy.
You hate what you don’t understand
I live a life so shameless
In “Shameless,” Glenn owns his sexuality and throws it in the face of the church that rejected him. The video features him dancing on someone in a mask of the LDS Church’s founder, wearing a shirt that reads “who the fuck is Tyler Glenn.” He turns his anger into a confident, self-empowering pop song that’s also really fun to dance to.
I’ve been on the run, so I’m not coming Sunday
It’s alright, I’ll probably talk to you at midnight
The only slow song on Excommunication, “Midnight” is Glenn’s personal letter to God. He’s trying to explain himself to his God while acknowledging that he “can never be like [him]” and that’s okay. Although he’s abandoned his religion and left the church, he still wants to have a good relationship with God.
I think the devil made me
Do it do it baby
I found myself when I lost my faith
I found myself when I lost my faith
The final song on the album is an anthem that culminates everything Glenn is feeling. He finally comes out of his anger and figures out what’s important to him. In the end, he realizes that his entire painful journey has allowed him to find and accept himself. He leaves the listener with the words “don’t pray for me” because he doesn’t want to change the person he’s become.
If you want to listen to music that’s emotional, raw, and straight from the heart, you’ll love Excommunication. Every song is unique and real, while also adding to the album’s larger journey. I can’t recommend it enough. Happy listening!