This year’s Ukraine Independence Day, August 23, 2023, saw the release of the anthemic song, “One Nation Under Love,” written by Grammy and Oscar-winning American Composer Diane Warren and performed by Tina Karol, the popular Ukrainian singer and TV host, followed by a video meant to show support for Ukraine and to inspire an end to the fighting there. The video for “One Nation Under Love” will be shown at the United Nations General Assembly and shown on the Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square.
Fighting a war is a grim business. The images of death and destruction, the lives lost, the devastation of cities, the scorched earth – it all begs the question: Can a song make a difference?
I would say yes. Music has always played a major role in lifting the hearts and minds of a resistance, of reminding people of why some things are worth fighting for.
In the United States, the Star-Spangled Banner has been a song of solidarity in the American Enterprise. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” lifted Union soldiers’ spirits during the Civil War. And “We Shall Overcome” is the song that comes to mind when considering the civil rights movement. As for a more universal, pacificist anthem there is John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And now, for Ukraine, there is “One Nation Under Love.”
Recently, I spoke with Warren by Zoom who explained that she wrote the song a couple of years ago but when she was introduced to Tina Karol, she decided that “this would be such a great song for her and for Ukraine and for the world.”
“If the world could just stop fighting and just realize we’re all just here [as humans], we’re not enemies,” Warren said, “Really that would be a way better world.”
Karol flew to Los Angeles to record the song in Warren’s studio. Warren was impressed by Karol: “She’s a great singer. She’s a perfectionist and a real hard worker. She wasn’t going to settle for something that wasn’t great.”
In the press release for the song, Karol said, “We collaborated on this song as a mission to strengthen the bridges between our countries,” adding that she was “deeply grateful to Diane.”
WePlay Studios, a Ukrainian content creation and production company, was pulled in to produce the video for the song. Maksym Bilogonov, the general producer of WePlay Studios, told me in a zoom that they had a short window of around two weeks to make the video. They wanted to convey that Ukrainians fighting for freedom did so supported by America, a nation that had also fought for its freedom.
To make that point, they filmed Karol singing in front of the iconic statue of Motherhood in Kyiv. The large statue of a woman bearing a shield had just had the symbol of Russia replaced with the symbol of Ukraine. They were the first production company to shoot there and use that image.
Normally when Karol performs. “She is very active, dancing on stage,” Bilogonov told me, but here they wanted to portray something more classic, patriotic. And the idea was to then film Warren in front of the Statue of Liberty, which turned out to be more complicated logistically than they imagined.
Instead they decided to film Warren in Los Angeles and insert the statue as the background. As they prepared to film the rehearsal, Tropical Storm Hilary was making its way across Southern California, and as they were prepping they felt the unexpected 5.6 earthquake. Despite these challenges, the WePlay crew were able to get the footage they needed. As Bilogonov told me, “When the [end] result is good, no one cares about why it [might have been] bad.”
The video for “One Nation Under Love” was shown in Ukraine on national TV during the Ukraine Day celebration, and was covered on TV, radio and news. In its first ten days, it received 1.3 million views on YouTube, Bilogonov said.
Warren could not be more pleased: “People are really embracing the video and the song,” she said, adding, “I think it just is one of these records that can really make an impact….I want it to become a huge hit,” Warren said, laughing. “That’s my goal. I want everybody to really embrace it… We need positivity in, in the world.