This song finds Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, detailing the struggles of a gay man throughout his life. Though straight himself, when Haggerty was in the third grade, he'd decided that he must be homosexual as he was artistic, tidy-minded and had an uncle who was in a same-sex relationship. It was his mom who reassured him he was not. Speaking with The Associated Press, Haggerty said the song's popularity affirms the changes in attitude within the notoriously homophobic Hip-Hop world. "I hope we're part of that transformation," said the rapper. "I don't think a song like 'Same Love' would have been received the same way even five years ago. We as a society and a culture have proven throughout time that we evolve, that we become slowly more compassionate and tolerant and accepting. The last couple hundred years in American culture have shown that. Obviously, there's give and take. There's times when we haven't and times that we lose ourselves, but I do think we're evolving as a society and hip-hop is a reflection of that."
Michigan performing arts teacher Susan Johnson found herself in the news after being suspended in November 2012 without pay for a couple of days. Her misdemeanor was allowing one of her eighth-grade students to play this song in her classroom. According to Johnson, the principal was unhappy about the song's use of the words 'faggot' and 'damn' and its pro-gay and anti-church content.
When this song replaced "Thrift Shop
" at #1 on the Australian ARIA Charts in January 2013, Macklemore and Lewis became only the third act to replace themselves at the top of the ARIA countdown after Madonna in 1985 and the Black Eyed Peas in 2009.
The song features vocals by Seattle-based lesbian spoken-word poet and singer Mary Lambert. She was picked out by poet and producer Hollis Wong-Wear who was helping Macklemore with the album, and knew Lambert from poetry slams.
The "love is patient, love is kind" lyric is a quote from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 13 v4 where the Apostle explains that true love is totally unselfish and directed outwardly to others rather than inward to oneself. It was Lambert who felt moved to include a Biblical reference adding, "My conscience is clear, I'm good with God," and "Not crying on Sundays." "It was in a positive aspect," she told The Seattle Times. "It was me saying, 'I am a gay Christian. I am comfortable.' I don't feel like it's bashing anyone."
The song was inspired by Macklemore's gay uncles and gay godfather, and is an issue that is personal to him. "I was really nervous to play it for them," he told The Independent On Sunday. "It's obviously a very personal song, and I didn't want to cross any boundaries in terms of their privacy. But we actually ended up taking a picture of them and using it as the cover art for the single.
"I wanted the art to reflect how personal the song was, and they are a big reason why I'm so passionate about the issue."
Mary Lambert told MTV News: "I didn't want to say this at the time, because I'm not egotistical, but I felt like this was the song I was meant to write, this is completely my story, my experience in the church, and being a lesbian."
"After we wrote it, I thought of it as Ben [Haggerty] being the brain," she added, "and the pragmatic part of the song, thinking about it intellectually, and I provided the heart and the emotional spark. And that's what makes an anthem, and I think that's why it's taken off."
This won for Best Video With A Social Message at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Accepting the award, Macklemore said: "I've been writing songs since I was 15 years old, and out of every single song I have ever written, to me this is the most important record out of all of them. To watch the song in the last year spread across the world is a testament to what is happening right now in America on the forefront of equality. Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation."
Structurally, this song is fairly straightforward: its form is simply three repetitions of verse/chorus (A-B-A-B-A-B) covering a 5:19 running time. What is unusual is how long it takes to reach the first chorus, which doesn't occur until 1:28.
This earned a Grammy nomination for Song Of The Year, but lost to "Royals
" by Lorde (they did win for Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, and "Thrift Shop" won for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song). Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed the song at the ceremony, where they were joined on stage by Mary Lambert, Trombone Shorty, Queen Latifah and Madonna.
When Macklemore finished his last verse, Latifah presided over a wedding ceremony where 33 couples in the audience - some gay, some straight - exchanged rings. "By the power invested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you a married couple," she declared. As the couples embraced, Madonna appeared on stage and sang part of her song "Open Your Heart
" over the "Same Love" groove.
Ken Ehrlich, who produced the telecast, said that the idea for the mass marriage came from reports of wedding proposals at Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concerts.