Music

Hey Tony Abbott, Shut Up: Australia Loves ‘Same Love’ And Here’s The Proof

'Same Love' was more popular in Australia than anywhere else in the world.

same love

Despite having sold millions and millions of records and winning a swag of Grammys, Macklemore is still a bit of an industry punchline. It’s a partly about his earnestness, partly about his cheesy lines (“What up, I got a big cock!“) and partly about the fact a white guy called Benjamin Hammond Haggerty somehow managed to beat Jay Z, Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar for the Best Rap Album award.

But despite the criticism, Macklemore has managed to become one of the most commercially successful rappers in recent history, including here in Australia. Which is why the current ‘controversy’ around his performance at this year’s NRL grand final is so damn weird.

“Don’t Politicise Football!”

Over the last couple of days a conga line of conservative figures have attacked the NRL’s decision to hire Macklemore because he’s going to be performing ‘Same Love’, a pro-equal rights song.

First Miranda Devine and Tony Abbott threw their support behind a petition demanding the CEO of the NRL, Todd Greenberg, “Take LGBTIQ politics out of the NRL”. Today we’ve seen Pauline Hanson, Eric Abetz and Peter Dutton attack Macklemore’s upcoming performance and criticise the NRL for “forcing a political agenda”.

According to Abetz, football is a “unifying force” in Australia and the performance of ‘Same Love’ will leave “a sizeable proportion of the audience” feeling “upset” and “offended”.

Hanson said Macklemore wasn’t “that important”, adding that she hadn’t even heard of him. “People are fed up with it,” she said. “Put an Aussie up there.”

While the target of these criticisms is new, the underlying argument isn’t. These conservative politicians have convinced themselves they speak for a so-called ‘silent majority’ of regular Australians, sick of political correctness. In their eyes the NRL is pandering to a vocal, yet illegitimate minority, by hiring a musician they haven’t heard of to a sing a song they find offensive.

There’s a lot of hypocrisy in their position, especially since these are the same politicians who use the “free speech” argument to defend the right of commentators to be offensive all the time.

But there’s a more obvious way to expose how ludicrous their stance is. Macklemore isn’t some fringe performer and ‘Same Love’ isn’t some niche song. It’s one of the biggest pop music hits in recent history, and it performed better in Australia than anywhere else in the world. If these politicians are claiming to speak up for the ‘silent majority’ they fucked up by targeting Macklemore.

Australia Loves ‘Same Love’

In 2012 Macklemore released The Heist with his longtime collaborator Ryan Lewis. The album peaked at number two on the Australian charts and went double platinum. The only country it performed better in was New Zealand, where it reached number one.

Three of the album’s singles went number one in Australia: ‘Can’t Hold Us’, ‘Thrift Shop’ and, of course, ‘Same Love’. When ‘Same Love’ went number one in 2013, knocking ‘Thrift Shop’ down a spot, Macklemore became only the third artist in the modern era to replace himself in the top position — after Madonna and The Black Eyed Peas.

The point of this history lesson is establish for the doubters that Macklemore is an enormously, enormously successful musician. Whatever you personally think of this music, the guy knows how to sell records. In fact, he sold more than 1.3 million of them in Australia in 2012-13 if you include The Heist and the individual singles (that’s more votes than Pauline Hanson received at the last election, for those of you playing at home).

But let’s take a closer look at ‘Same Love’. Interestingly the single was one of Macklemore’s worst performing releases off The Heist in the US, peaking in position 11. But in Australia it went to number one and four-times platinum, selling nearly 300,000 copies. The only other country it hit number one in was New Zealand.

In the year-end charts ‘Same Love’ came in at number 14 in Australia, its highest position anywhere in the world. Not only did Australia love ‘Same Love’, it loved it more than any other country.

There’s another interesting, and more depressing, statistic about the song. Out of all the countries where ‘Same Love’ charted in the top 10, only two have failed to legalise marriage equality: the Czech Republic and… Australia.

Using the music charts as a proxy for public opinion on marriage equality might be a bit dicey (though perhaps not much more dicey than this absolute joke of a postal survey we’re going through), but there’s no doubt that Australians were huge fans of ‘Same Love’. And it’s a particularly sad fact that countries like New Zealand, Ireland and the US who also loved the song have legalised marriage equality while we haven’t.

In 2014 Macklemore performed ‘Same Love’ in Abu Dhabi, where homosexuality is still illegal.

Even countries that are lagging behind on LGBTIQ+ rights love Macklemore. In 2014 the rapper performed ‘Same Love’ in Abu Dhabi, where homosexuality is still illegal. Imagine the scenario if our conservative politicians and commentators were successful in stopping Macklemore from performing the song in Australia. We’d have an insane situation where the artist played it in a country where sodomy is punishable with imprisonment, but was bullied out of playing it in a country voting on marriage equality.

The main point here though is that Abbott, Hanson, Abetz, Dutton and Devine are fighting a battle they’ve already lost. “When I take my kids to the footy I want them to watch the footy, I don’t want some political message jammed down their throat,” Dutton said. Sorry mate, but your kids already know ‘Same Love’. The whole country does.

It doesn’t matter what your personal view is on marriage equality or Macklemore. Australian has spoken and it loves ‘Same Love’. It’s time for Abbott and co. to sit down.