The Power of Allyship: Examining Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran's New Song 'Who We Love'
Y’all, we need to talk about Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith’s new song "Who We Love".
Let's set the scene a little bit first.
Ed Sheeran is, by a long shot, the world's number-one wedding dance artist. As a wedding photographer, I can tell you that the most popular songs for couples to choose for their first dance are "Thinking Out Loud", "Perfect" and "Photograph" - all by Ed Sheeran. Now, I’m not claiming that these songs were all written with the intention to be wedding dance songs, but the facts are the facts. This style of music is Ed Sheeran’s bread-and-butter.
Recently, Ed Sheeran collaborated with the phenomenal non-binary artist Sam Smith on a new, (very wedding-y) song called "Who You Love" which, in my opinion, will inevitably join this list of popular first dance numbers.
And my mind is blown!
Truly. For a cis-het man who earns a living from making music about his own experiences of being in love, collaborating with Sam Smith, a non-binary artist, on a love ballad of such high quality speaks volumes about Ed Sheeran's self-awareness.
He knows there is a lack of Queer perspectives in this market for wedding songs. Speaking for myself, when I just heard this new song for the first time, I immediately felt seen and understood in my own experiences of being in love. And when you analyse the lyrics of the song, with lines such as "Colour the empty space, kiss in a crowded place" and "You don't know better than your heart knows, whether they're here or long gone," there is nuance in acknowledging a diverse range of people's experiences of being in love.
This is quite unlike most of Ed Sheeran‘s other love songs, which are informed by his own personal experience of being in love with a woman. "Who We Love" has done a remarkable job of making people in the Queer community feel seen and understood.
And let's talk about the absolute powerhouse that is Sam Smith. I really don't want to take away from the significance of the fact that this is Sam's song, with Ed Sheeran simply featuring on it. They co-wrote it with a few other folks credited too, but it appears on Sam's latest album, with Sam getting top billing.
I don’t want to give Ed Sheeran too much credit for something that belongs to Sam. And honestly, Sam is having such a moment, and I am loving all of it. They've been killing it with the Billboard Charts and the award nominations, and are truly paving the way for more Queer and nonbinary artists. But this is an example of how Ed Sheeran has used his power and privilege to support the Queer community, by elevating Sam's artistry and celebrating their Queer identity.
This is what allyship in partnership looks like, and it’s such a beautiful model that I think so many of us can learn from.