Kesha, Bob Dylan, and More Challenge Pop's Heteronormativity on a New EP

'Universal Love' is a collection of gender-flipped tracks which push past pop's usual gender conventions.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
Left via PR / Right via

Pop, as a genre, is bursting with love songs, and most of those love songs are directed from a guy to a girl, or vice versa. There's also a long history where, if you're a male pop artist covering a woman, you'll change the song's "he" pronouns to "she"s, and the same is true of the inverse – and it's all so as not to sound *whisper it* gay.

While there has always been queer popstars, pop has not always been hospitable to queerness. For example, stories of artists being told by executives to keep their sexuality secret in order to sell are common. That said, things do seem to be changing. Pop artists like Halsey, Hayley Kiyoko, Years and Years, and Troye Sivan to name a handful, all wear queerness on their sleeves and openly in their lyrics. Now a new EP, featuring a number of Noisey's favourite musicians, rehashes love songs to make them decidedly un-heterosexual.

Funded by MGM Resorts International (who told the New York Times that "Gay weddings account for between 20 percent and 30 percent of the ceremonies performed at the company’s 15 hotels in Las Vegas"), Universal Love invited St. Vincent, Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Kesha, Valerie June, and, uh, Bob Dylan (!) to gender-flip pop songs to make them gay. Highlights include St. Vincent's cover of The Crystals' "And Then He Kissed Me" (Re-titled as "And Then She Kissed Me"), and Kesha's version of Janis Joplin's "I Need a Man to Love" ("I Need a Woman to Love.") It's a cool project, it is very sweet, and it's also a much-needed push in the right direction for pop, which has always been squeamish about pronouns.

Listen below and feel the warm fuzz of (corporate sponsored) equal love:

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