Stars lend a hand to Orlando charity single

Britney Spears (above) and Jennifer Lopez are two pop stars featured in a charity single that will benefit LGBT charities in Florida in the wake of last month’s shooting at an Orlando nightclub.
Britney Spears (above) and Jennifer Lopez are two pop stars featured in a charity single that will benefit LGBT charities in Florida in the wake of last month’s shooting at an Orlando nightclub.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez (above) are two pop stars featured in a charity single that will benefit LGBT charities in Florida in the wake of last month’s shooting at an Orlando nightclub.
Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez (above) are two pop stars featured in a charity single that will benefit LGBT charities in Florida in the wake of last month’s shooting at an Orlando nightclub.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • The day after a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, last month, songwriter Justin Tranter got on a plane there to lend a hand.

Arriving from Miami, where he was on tour with pop star Selena Gomez, Tranter spent the day volunteering at an Orlando LGBT centre before taking a meeting with representatives for civil rights group Glaad that Sunday night. He wanted to do more - writing a song seemed like the obvious answer.

"It's not an original idea," he said of spearheading a charity single, a la We Are The World. "It's a classic one: musicians creating music to raise money and awareness."

The result was Hands, a track released on Wednesday that features some of the biggest names in pop music, including Gomez, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Mary J. Blige, Pink, Juanes, Kacey Musgraves and Adam Lambert. Proceeds from the song, available exclusively on iTunes, will benefit Equality Florida, the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida and Glaad.

Lopez is involved in another tribute to the victims, Love Make The World Go Round, which is being recorded with Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and star of the blockbuster musical Hamilton. Miranda and Lopez, who are both of Puerto Rican heritage, on Monday tweeted a video that showed them recording the song which has not yet been released.

"I'm so connected to the community that I was lucky enough to be born into," said Tranter, who was a teenager when he came out as gay. "Why not try to help as much as you possibly can?"

He wrote Hands with his frequent collaborator Julia Michaels and producer Blood Pop - all part of the team behind Justin Bieber's No. 1 hit Sorry. Producer Mark Ronson also contributed to Hands, while Glaad, music publisher Warner Chappell and record label Interscope helped to wrangle the artists.

Tranter's industry connections helped. Having been in the studio with Gomez, Spears, Stefani and others, "the first thing we did was text and or call all the people that I know personally", he said. "Every day someone new would say yes."

With the stars on board, he and Michaels mapped which section each person should sing. Vocal producer Benjamin Rice was charged with putting it all together.

"Everyone kept sending us two lines, four lines, whatever it was, and then Ben had the task of making a symphony out of these 24 unbelievable artists," Tranter said. "He was working through the night for three nights to get this done."

Hands begins with Spears singing: "Can hold a gun/And hold your heart/Can put out fires/And make 'em start." Other lines include: "If a million hands can build a wall/A million hands can break it down."

Asked if that was an allusion to presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, Tranter said: "That phrase is definitely on purpose."

He also personally helped record vocals from the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. "All these beautiful trans singers putting their vocals around these superstars was really special to me," he said, adding that the song was not meant to be "preachy".

"We're not trying to speak for anyone," he said. "We're just trying to put out something positive."

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Stars lend a hand to Orlando charity single'. Print Edition | Subscribe