Every year, there is always something on the MTV Video Music Awards that really toasts my goose. This year was certainly no exception. And, believe it or not, it didn’t have anything to do with the nudesy, twerking and grinding Miley Cyrus mess or the under-hyped 90 seconds of deflated joy that was the N’SYNC reunion, but rather, it was actually the crowning of a new “LGBT Hero” that was bestowed upon Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for their pro-equality song and video for “Same Love”.
Ironic much huh? I’m a screaming liberal pro-equality fighter and I’m bitching about the pro-equality stance on the VMAs?! So why would this bother someone like me? Surely it’s a good thing for the LGBT equality movement right? Well yes, sort of, but not really. Let me explain…
First of all, let me just preface this commentary. I actually have nothing against Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert for creating such an honest, poignant and culturally relevant track and video like “Same Love”. It deserves attention and high praise and it’s beyond fantastic that the message of equality is being spread like wildfire throughout the music buying public. It’s also surprisingly amazing that someone in the hip-hop community is finally standing up for us while we are still somewhat bruised from the lyrical lashes caused by the likes of Eminem and 50 Cent over the years. But, please keep in mind when reading this, my comments herein have nothing really to do with the song and video for “Same Love”, so please take that into consideration if you disagree with any of the points I am trying to convey. Also, if you are already reading this in an angry narrative, please shift to a neutral, calm narrative as that was the spirit in which this piece has been written.
The initial article that kickstarted what a small majority of us gays were actually thinking came from Flavorwire in which writer Tyler Coates summarised gay rapper Le1f’s Twitter tirade where he outright told Macklemore and co that “gay people don’t care about his song about gay people.”
Although I found Le1f’s Twitter comments to be a little crass and bitter, he does have a point in which he’s calling out the intentions of the independent, superstar band to profit from the struggle of the LGBT community. I do believe the reason that he is tweeting all this primarily stems from the fact that the mainstream, commercial music industry rarely listens or promotes gay male artists and their art. In turn, Le1f’s poses the question – “Why should a white, straight rapper make millions from his track that isn’t any more special than any other gay anthem, written and performed by an actual gay artist?” To further add salt to the wound, the music industry elite then go on to bestow upon Macklemore a highly-coveted MTV music video award, literally turning him overnight into the “new face of equality”, something that the gay community really didn’t have a say in.
Before the 2013 MTV VMAs, I had never even heard “Same Love” and never even received one press release about it. Just sayin.
The problem here really is society, it’s not Macklemore at all. Gay male artists have tried for years to get the recognition that Macklemore received overnight as our “new LGBT hero”. Many gay male artists have had to hide their sexuality in the industry to even garner a sliver of respect and support in their pursuit of a career in music. Gay artists like George Michael, Darren Hayes and Ricky Martin hid their their sexuality altogether during their reign on the charts, waiting until the right moment to come out that wouldn’t equate to complete career suicide. It’s very brave and surprisingly difficult to pull something like that off with the spotlight following on your every move whilst you’re gracing the Billboard Hot 100.
On the other side of the coin, we have the gay trailblazers like Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, Sam Sparro and Adam Lambert who have had moderate mainstream commercial success whilst being out from the very beginning of their careers. But why doesn’t society raise and elevate these artists to VMA status for being honest and true to who they are from the beginning? Something is definitely off here when we only allow gay artists to elevate up to a certain point in the commercial mainstream, MTV / radio-friendly world of music.
I’d like to examine that if I may…
Last year Adam Lambert made one of THE defining gay anthems of our time – it’s called “Outlaws Of Love” and it’s one of those LGBT anthems that literally brings tears to my eyes, every time I see and hear him perform it. Most people would have deemed this track more than single-worthy. A lot of hardcore Adam Lambert fans would have supported this song as a potential single from “Trespassing”, with hopes of elevating Adam Lambert to the level of Freddie Mercury or Elton John. But why wasn’t “Outlaws Of Love” released as a single? It’s actually more poetic than Gaga’s “Born This Way” if you’ve ever heard it. Well we can only guess, but something tells me that Adam Lambert would have loved RCA to have invested heavily into “Outlaws Of Love” as a single in 2012 – but they didn’t. Instead, they wanted him to make an album of 80’s cover songs which eventually led to leaving the label due to “creative differences”. You can’t say the boy didn’t try!
Adam Lambert was also actually in attendance at the 2013 VMAs in which he presented an “Artist To Watch” award to Austin Mahone for nothing more than having released his a mediocre song and video for “What About Love”. Meanwhile the LGBT equality show is going on in full effect at the VMAs with Adam Lambert not partaking. Instead MTV is crowning Macklemore with high praise for “Same Love” – bringing a straight rapper, a lesbian and a straight R&B superstar ally in way of Jennifer Hudson to perform the track to the world on international television. Everyone really, except a gay male artist was present during this LGBT equality show. But I guarantee you this, if Adam Lambert would have joined Macklemore, Lewis, Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson during their performance of “Same Love”, the result would have had a much bigger impact.
Actually, if that happened, you wouldn’t be reading this article right now.
Another case in point. Let’s take a song and video from awhile ago by way of Christina Aguilera’s power anthem “Beautiful”. Yes, I know, it was from 2003 in an age where we didn’t have awards for “social message”. But quite arguably, “Beautiful” is one of the biggest equality anthems of our time as well. By today’s standards, Christina would have won a “social message” VMA for her song about self-empowerment and equality, but alas she never did. The only VMA she ever won as a straight ally was for her performance in “Lady Marmalade” where she was awarded a VMA for essentially dressing like and loosely singing about a prostitute. That’s another problem of mainstream society right there. We reward ladies for “bimboism” as I like to call it, rather than for creating actual art.
Getting your T&A out on the MTV stage is what awards shows are all about it seems. In this day and age, it’s kind of appalling.
Having said that, this further leads me to what I like to refer to as “white boy ethics” in the music industry…
You see, white boys rule the world. Even though we have leaders like President Obama in office, he ultimately is just a figurehead. White boys do in fact, control everything that society deems acceptable. They control the corporations, the government, Wall Street and the world’s financial markets. They even control the music and entertainment industry. It’s very sad, but it’s true. Over the years, they’ve allowed society to accept blacks, disabled people, and more recently, the gays, because well, minorities can get REALLY LOUD sometimes and that can lead to wars around civil rights and they certainly don’t want that to happen. But ultimately, in the end, it’s the white boys that make up the establishment. And sadly, the establishment, runs the world. Not girls. Sorry Beyonce.
This is why “bimboism” amongst female artists really exists in the music industry. You wouldn’t see Ellie Goulding, Robyn, Sia or Adele getting their tits out on the MTV stage or rubbing their ass against a white boy whose current smash hit eludes to being just a teensy bit “rapey” now would you? That’s why artists like Madonna, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga have all had their massive commercial success – it’s because they pander to the establishment. The establishment allows these female artists to reach the success level they reach because they know they can control these artists whether it be via money, record deals, sponsorships, etc. It’s ok though to ultimately call “bimboism” what it really is though and that’s “female empowerment”. And hey, a girl’s got to eat and bring home the bacon, so who cares right? Express yourself!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Madonna and Lady Gaga show at the VMAs. I live for that shit. But wouldn’t it be nice to see artists like Ellie Goulding perform at the VMAs instead of Miley Cyrus? There is a real “art” to what Ellie Goulding does and I’m sorry, what Miley did at the VMAs may sell records and make people talk, but it’s not art. The VMAs should be about the real art of music and the music video, the emotions, the struggles and not “the spectacle” that grabs headlines and tries to shock an “unshockable” audience these days. And while you all are talking about Miley Cyrus online and at the water cooler, you’re being distracted from the white boys running the world, making the decisions, deciding what acceptable and what’s not. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Need another example of how white boy ethics deem what’s acceptable for society? Start here.
Straight white boys didn’t create EDM or dance music. That shit was all started in the gay clubs from as early as the 1970s. But society elevates the straight white male DJ so high that now dance music is given the ultimate nod of approval to come out of the gay clubs and into the mainstream, commercialising our dance music for profit. You won’t find a DJ in the Forbes Top Ten list that is either gay, female or of a minority descent. But good on Steve Aoki for making it in at number 11 when he’s been doing this shit probably longer than anyone else on the list I reckon.
What it all boils down to is this…
Gay musicians have it the worst in the industry when seeking out mainstream success. If we want to celebrate gay equality in music, then let’s actually elevate our gay artists instead of keeping them on the sideline for fear of them being “too risky” or “too risque”. Sure, no one wants to see a leather and bondage or penis-ahoy on an internationally televised awards show, but instead of giving out awards to the straight allies, let’s start giving out awards and affording the same opportunities to gay artists that we give to female artists, hip-hop artists and those super rich straight boys who spin dance music from their computers.
Gay artists are the ones living with the struggle of equality everyday and they really are the true heroes in the LGBT music community. I think that’s what the opposition to this whole Macklemore/LGBT divide is really trying to say behind the bitchy tweets and the Twitter and Facebook wars with each other.
With “Same Love” by Macklemore, Lewis and Mary Lambert getting the massive attention it’s getting right now, let’s just hope that it’s a stepping stone to opening the doors of acceptance for real gay artists. Maybe one day a gay artist will be able to take center stage at the VMAs, win a VMA and it will be ok. I welcome that day with an open heart. But let’s not forget the real trailblazers like Adam Lambert and Frank Ocean (who lost out on a VMA to Chris Brown) who are really heroes for the LGBT community and who are actually gay too.
With over 72 million views of “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, it’s not surprising at all to me that MTV and the music industry elite jumped on board their fast-moving independent train to Hitsville. There’s real money to be made there.
Having said all of this now, please know that I pose no shade to any of the aforementioned artists. It’s just the flip side of the coin and sometimes the unpopular side of the story needs to be told too for perspective.
For some gays, they are out there, fighting the fight, winning the real small battles for the gay rights movement and for other gays, they are just adapting to whatever freedoms society allows. I’ve never been an adapter, ever – it’s not a philosophy that I would ever subscribe to and that’s why I wrote this article.
You want to know the real winner of the VMAs and who should have been crowned “LGBT hero” – watch “She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert. It’s not getting near as much attention as her collaboration with Macklemore and Lewis is getting but it’s a lot more brave and real than “Same Love” could ever hope to be.
All-in-all, “Same Love” is brilliant and I’m glad it’s out there, getting attention and helping the pro-equality cause.
What do you think?