Dy­lan’s love song twist re­flects a-changin’ times

The Guardian Weekly - - Comment & Debate - Re­becca Ni­chol­son

I’ve al­ways found a love of Bob Dy­lan to be elu­sive. I get it, but I don’t get it, sort of like deep-pan pizza or elec­tric bi­cy­cles. Still, I very much en­joyed Bob’s con­tri­bu­tion to a new EP called Uni­ver­sal Love, which sees var­i­ous artists singing clas­sic love songs with a same-sex pro­noun twist. Ke­sha has cov­ered Ja­nis Jo­plin’s I Need a Man to Love, turn­ing that man into a woman, while Kele Ok­ereke has done The Temp­ta­tions’ My Girl as My Guy.

It’s in­dica­tive of the mu­sic in­dus­try’s ever-tight­en­ing belt that it has been funded by the ho­tel com­pany MGM Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional, which says same-sex unions ac­count for 20 to 30% of wed­ding cer­e­monies at its Ve­gas ho­tels and hopes Uni­ver­sal Love will pro­vide a sound­track.

Dy­lan has taken on the 1929 clas­sic She’s Funny That Way, croon­ing his love to a male suitor in­stead. It’s only mildly un­usual to hear him sing to a man and only if you’re lis­ten­ing closely, which seems like a great leap for­ward from the many decades of pop songs that were only ever di­rected to the op­po­site sex or, if the artist was be­ing more coy, to “you”. Queer artists ex­plic­itly singing to a per­son of the same gen­der is a rel­a­tively re­cent de­vel­op­ment.

Pop seems joy­fully full of new young artists not only be­ing can­did about who their songs are lust­ing af­ter, but cel­e­brat­ing that point of dif­fer­ence, too. Hay­ley Kiyoko sings about be­ing a bet­ter op­tion than her crush’s boyfriend. Troye Si­van dis­ap­pears into a bed­room with more-than-just-a-man-friend in the video for Youth. Even Cardi B’s al­bum con­tains a lyri­cal re­quest for a three­some with Ri­hanna.

As Bob once had it, the times they are a-changin’.

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