Tim Arnold’s “What Love Would Want” / “Que Désire l’Amour” – anthem for acceptance
Last year, original British recording artist Tim Arnold released ‘What Love Would Want’ – a simple, poetic song celebrating love as a unifying force to overcome discrimination and hatred for sexual and cultural diversity. The song was playlisted on BBC 6 Music in the UK and spread across Canada, receiving spins on SiriusXM and CBC.
As the track supported a universal movement for social activism, it was quickly adopted as an anthem for Amnesty International’s Love Is a Human Right campaign. The attention sparked a demand for key live performances, including concerts at the Russian Embassy in London (with famed actor, Sir Ian McKellen), the legendary Isle of Wight Festival, London’s leading performing arts space, and many special events right here in Toronto, known as one of the world’s most multicultural city.
The growing popularity of the song and its universal message led to a need for a French version, which has been released as a video single in time for Valentine’s Day 2018. QUE DÉSIRE L’AMOUR features new French lyrics penned by Canadian singer/songwriters, Ben Pelchat (Toronto, Ontario) and Alexy Guerer (Montreal, Quebec).
QUE DÉSIRE L’AMOUR was recorded and produced at Kensington Sound in Toronto. New footage supporting the French video single was shot in Canada, and features Canadian couples. The French version extends the call-out for love and understanding as a unifying force to overcome hatred and discrimination, as seen in the original English-language version (featuring Stephen Fry). The What Love Would Want video project is a first in featuring real couples who are straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, mixed race and interracial. The new video for the French Canadian version can be viewed on Tim Arnold’s YouTube channel . The single can also be pre-ordered here.
You can also watch this behind the scenes video on how everything came to be.
theBUZZ had the opportunity ask Arnold a couple questions about this trailblazing song, and the movement that has happened following its release.
Where did the inspiration and vision come for initially writing the original version?
The song began as my own personal response to the news that there were gay concentration camps in Chechnya. I’d also been following Stephen Fry’s public opinion on the Catholic church and its condemnation of gay people. On top of all that, I wrote the song a month or so after the Women’s March. At the start of 2017 there was a lot of passion for change in the air, which of course came straight after Trump was inaugurated. My only ambition in life has always been to belong to a community, but keep my individuality. That is a luxury in some parts of the world. Although I wrote the song from a place of anger and frustration, I wanted to communicate a picture of inclusivity in the way that one might explain it to a child. Naturally, because my mother is gay, I wrote this song from the perspective of a child.
What Love Would Want is a suggestion that labels separate. A progressive view of the world means we have no option but to integrate. That’s the only way forward. I believe “Ask what love would want” is the answer to many questions, not just the questions I ask in the song.
What inspired you to compose a French Canadian version?
The video came first with the Canadian version. My friend, Andy Fallon (portrait photographer) took still portraits of all the couples on the original video. He knew that I was spending a lot of time in Canada after the original version of the song was launched in Toronto. Andy asked me if I would make another video with Canadian couples. I thought it would be too difficult to do, but within a matter of days, very positive and optimistic people who have become great friends started the ball rolling. This song seems to dictate the terms as far as my life is concerned. None of it has been my plan. I just follow where it wants to go, and it’s been a joy to be part of it. Of course, once we knew we’d be making a new video, I realised I couldn’t cut it to the same song again. I’ve sung Piaf’s Je Ne Regrette Rien since 2002 when I began doing solo shows in London, so I’ve been comfortable singing in French for a long time.
Canadian singer songwriter Ben Pelchat got together with solo artist Alexy Guerer (from Montreal) and made the translation into French. They coached me with the singing at the same time as producing the single. Ben and Alexy are both giant talents. Without their involvement, Que Desire l’Amour wouldn’t have been created.
You mentioned perhaps wanting to release versions in various languages over the years, including Spanish next, which is a language you are versed in. Have you given further thought as to which languages, and what would you do for other languages you don’t currently speak?
I think I will definitely record What Love Would Want in Spanish because it’s my second language and I love singing in Spanish. However, this has all come about because of friends who felt passionately about the song and it’s message. Rather delightfully, for a change, it’s not been me leading the project. I would love to record a version in Russian. I met some Chechnyan gay refugees at the Embassy in London. They told me how important it is for their community to feel supported in other countries around the world, so if I can, I would like to do a version for them.
With each new version, how important is it for you to capture the local community to complement each rendition?
I think what makes the videos special is that all the couples are real couples. My approach to it was very real as well. When we filmed the first video in London, some couples cancelled at the last minute and it effected the overall composition I had mapped out. I script what kind of couples I’d like to film that will work in a certain way with the lyrics of the song. But when those couples cancelled, I hit the streets and ran up and down Soho until I found two couples who I knew would look right and understand the spirit of what I was doing. Local community is everything for this part of my work.
You’ve also composed other tunes around human/equal rights, including ‘What Love Would Want’ and previously ‘He For She’. Were you always an advocate or has your role as musician allowed you to be more vocal for these issues?
I try not to look back at my work too much anymore, but there have always been two prevailing subjects in my lyrics: love and social issues. I suppose What Love Would Want put the two together for the first time. My mother is also a songwriter and was an activist for gay rights and women’s equality in the ‘70’s. I remember writing a song called ‘Friendly Fire’ when I was 16 about the Iraq war and another song called Anchored In Dread’s Sunrise (A.I.D.S) when I was about 12, so I think I’ve always empathised with other people’s suffering since I began writing songs.
Why is it important to you to spread the message of these songs globally?
What is important for me is to be able to express myself. I don’t take that for granted, because I have had to defend my right to do that on occasion throughout my life. I understand what it feels like to be afraid to be yourself.
Have you had the opportunity to perform these songs live as yet in concert? If so, what has the reception been like?
I don’t have the luxury of having a live agent or promoter, so I do not perform nearly as much as I would like to. I would be on the road half of the year if someone booked me. That’s the tricky part of being independent. But on the positive side, the few times I have performed What Love Would Want have been so uniquely thrilling: singing with a choir at the Isle of Wight Festival, on a cruise ship on Lake Ontario with a group of phenomenal Canadian solo artists against the sunset, and performing after Sir Ian McKellan gave a human rights speech in London at The Russian Embassy. I remember those events like dreams. The reception has always been overwhelming. Many people tell me they cried when I sang the song, but they are always smiling when they tell me that. It makes me happy. I think a lot of people don’t realise I have never toured outside of Europe, so being invited to Canada because of my music is a major deal for me.
Which musicians or other individuals have you had the opportunity to collaborate with for these tunes?
I have been blessed to collaborate with some of my favourite musicians and actors in my work. Gary Kemp and Marc Almond are two incredible talents whose work I have adored most of my life. Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Briers, Paul McGann, Lindsay Kemp – artists whose work has meant a great deal to me. I never imagined collaborating with them on my work. It’s a gift.
But the musicians who may not be as well known who have worked on my albums are also a lifeline for me. I suffer from acute autophobia, (which is a nightmare because I have to spend a lot of time alone to do what I do). Being around other musicians and actors is a beautiful comfort. Many of them have become extended family, and by including them in what I write, I feel included. It may seem selfish but luckily they all like what I do!
Do you see this project expanding further beyond just a song and video? Perhaps a short film, stage production, book, etc?
There are some other ‘incarnations’ of What Love Would Want being discussed at the moment. I hope it continues to develop because it does inspire people. As long as it stays true to the spirit I wrote it in, I will go along for any ride.
Is the song being released digitally only, or any other physical formats?
At the moment, both versions of the song are only be available for download and streaming. The original acoustic version is on the CD of my new album ‘I Am For You’.
Follow along on Tim’s Facebook page to find out what he’s up to next!