Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Macklemore Problem

Well, aside from every picture of him

So let's talk about Macklemore.  For a while, at the height of "Thrift Shop"'s popularity, I thought I would only have to endure a few more weeks of it and never have to hear from him again.  But somehow, like the musical Hydra that he is, once you lop off the head of one of his hit singles, two more grow back in its place.  And so Macklemore has ensconced himself in every chart imaginable, announcing that he's here to stay, whether I like it or not.  And let's be clear: I don't like it one bit.  Anybody who's familiar with my comedy knows that Macklemore raises a fiery brand of ire within me, seeing as he's the subject of many of my jokes.  But lately I've been trying to figure out exactly what my problem is with the guy.

Is it because he's a white rapper?  Well let me just quickly say "of course not," because I'm no racist.  Many people look at white rappers and immediately dismiss them on race alone.  It would certainly seem like I have something against white rappers if you were to just take a cursory glance, because Mac Miller used to be a frequent target of mine as well.  But the thing is, I don't have a problem with white rappers -- I have a problem with rappers who make mediocre music.  As soon as Mac Miller stopped doing that, embracing a loopy LA stoner sound on his surprising new album, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, I begrudgingly gave him respect.  So my disdain for Macklemore being about race is out of the question.  The Marshall Mathers LP is arguably my favorite rap album of all time!  I've contemplated writing long blog posts defending Kitty Pryde!!  I hate Kid Cudi more than any white rapper!!!

So is it because he's really popular?  Well, you're talking to the biggest Taylor Swift fan there is, so I don't think it's a question of popularity.  My listening habits may primarily consist of hip "indie" bands, but I listen to popular artists all the time, including but not limited to: Kanye West, Paramore, Kelly Clarkson, and Jay-Z.  Sometimes, there will be an occasion where I'll like an artist slightly less because I feel like their level of popularity outweighs the quality of their music.  For example, I think people like Adele and Lady Gaga are okay, but the level of excessive adulation they get turns me off from them ever so slightly.  Yet an artist being popular is never enough to be the sole basis for outright disliking them.  For the most part, I greet popular artists with a certain level of indifference, like I do with One Direction (are they even popular anymore?).  Plus, in an age where Vampire Weekend and Daft Punk have #1 albums and Arcade Fire is capable of winning Album of the Year at the Grammys, is there really that thick of a line between mainstream and indie?

That leaves us with one last option: sadly, I just don't think Macklemore's music is very good.  But why, exactly, do I think it's not good?  Well, "Thrift Shop" is fine enough, the kind of song that should've had a lifespan befitting of its novelty nature.  It has what many other Macklemore songs lack -- flavor.  Much of his other work is just so bland, coupling his average lyrics with Ryan Lewis's generic pop-rap beats.  But the biggest problem with Macklemore is the glassy-eyed, cheesy sincerity in all of his songs.  This is something I've had difficulty classifying, especially since I've been listening to The Weakerthans, a band whose lyrics err on the side of earnestness, alot recently.  I love bands like them and The Decemberists, whose heart-on-your-sleeve emoting is capable of tapping into a deep well of youthful emotion.  So why do I have a problem with sincerity in rap music?

Well there are two reasons that I can think of.  First, rap is seen as a "tough" genre, so hearing somebody like Macklemore is alot more jarring than listening to another wimpy indie rock band.  The bigger problem, however, is that Macklemore's sincerity is empty sincerity.  The Weakerthans and The Decemberists may be overly earnest, but their lyrics are genuinely smart, using poetic language and big ideas to highlight smaller emotions.  Macklemore's lyrics have absolutely nothing thoughtful to say.  The worst offender is "Wing$," his song/treatise against the shoe industry.  It's a plodding, ponderous track where he tells -- with no irony whatsoever -- a story about his desire for stylish shoes, all with a syrupy children's choir on the chorus.  But at the end of the day, the entire message of the song is just, "Consumerism is bad, people!!!"  Is this really a new idea in any way?  Even when he does do something fresh, at least in terms of the rap world -- like his diatribe of homophobia, "Same Love" -- he runs into problems.  It's an admirable endeavor, and I'm totally in support of the message, but I feel like people are so wowed by the social importance of the song that they're giving it a pass.  "Same Love" is an awful song, guys.  Once again, it has this bland simplicity to it, and is another example of Macklemore trying to weave some treacly personal story into his songs.  I don't know how to do a song like this and make it work, but it certainly isn't this, which comes off like a preachy after-school special.

Clearly, I'm in the minority about this issue.  Macklemore isn't going anywhere any time soon, and what's worse, for as much as I can escape him on the radio, I can't run away from the dozens of people on my Facebook feed who obsess over him and talk about going to his concert in November.  So all I'm left to do is sit here, screaming out into the void about this plague to the rap world.  I HATE MACKLEMORE!!!


  1. I'M HAPPY FOR YOU! Some People Love Macklemore Okay? Have you even heard otherside probably not

    1. I can't believe I'm going to give a measured response to an anonymous comment but here goes nothing!: Part of the premise of this post is that my dislike of Macklemore doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things because many people like him. So yeah, I'm aware that some people like Macklemore. I was just providing reasons why I'm not a fan (feel free to provide reasons why you are a fan, because I couldn't help noticing that you didn't do that).

      Yes, I've heard "Otherside" and I find that it's one of the biggest offenders of his habit of really overwrought, syrupy storytelling.

  2. Wacklmore is the worst! You're not alone my friend! Now that he swept every Grammy in the Rap categories I hope he finally faces some sort of backlash & closer scrutiny. You hit the nail on the head with your reasoning and analysis. After watching him and sidekick/ Ryan Lewis pull of their "heist" @ the Grammys tonight I'm really glad I stumbled on your blog, restores a bit of my faith in humanity. On top of everything those two corny, preachy, singsongy fuckers have the most punchable pair of faces I think I've ever seen. And there's Ryans expression, in every photo, I can't get over it, I bust out laughing ...what kind of a grown man sports a duck face? Were talkin' Vanilla Ice poses yo!

    1. The worst part was him winning Rap Album of the Year over 4 albums that were better than his. I try not to get too upset about the Grammys, but that was just too much to take.