The compilation album, produced by MGM Resorts in conjunction with agency McCann, is an extension of MGM’s two decades of advocacy work with the LGBTQ community and the company’s desire to advance initiatives that unite humanity. In fact, the company states that for more than a decade before same-sex marriage was legalized, same-sex commitment ceremonies were performed at chapels at MGM Resorts properties.
“MGM Resorts is an entertainment company that spans all aspects of the industry,” said Lilian Tomovich, chief experience officer at MGM Resorts International. “Diversity and inclusion are the foundation of MGM’s company culture, and we have stood with the LGBTQ community for decades. We don’t simply talk about equality, we take action. The creation of Universal Love felt like the natural intersection of these two important pillars, and coming off the introduction of MGM's first-ever brand campaign felt like natural timing. We believe love is universal and music should be as well. Universal Love reflects our commitment to the mission of unity and equality for all.”
Universal Love offers six newly recorded versions of iconic love songs that give same-sex couples a soundtrack for their own love stories and feature pronouns changed to reflect the world of LGBTQ relationships.
Bob Dylan is among the artists participating in this project, and the icon re-recorded ‘She’s Funny That Way’ as ‘He’s Funny That Way.’ The album features five additional artists: Kesha (‘I Need a Woman to Love Me’), St. Vincent (‘And Then She Kissed Me’), Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie (‘And I Love Him’), Kele Okereke of Bloc Party (‘My Guy’), and Valerie June (‘Mad About The Girl’).
Pulling everything together was a complex process for McCann and MGM, from circulating the idea to getting the artists to sign on, to recording and distributing, but it was the initial idea that motivated the teams.
“MGM Resorts…happen to be based in Las Vegas, the wedding capital of the world. This gave the team at the agency an idea – if definitions of love and marriage are changing and becoming more inclusive, maybe it’s time love songs caught up. And MGM was in a great position to help to make that happen,” said Thomas Murphy, chief creative officer, McCann NY.
“We wanted artists with strong artistic points of view. We also knew from the beginning that we wanted an equal number of male and female contributors,” added Murphy. “We started by making a long list of songs that would be right for a pronoun swap, and then culled that down to a shortlist. Our main criteria was that the songs needed to be iconic – and they needed to be songs people had a real, emotional connection to,” he said.
Murphy explained that they gave the artists the list of songs and ask them to pick one that spoke to them. In a few instances, they went off the list and picked out something they hadn’t expected.
“For example, Kesha chose a Janis Joplin song that wasn’t on our radar for this. We loved that it brought a different flavor to the project. If most of the songs were wedding/first dance songs, Kesha’s was more of a wedding night song. Bob Dylan also brought his pick to the table. And we were blown away by how it turned out…Dylan, interestingly, was one of the fastest to say yes (to the project).”
Kesha’s accompanying video for ‘I Need a Woman to Love Me,’ directed by Lagan Sebert, sees Kesha on a journey to Vegas to officiate a same sex wedding. The wedding took place at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on March 26, the anniversary of the first same sex marriage license issued in the US. The couple in the video, Dani and Lindsay, were selected after they shared a heartfelt video showcasing their excitement to be married in Vegas. This wedding marked the third time Kesha had officiated a same-sex wedding.
Phyllis James, MGM Resorts’ chief diversity and corporate social responsibility officer, said: “We believe projects like this will help all of us reach a point where seeing the world through the lens of people who happen to be different from us becomes natural and commonplace. It is an immense honor for MGM Resorts to spearhead this inspirational project which celebrates LGBTQ dimensions of the universal emotion of love.”
According to the company, Universal Love is a natural extension of MGM’s two decades of advocacy work with the LGBTQ community and the company’s desire to advance initiatives that unite humanity. In 2004, MGM Resorts became the first company in the gaming and hospitality industry to offer same-sex health benefits to employees, and MGM was a founding partner of the Las Vegas chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in 2004.
The album is being distributed by Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music, and is available on all streaming platforms.