Well, That’s Problematic: Liking a Macklemore Song Doesn’t Make You an Ally

Libby Salemi, Columnist

While I’m on the subject of controversial songs (drawing back to last week’s article on “Blurred Lines”), let’s talk about the hit “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert. Here’s another song that’s done a 180 in my brain as far as opinions go. The first time I heard it, I loved it. As someone who identifies as a lesbian, it was refreshing to hear some music that supports equal rights and had an excellent video equating the gay experience with straight love. The song and video are gorgeous, and for a while, that was nice. That satisfied me.

Then something pretty weird happened. I went home from college, back to my conservative little town in Michigan. For most of my friends, I’m pretty much the guru on all things gay since I’m one of the very few “out” kids in town. They don’t really adhere to the same code of politically correct behavior that we do at Oberlin. But the thing is, they’re getting better, partially due to my and other openly gay kids’ help, and partially because things like “Same Love” exist. It seemed like we were all on a path toward gay enlightenment, but then, of course, we hit a bump. My friends back home still do that thing where they say “that’s so gay” when what they really mean is that something is stupid. So like any sensible Obie, I correct them. And for some reason, now I get this response:

“Oh, no, I’m so sorry! It just totally slipped! I’m not homophobic, I love that song ‘Same Love’!” Which then always makes me respond with, “What the fuck does this have to do with a stupid Macklemore song?!”

This has happened to me on multiple occasions now. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. The less-informed straight allies think that by liking this song, they’re in the clear. It’s the same as if a white person said, “Sorry I let the N-word slip. I listen to Kanye West, though, so we’re cool.” No, we’re not fucking cool. My identity and the level of offense I take from ignorance isn’t based on a catchy song written by a husky-voiced straight boy. Don’t remind me that you love that song because frankly, I don’t care. Just apologize for being offensive, shut up and listen to me tell you what you did wrong instead of silencing me with Macklemore lyrics.

Then you’ve got the fact that, even though there are hundreds of queer artists out there writing songs about their lives and experiences, we’re focusing all of our attention on a song written about the gay experience by a straight man. The gesture itself is wonderful, but really, I’d just like to hear some queer music by actual queer people. I’d like to see Frank Ocean get the recognition he deserves for writing songs about his firsthand experiences. I’d like someone besides Oberlin kids and the Tumblr community to know that Mary Lambert made her own version of “Same Love,” called “She Keeps Me Warm,” and its music video is even more mindful of the gay experience than Macklemore’s video. Instead, I get to hear 20 times a day that Macklemore wrote something that was so original and profound even though it’s already been done before, time and time again, by those sharing their own lived experiences.

All in all, though, it’s not a bad song, and Macklemore definitely isn’t a bad guy. And a lot of straight people who listen to the song — definitely all the straight kids here at Oberlin — understand that listening to this song doesn’t make them better than everyone else. But most likely I will continue to be irked by this song, because, for some reason, there are still a lot of people that think this song has changed everything for gay people. Sorry, Macklemore, but we’ve been doing this a lot lon- ger than you have.