Yesterday, a friend posted a status on Facebook expressing her disdain for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Now, this is not a big deal. There are plenty of popular musicians I don’t “get” (Journey and U2, I’m looking at you), but for some reason, I kept thinking about this.
And I kept wondering, why on earth am I still thinking about this?
I think I’m still thinking about it because I find Macklemore’s music so … joyful. And, yes, important. It’s not just your every day hip hop/pop. It’s more than that.
The first time I heard “Thrift Store” was in the car. I was pulling into my garage, and I waited until the song was over to get out of the car, in part because I was laughing so hard, I didn’t want to stop the moment. I promptly pulled up the video on YouTube and proceeded my giggling. When Jeff got home, I made him watch the video, and even the man who doesn’t care for rap had to admit it was a catchy, fun and frickin’ hilarious song.
“Thrift Store” playing at my wedding is one of my favorite memories from the day. I can see my sister-in-law’s face as she sang every word; I can see the best man’s wife doing her “gangsta dirrrty” face as she danced; I can see my aunts dancing together, and cousins and more friends — all people who had never met and will likely never meet again, loving life.
Later in the night, when “Can’t Hold Us” came on, the same thing happened. This memory involves the maid of honor with her eyes closed, dancing all by herself in a little bubble of glee. A few weeks later, at said maid of honor’s sister’s wedding, the bride played the song and dedicated it to her nephew. It’s his favorite song, and it makes his little body boogie like a baby beast.
Sure, “Same Love” doesn’t fall in the same joyful, happy category as the first two ditties. Instead, it’s important. It represents something huge, a shift in rap and hip hop toward acceptance when it tends to veer toward anger and sex. “Same Love” is what “Born this Way” tried to be, but failed in part because of some weird insistence that it was too Madonna-like. “Same Love” is simple. It’s not meant to be danced to. It’s not meant to be a sing-along. It’s meant to convey a message, and it does so beautifully. By the time the chorus kicks in, I’m choked up, every time. Musically, I find it the standout of Macklemore’s three songs. The style is more of spoken-word poetry than rap, and it’s lovely, and so perfect for the music and the message. (I just watched the video for the first time. What chilling, really brilliant storytelling.)
For a musician to be able to take us from stealing stuff from a thrift shop to conveying a real, timely, important message in three songs is the stuff good stuff is made of. Will Macklemore and Ryan Lewis still be making music in 10 years? I have no idea. But today, in 2013, I’m trying to think of a current song that made me as happy as “Thrift Shop,” and one that matters as much as “Same Love.” I can’t do it. The music just might be some of the best stuff out there right now.