It begins with bold synthesized organ chords, like a marriage ceremony. But then a bright piano melody begins to wander above, almost childlike - as if a little kid is toying with the keyboard. Then the song moves into an uplifting, upbeat theme, and the rap begins.
The new song, called “Same Love,” is the latest track by hip-hop artist Macklemore. As part of the music industry’s movement to support marriage equality in Washington state, Macklemore has collaborated with producer Ryan Lewis in a song that addresses homophobia in hip-hop, education, religion, and politics in the U.S. today. They tackle big topics for a five-minute song, but do a fantastic job with thoughtful lyrics and a killer melody.
The insider perspective of the speaker gives the song its credibility. Instead of preaching to socially conservative Christians, the rapper reflects on his own church experience and argues for same-sex marriage as a Christian. “If you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed. And the Holy Water you soak in is then poisoned,” he says. He argues against right-wing conservatives who think gay people can change; prescribing “treatment” is like forcing them to “play God - ahh, nah.” Across every religion, Macklemore concludes, “it’s all the same love,” so we should support love in all its forms. Instead of condemning all bullies in schools, Macklemore remembers how he himself was confused by sexual stereotypes as a child: “When I was in the third grade, I thought I was gay, because I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight,” he recalls. Instead of accusing “others” of promoting homophobia in hip-hop, the rapper says “we’ve become so numb to what we’re saying... we don’t have acceptance for them, calling each other faggots.” The inclusive language is more convincing, because Macklemore blames himself, too. By speaking as a Christian, a school boy, and a hip-hop artist, Macklemore is better able to relate to all these communities.
The chorus features the unbelievably beautiful voice of Mary Lambert, a folk/spoken word singer from Seattle. (Seriously, go listen to her - she’s like Feist + Jewel + Sarah McLachlan). The lyrics are so heartfelt: “And I can’t change, even if I try, even if I wanted to,” the chorus begins. “My love, my love, my love... she keeps me warm, she keeps me warm.” By simply describing the feeling of warmth, Lambert conveys love as it feels for any couple, straight or same-sex. At the end of the song, she chants “Love is patient, love is kind,” returning to the subject of marriage.
The rap and the chorus balance each other perfectly. The spoken word articulates smartly why we should support gay marriage, and the melody moves us to see what same-sex love feels like. (Spoiler alert: it feels the same as straight love.) The rap is the brain, while the chorus is the emotional heart of the song.
The song’s precursors enhance the meaning of the song. The chord progression is exactly the same in “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer and “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield -- a song that urges us to end political apathy and a gospel about the approaching “train to Jordan” that takes the loving and faithful believers and leaves behind those who hurt mankind. Both are uplifting songs that motivate us to be better people and prepare for the future, and “Same Love” joins these tracks.
Basically, just go listen to the song. It will be on sale next week, and all proceeds will go to support marriage equality. When Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ LP, The Heist, drops on October 9th, I will be first in line to buy it.