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The 5 Best Musical Responses to the Orlando Shooting

About the only good thing that can be said for tragedy is that it pulls the world together — either in vigils or in the creation of art. Musical tributes and charity singles have a long history, from “We Are The World” to last month’s “I Hope” from the Missing People Choir (a group made up of families with missing loved ones). The shooting in Orlando is no exception — we thought we’d take a look at the five best tributes to offer some healing and hope.

Melissa Etheridge — “Pulse (Love Will Always Win)”

Melissa Etheridge has been publicly out of the closet since 1993 — and she’s written tragedy tribute songs in the past. “Scarecrow” from 1999 was about Matthew Shepard’s murder. The day of the June 12th shooting, Etheridge was moved to write “Pulse (Love Will Always Win)”, a song with a driving drum loop and the refrain “Everybody’s got a pulse.” The song is available on iTunes, with all proceeds going to an LGBTQ-related charity to be determined later.

Broadway For Orlando — “What The World Needs Now Is Love”

Queer people and theater go hand-in-hand like calcium and bones — one helps support the other. Broadway Records, the label that releases many official Broadway cast albums, organized this tribute single with all proceeds going to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.

It’s a cover of the Hal David/Burt Bacharach classic, “What The World Needs Now Is Love”. The recording features 65 Broadway stars on vocals and an additional 25-piece orchestra. The singers include well-known names like Sara Bareilles, Matthew Broderick, Fran Drescher, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, Nathan Lane, Andrea Martin, Idina Menzel, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bernadette Peters and just about anyone else you can think of who’s been on Broadway.

Christina Aguilera — “Change”

Pop star and The Voice judge Christina Aguilera released a new tribute single last Friday, with proceeds going to the National Compassion Fund. The National Compassion Fund is a charity for victims of crimes — and one where 100 percent of the funds received go to victims.

While the National Compassion Fund isn’t an LGBTQ-centric charity, they’re working with Equality Florida to help distribute funds to the families of the shooting victims. The song itself, written by Aguilera with Fancy Hagood and Flo Reutter, is a piano-driven ballad calling for the end of hate.

Janet Jackson — “Shoulda Known Better”

This music video of Janet Jackson’s 2015 single “Shoulda Known Better” was originally made by a fan, but when Jackson saw it, she shared it officially. While there hasn’t been a re-issue of the single with proceeds going to a charity, the video is so moving and touching, we thought we’d include it here. Of course, Jackson has long been a friend of the LGBTQ community — she’s dedicated the song “Together Again” to the victims of AIDS and she said she made “Rock With U” for the gay community, too.

Eli Lieb & Brandon Skeie — “Pulse”

Eli Lieb and Brandon Skeie, two gay singers and songwriters, might not be as big as some of the other people on our list, but their song “Pulse” (no relation to the Melissa Etheridge tune) is a must-hear. The song was written a few hours after news broke of the shooting, and the video was made that night. Considering how gorgeous the song and video are, that’s some achievement. The song is available for free via SoundCloud, and Lieb and Skeie encourage people to donate to the Pulse Victims Fund and the family of murdered singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed in Orlando two days before the Pulse shooting.

Honorable Mentions

The lesbian indie-rock duo Tegan and Sara put together a Pride mixtape on Pandora — though not related to the Orlando shooting, it does feature a lot of queer and queer-friendly artists, like Sinéad O’Connor, The Magnetic Fields, Seth “Hunx” Bogart, Le Tigre and more.

Rappers J. Norm and 1st Class of The College Bumz released a track called “It Can Happen” which is a defiant rap about bravely affirming ourselves and finding humanity in the face of hate. It’s actually pretty great. They also spoke with the Washington Blade about their track; J. Norm said, “An incident like this, instead of giving a negative response that the enemy wants, we wrote a song to bring people together.”

Old-school gay icon, Jimmy Sommerville of Bronski Beat and the Communards, released a video where he sings a bit of his 1984 hit “Why?” about homophobia and gay-bashing before giving his tribute — in the form of a rose, to the victims of the shooting:

If you’re interested, here’s the original version of “Why?”:

And, finally, though it’s not a single, Tituss Burgess from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sang a gorgeous a cappella version of Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story at the New York City vigil:

(Featured image taken from the Eli Lieb and Brandon Skeie video for “Pulse”)