This year’s Video Music Awards will be remembered for one thing: the debasement of Miley Cyrus and her tongue.
But perhaps the less talked-about performances are the better weathervanes of pop culture, a mix of both the new normal and the old normal.
Rapper Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed their gay-rights anthem “Same Love” to thundering applause, with many critics citing it as the evening’s high point. “Same Love” debuted last year in support of Washington state’s Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DOMA and Prop. 8, the song has filled the radio waves, hitting No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 this August.
The song is no mere plea for tolerance but rather a confrontation of oppressive Bible-believing Christians. Set atop a hip-hop groove and accompanied by bluesy piano licks, Macklemore rips into “right wing conservatives who think [being gay] is a decision … cured by treatment or religion … a man-made rewiring of a predisposition.”
Those who believe homosexuals can change are accused of “playing God,” and the fight against such narrow thinking is equated with the fight against racism: “Human rights for everybody, there ain’t no difference.” Lunging for the religious high ground, his two backup singers end the song in a gospel-tinged call and response: “Love is patient, Love is kind” followed by the emotional plea, “Not crying on Sundays.”
But Macklemore, an independent music success story, does tout songs Christians can appreciate on his debut album, The Heist. While the album includes the usual songs glorifying the party lifestyle, others praise hard work, criticize materialism, revel in memories of listening to baseball on the radio with his dad, and warn against drug addictions.
On a very different note, British boy band One Directionput in a brief, but refreshingly agenda-less, appearance at the show. Despite being dismissed by some critics for their comparatively innocent style, the teen heart throbs won the category for “Best Song of the Summer” by a landslide of almost 9 million votes. The category was a last-minute add-on to the awards show, possibly because a social media firestorm erupted when One Direction wasn’t initially listed for any nominations.
The oversight was surprising given the band’s jaw-dropping popularity. Since its 2011 debut, One Direction has broken sales records across the world. It even earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first British group in history to enter the U.S. Billboard charts at No. 1 with its debut album.
Not bad for a group of guys who didn’t even know each other in 2010. The five teens auditioned solo for the British television talent show X Factor and failed to progress in the individual category. One of the guest judges suggested they get together and re-enter in the show’s “groups” category, and the rest was history.
The Daily Telegraph wrote that the success of One Direction confirms “there is still a huge appetite for clean cut, wholesome, whiter-than-white, middle class parent friendly pop: cute boys advocating puppy love.” Christian parents should not check out or extend carte blanche, however. Although the band’s lyrics are not explicit, some of the songs incorporate double entendre or describe falling in love in a naïve, idealized way. The band says it doesn’t want to promote promiscuity, but on the other hand, according to band member Niall Horan, neither do they want to be “squeaky clean.”