This song was recorded by a galaxy of stars in tribute to the 49 victims of the June 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. The 24 artists on the record are Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Mary J. Blige, Jason Derulo, Tyler Glenn, Halsey, Ty Herndon, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, Juanes, Adam Lambert, Mary Lambert, Jennifer Lopez, the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Kacey Musgraves, MNEK, Alex Newell, Pink, Prince Royce, Nate Ruess, RuPaul, Troye Sivan, Jussie Smollett, Gwen Stefani and Meghan Trainor.
The song was written by the songwriting pair of Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter (Justin Bieber's "Sorry," Selena Gomez's "Good For You.") Tranter told Billboard magazine he and Nichaels were on the road with Selena Gomez when the attack happened. "Like the rest of the world I woke up to the news that morning and was horrified and sad and scared."
"I'm not educated enough to speak on the political details. I'm a songwriter, not a politician," he continued. "It could have been a million things but clearly, 100 percent, this was an attack on the LGBT community and people of color."
The song's concept came to Tranter the day after the shooting, when Michaels and him were in Miami. The openly gay Tranter signed on as a volunteer at a local LGBT community centre. "I called them and said, 'If I fly up, is there something for me to help with?'" he explained. "They say, 'We need as many hands as we can possibly get."
Britney Spears starts the song with the "Can hold a gun and hold your heart" line. "I knew that I wanted to start with Britney Spears," Tranter explained. "She has so many LGBTQ fans and her voice is so iconic that it only felt right to start with her. The "can hold a gun" lyric just felt like the clearest image of good versus evil. Do you wanna hold a gun or hold a heart?"
Selena Gomez sings the lyrics, "doesn't matter who you love, all that matters is your love." Tranter told Genius: "Selena Gomez heard the song first because we finished writing it on her studio bus, and she was so moved by the second verse that we made sure to give her that."
The track was produced by Bloodpop and Mark Ronson. It has a simple arrangement. "We didn't want to have any trendy electronic elements. We wanted it to sound classic, timeless and human," Tranter noted. "We want this anthem of positivity to be played for years to come."
The artists all recorded their parts separately, from their homes, studios and touring locations – wherever they were at the time. "We assigned everybody what we thought would be the best part for their voice, and we asked them all to sing an additional part, just in case," Tranter explained. "But everybody got it done in time, so we ended up with extra vocals."
Proceeds from the song will benefit the Equality Florida Pulse Victims Fund, the LGBT Community Center of Central Florida and GLAAD.