Macklemore’s “Same Love” Is the Only VMA Performance Worth Remembering

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Aug. 26 2013 3:50 PM

Macklemore’s “Same Love” Is the Only VMA Performance Worth Remembering

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Macklemore, Mary Lambert, and Ryan Lewis perform onstage during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for MTV

It’s a shame that Miley Cyrus’ twerk-spasm in the vicinity of teddy bears and Robin Thicke’s tightly panted crotch is dominating the post-MTV Video Music Awards conversation today. While her performance of “We Can’t Stop” managed to be both aesthetically unfortunate and racially problematic, the most dispiriting consequence of Cyrus’ awkward collision with “ratchet culture” has been how it has overshadowed a quieter, gentler number—and one clearly more worthy of the attention.

I’m talking, of course, about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ moving rendition of “Same Love,” featuring the indispensible vocal talents of Mary Lambert and a welcome closing assist from Jennifer Hudson, whose exchange of the lyric “not crying on Sundays” with Lambert is simply shattering.

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I’ve written about my respect for these artists and “Same Love” before, but it’s worth taking a moment to again acknowledge how beautifully surprising and surreal the song’s increasing popularity actually is. Macklemore told MTV in an interview that he chose to perform the song because it “needs to be heard in America right now.” While that statement was probably in reference to those Americans still uncertain about the worth of LGBT people and our relationships, it applies in a different way to those of us well-versed in “same love” as well.

To wit: Earlier this weekend, before the VMAs, I was in the kitchen making dinner for my (newly legal) partner; he sat on the floor keeping me company like he always does. We were listening only somewhat ironically to a very straight club music station on the radio. As one high-energy dance tune faded out, the DJ came on and dedicated the next song to all his friends who were lucky enough to experience “same love.” While Macklemore’s intimate lyrics and Lambert’s gorgeous, plaintive chorus filled our little home, I put down my spoon, walked over to Cam, and kissed him on the top of the head.

My older gay friends are always saying this, but it takes music to make me feel the truth of it: The world really is changing.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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