Critique of "Same Love" by Maklemore and Ryan Lewis

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 23rd Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2k7iiwg5/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Music>Rock

Songs where there is more talking than singing really catch my attention. What is the message being presented? I heard this song three or four times before I thought I caught it all, and then did a lyric check to be sure. This song has stirred up some controversy, so I wanted to shed some light on the message.

"Same Love" Does Not Belong to Me

Artists are (understandably) persnickety about having their songs stolen, so here is a link to the official YouTube video, which I did not embed directly because I do not own it. My critique is meant to illuminate and educate only.

My greatest negative critique of the work to follow is that the poem is not fashioned in a linear argument. It starts with a compelling hook -- a story, a memory -- and then addresses religion and law and equality in random repetitive fashion. The random fashion of repeated ideas may make it difficult for people to learn the song and repeat the lyrics in the sensible discussions that will arise from such a work. However, I do not think that the haphazardness will really distract the enthusiast, who can find the lyrics online like I did.

Questioning His Sexual Orientation


"When I was in the 3rd grade
"I thought that I was gay
"Cause I could draw, my uncle was
"And I kept my room straight
"I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
"She's like, 'Ben, you've loved girls since before Pre-K!'"

So this young man -- a 3rd grader -- makes up this tally of gay/not gay ideas in his head. His uncle is gay, he doesn't have a messy room -- these things made him believe he might be gay, and if it was true, he didn't believe it could be a good thing. To have his mother's reassurance makes him feel better. But then he thinks about his uncle's struggle and acts almost apologetic for not being gay.

"Tripping, yeah, I guess she had a point, didn't she?
"A bunch of stereotypes all in my head
"I remember doing the math, like
"'Yeah, I'm good at little league'
"A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant
"For those that like the same sex had the characteristics"

Speaking Out Against Religious Oppression Towards Same Sex

"The right-wing conservatives think it's a decision
"And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
"Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition, playing God"

Perhaps the Pope was listening to this song; perhaps it inspired the comments made in his interview last week. Obviously, the Pope did not go as far as this poet does, but for religious people trapped between people they love and fear of eternal damnation, it was the right thing to say.

"Same Love" goes on to say

"And 'God loves all his children' is somehow forgotten
"But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five hundred years ago"

and (though this part is toward the end)

"When I was in church they taught me something else
"If you preach hate at the service, those words aren't anointed
"That Holy Water that you soak in has been poisoned
"When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
"Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen"

Poisoned Holy Water and words of hate not being anointed are pretty harsh images, but I feel that is exactly what the poet was going for. In the US, there is a large contingent of people who have gay friends but condemn their gay lifestyle -- or say they "love the sinner, hate the sin," or something like that. They go to church and what they believe at the service is different than the life they live at the office or at home. And I appreciate this calling out of hypocrisy by the poet, because it is something that religious folks need to find better ways to deal with.

Addressing the US and Social Media

"Same Love" won an award for "Best Video with a Social Message" at the MTV VMA's in Brooklyn in August. Good to know not everyone was focused on Miley.

"America the brave still fears what we don't know"

This is not so much a powerful image as it is a juxtaposition of two truths. The US has had many battles over hundreds of years for equality, which IMHO is pretty ridiculous for a country founded on the idea of freedom from persecution. And every battle is rooted in some level of ignorance and fear of the unknown by the masses while the old power pulls the puppet strings and presents those fears as facts.

and

"If I was gay I would think hip-hop hates me
"Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
"'Man, that's gay' gets dropped on the daily
"We've become so numb to what we're saying"

Young people want to be cool. Even older people want to been seen as relevant when they talk to young people, and so the lingo can be used and abused. "MTG" is not the only phrase that some people are numb to -- "OMG" is another -- but these phrases should not be part of our cultural experience. The poet is right to suggest that awareness -- not being numb to what is said -- is the first step toward correcting our minds and our speech to reflect something less rooted in hatefulness.

"Our culture founded from oppression
"Yet we don't have acceptance for 'em
"Call each other faggots
"Behind the keys of a message board
"A word rooted in hate
"Yet our genre still ignores it
"'Gay' is synonymous with the lesser"

As mentioned earlier, the poet gets a little caught up here. The thoughts are somewhat tangled between social media, the US, equality, and religion. This may be purposeful, since (especially in the Southern States, which are the ones most opposed to accepting people that are gay, opposed to gay marriage, opposed to teaching sex education and sex safety, champion abstinence-only sex education and slut shaming which they disguise as modesty training, and base all these largely unsuccessful programs on their freedom of religion, regardless of the fact that freedom of religion includes freedom not to practice religion) religion and liberty in the US are often linked. Also, this is not a well-written essay, clearly defining the topic and setting out the iron-clad argument, this is a work of poetry -- a song -- whose primary objective is to be heard and enjoyed by the masses.

That said, fellow Wikinut Peter B. Giblett wrote earlier this month about the lack of radical thinking in today's poets. And to Peter I'd like to offer this song as a mark of rebellion against societal norms. Perhaps he would not see it that way, but I certainly do.

But a crucial difference, and -- in the midst of several civil wars which the US is debating entering -- one I think is vital, is that the poet is recommending a path not to uprising and violence, but a Martin Luther King or Ghandi solution of an uprising to peace. Fighting in ways that do not require a machine gun or a tank, but that require a lot of heart and gut to speak out for what is right even if it opposes the establishment -- the laws based in religions that attempt to replace God for their many believers.

"It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion
"Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment.
"The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit-ins
"It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference
"Live on! And be yourself!"

and

"I might not be the same but that's not important
"No freedom til we're equal
"Damn right I support it"

The poet/speaker is lucky in that he has an accepted uncle who is gay and parents (seemingly) who would love and accept him regardless. But the message he presents is clear -- rest cannot happen until everyone enjoys what he enjoys.

Clear Message

"We press play, don't press pause
"Progress, march on!
"With a veil over our eyes, we turn our back on the cause
"'Til the day that my uncles can be united by law"

The poet's message is very clear -- he wants his uncles to have an equal right to marry. This is a hot-button issue in the US, and there can be no question which side of the debate this poet is on.

"Kids are walking around the hallway
"Plagued by pain in their heart
"A world so hateful
"Some would rather die
"Than be who they are"

Here the poet is speaking about the many children who have committed suicide because they feel the pressure of so many people against them in the world, and not enough support to help them stand. As someone who has fought for gender equality, this was clear to me, but this video should make it clear for anyone still on the fence about it.

"And a certificate on paper
"Isn't gonna solve it all
"But it's a damn good place to start
"No law's gonna change us
"We have to change us
"Whatever god you believe in
"We come from the same one
"Strip away the fear, underneath, it's all the same love
"About time that we raised up!"

Here once again the poet is returning to ideas mentioned previously in the song. The laws he wants changed are laws supporting equality, specifically supporting gay marriage, but with ideas based on all US citizens being considered as equals of each other. While that shouldn't be a new idea, for many, it is a radical one.

Controversy

Ironically, the most controversy I have heard about this song came from some representatives of the gay community. And the argument was something along the lines of "I'm tired of hearing about it" or "Macklemore is just trying to sell records."

These arguments blew me away.

How many pride marches have their been? How many fights have been fought over the idea of equality? And yet when a person from the seemingly unaffected, privileged position of being straight dares to create and promote a song about something unlike himself, to speak for the oppressed -- he is criticized for it? It isn't that people who are gay can't speak for themselves. But it is important that people who are not seemingly affected by the issue come out and publicly offer support. Men can be (and should be) feminists and supporting feminism. People who are white can and should support the NAACP and other organizations that strive for racial equality. Adults can and should advocate for children. This is no different.

There is an Arabic proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," I think that proverb applies here. Certain members of the gay community might not like straight people talking about them or the issue. Maybe straight people are saying it wrong -- in their view. But I think every community of people oppressed by law need people who don't have a personal stake in it to fight for them. After all, "First they came," for someone else, and if I don't speak up, there will be "no one left to speak for me."

Join the Controversy

I've been outspoken of late about some political and educational issues close to my heart.
Please consider:

Slut Shaming
Not Rape Prevention
Braids
Teacher's Dress Code
Unchurched
42 and Paula Deen
Prosecution

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Tags

Discrimination, Discrimination Against Gays, Equal Rights, Equality, Equality And Diversity, Equality Of Human Kind, Gay, Hate Speech, Homosexual, Maklemore, Ryan Lewis, Same Love, Same Sex Love, Same Sex Marriage, Same Sex Unions

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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