Kesha, Bob Dylan headline Universal Love album
In the recently-released Universal Love album, classic love songs have been reimagined as LGBTQ anthems courtesy of singers like Bob Dylan, Kesha, and St. Vincent.
The six songs have had their pronouns flipped or the singers reversing the traditional roles in order to give the LGBTQ community songs that they reflect their own gender identity.
Universal Love album: Singing of LGBTQ love
The album will have Nobel Prize-winning composer and performer Bob Dylan, pop star Kesha, guitarist and singer St. Vincent, and blues-folk singer Valerie June.
Also part of the album is Ben Gibbard of the bands Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, and Keke Okereke of Bloc Party.
Dylan sings the standard “He’s Funny That Way” sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Ross. However, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby original sang this as “She’s Funny That Way.”
St. Vincent sings “And Then She Kissed Me,” which was originally done by the girl group The Crystals’ in 1963 as “Then He Kissed Me.”
June sings “Mad About the Girl,” a cover of Dinah Washington’s “Mad About the Boy” even as Gibbard recast the Beatles song “And I Love Her” to “And I Love Him.”
Meanwhile, Kesha sings ” I Need a Woman to Love Me,” which was originally done by Janis Joplin as “I Need a Man to Love.”
Universal Love album: Songs for the LGBTQ
This album was funded by the MGM Resorts International with the songs for wedding anthems for same-sex couples. Currently, gay weddings account for 20 to 30 percent of ceremonies at the company’s hotels in Las Vegas.
“If you look at the history of pop music, love songs have predominantly come from one heterosexual perspective,” said Tom Murphy, a co-producer of the album.
“If we view music as something that brings people together, shouldn’t these popular songs be open to everyone?” Murphy said.
Rob Kaplan, the project’s executive producer, initially started his search for artists for the album with Gibbard, who supports marriage equality due to his sister, who is a lesbian.
Kaplan said that when he contacted Dylan, the music icon quickly agreed: “And it wasn’t just ‘Yes, I’ll do this.’ It was ‘Hey, I have an idea for a song’.”
Universal Love album: Songs of inclusivity
“For a long time, queer people had to use the awkward ‘you’ in their songs to avoid outing themselves,” Stephan Pennington, a professor of music at Tufts University who teaches a course in “queer pop” told The New York Times.
“There has also always been pressure from the record companies to not be exclusionary by using a same-sex pronoun. But heterosexual expressions are never thought of as exclusionary,” Pennington said.
“We believe projects like this will help all of us reach a point where seeing the world through the lens of people who happen to be different from us becomes natural and commonplace,” said Phyllis James, MGM Resorts’ chief diversity officer.
“The great thing about music is that it transcends all the barriers and boundaries, and goes right to peoples’ hearts. And everyone has a heart,” St. Vincent said.
For a taste of what you can get from the album, check out Kesha singing in the video below: