The Guardian reports that it was asked to talk about Two of last year’s monster hits – Macklemore’s Same Love and Sara Bareilles’ Brave – were paeans to queer acceptance. In their own respective ways, these coming-out anthems have helped to open up discourses in the mainstream on queer struggle – Macklemore speaking, or “whitesplaining”, specifically to hip-hop fans and Bareilles gifting the world a pop song that’s become a rallying cry for everyone from cancer patients and anti-bullying campaigners to queer people struggling to come out to their nearest and dearest.
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Seeing and hearing allies expressing their solidarity is important to LGBT people. Russian Kiss, by Annie, a fuck-you to Vladimir Putin over Russia’s increasingly brutal anti-gay laws, is a rad example of this. But how long will heterosexual artists have the privilege of mediating on our behalves from their pop chart eyries? Isn’t something amiss when an artist is crowned spokesperson for a community to which they do not belong? And at what point do these allies give up the floor to the queers they’re professing so much acceptance of? It's been noted that Mary Lambert, the queer Seattle singer-songwriter who gave Same Love its beautiful, anthemic chorus, is often a silent, background figure when Macklemore turns up to collect awards.
To whom do these songs speak? In a mainstream still low on out, queer artists, maybe the main function of these coming-out anthems is to appease the conscience of hetero audiences. Songs like Same Love, it might be argued, are a way for straight audiences to indulge in self-gratifying feelings about queer struggle without having to see or hear authentic IRL queers taking up space in the pop world.