Macklemore's Terrifying Secret: He's Not Really That Good


But "Thrift Shop" isn't all Macklemore is about. Let's be fair to the guy: He's also about serious business. After calling his integrity into question on Facebook, I was introduced to some of his very, very melodramatic work talking about the very, very serious subject of drug addiction.

The problem here is that this song is also extremely calculated. From his tugging-on-your-heartstrings melancholy minor chords on piano and choral backing vocals, to the part in the chorus where all the music fades and it's just his broken voice, to his frantic, personal, "I'm about to cry just saying this stuff" flow via Sage Francis in 2002, he takes all the tropes of indie hip-hop and mixes them in with modern indie-rock clichés to make the sappiest "my life is so hard" song I've heard in ages.

But forgive me for not buying it. The dichotomy makes it too unbelievable. Jumping fences between this and a song like "Thrift Shop" just shows the bare-bones mathematics behind these songs: It's designed to grab your attention and draw you in with something familiar and simple, with easy emotions that we've all felt before.

Compare with the roots of indie hip-hop, where the rappers didn't trade in easy emotions. Compare with the way Sage Francis bore his soul on Personal Journalist without even asking for sympathy. Compare with the futuristic experimentation of El-P and Cannibal Ox, living in a broken dystopia of hip-hop. Compare with Why?'s jaded bitterness. Or how, in this fantastic track, Astronautalis plies your heart in a way that has none of the flashiness of "Otherside."

What Astronautalis did on "Gaston Ave" was not calculated or flashy. It wasn't designed to get played on the radio like a Lil Wayne ballad. It was designed to appeal to only those interested in art like this. It's uncompromising, which is a challenge to the listeners. But it is real; it's not business.

Macklemore is a businessman and I salute him for that. But I can't eat up his saccharine beats or his lazy comedy, either. It's all too mechanical and easy, too fad-oriented and too desperate. It's the same as watching a Family Guy episode where the show throws 50 pop culture references at you, then attempts an emotional third act where one of the characters tries to display human emotions.

You know what it's doing, and you just can't buy it. That's Macklemore in a nutshell.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are this weekend's musical guest on Saturday Night Live, which airs at 10:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC.


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23 comments
nikstoebick
nikstoebick

I don't like his song "Thrift Shop", but his songs "Neon Cathedral" and "Thin Line", etc. are great.  Give more a listen before you say ignorant shit.

LoverofREALmusic
LoverofREALmusic

Great article. Came across is after first hearing one of Macklemore's "songs" and asking google why he was so terrible.

He is literally the worst rapper I have ever heard. Including Vanilla Ice.

Macklemorelove
Macklemorelove

First of all, you CANNOT listen to 1 song and deem him "not good," without proper evidence-He is a lyrical genius and with Ryan Lewis, they make meaningful tunes. Secondly, next time you decide to write an article about an artist not being "that good," make sure to AT LEAST listen to his latest album before making such remarks. Songs like "Otherside" from his earlier album has helped change the lives of others, and he is an honest rapper who believes he does have some white privilege and isn't afraid to admit it. The Heist is an album that has touched a lot of people with its honesty, irony, and passion. You're truly missing out. 

StephenIsADumb
StephenIsADumb

Why are people getting so mad? Because this author tells the truth? It's pathetic that people get so defensive over this stuff. I have no real opinion on Macklemore, he's not the worst I've heard but neither is he the best; he's just yet another marketing ploy. Mainstream music is becoming a very sad joke and there's only a few good artists within it that are halfway decent. No this doesn't make me a "hipster", it's just my opinion and it's one I hold strong to. The majority of these radio-ready songs all have the same, overused formula. Now, it's not to say that most music has no similarities, but it's the way they are used. In the end, yes, all artists are looking for a good profit off of what they are putting out, but the ones that seem to get the most popular with these newer generations are totally abusing that aspect. Music is also about being artistic with how you create sound or lyrics, how it flows, the rhythms and sonic power it can  generate. Half of the songs now seem to forget about that and just focus on what will appeal to a wider audience, what can sound the safest but still try to push a message that's been pushed I don't how many times; "Love is a struggle, break-ups happen, sex is cool (good examples are Rihanna and Flo Rida), we have lots of money, we're still common folk on the inside, blah blah blah". That's what gets the most attention, but occasionally to "turn" (I use that word very lightly) things on their head, this artists, such as Macklemore, will release something teasing that stuff, specifically today's rappers, and yet aren't they doing the same thing? Sure he isn't wearing all the "swag"-esque clothing, but I'm more than positive that he's very wealthy because of his music and just has a good way of presenting himself to people to make him seem like a "normal" guy. 

I could go on and on with this rant, but overall it's just a shame that the mainstream is getting clogged up with all of this artificial garbage. 

topnotchhopscotch
topnotchhopscotch

Actually, he got the idea from a barely known NW producer and MC, THE THRIFTSHOP SAMPLER from Portland Oregon.  He's been going by that name for years.

lame.
lame.

zzzZZZzzz....

joshechols
joshechols

finally forced yourself to listen to the #1 song on the radio?  then whines about it being "hipster"? wow, now that's hipster!

chuybenitez
chuybenitez

Corey Deiterman's Terrifying Secret:  He Shouldn't be Writing Musical Reviews If He Doesn't "Get" Macklemore x Ryan Lewis. 

April Dupree
April Dupree

Is this what people said about Eminem? Not comparing the two but almost every lead single from an Eminem album until now has been a "comedic song" and people look up to him like a hip hop God.

TheMightyQuinn
TheMightyQuinn

Haters gunna hate. 

But this is hating that is confusing and with a terrible title.

Do you dislike businessmen? How is he a business, man? Whats a good rapper? His songs are catchy so he is a businessman? He is popular so he is a businessman? Thrift shops are trendy? What are you saying?!

And how is this a brilliant marketing scheme: "use cliched indie hip-hop to talk about the things people want to hear about and can relate to in some generalized way." What does this even mean?

I like how Macklemore gets under some people's skin. Its popular so off course the haters dont know why they dont like it so they say his 'beats are lazy' or he is not 'underground' or that he is Donald Trump or whatever you were trying to say. 

But it all boils down to some people are just too cool. As for me? I like that I can jam his hip hop with my teenage cousins and know that at least theres a message about gay rights, and anti-consumerism, and even politics. And if this is popular, then all the better.

Julian Bajsel
Julian Bajsel

so annoying that this guy is headlining at least 7 sxsw showcases. unacceptable.

Wendy Browne
Wendy Browne

The song is clever I guess but for the love of glob-- I'm sure The Box plays some clever hip hop junk that I'd chose to listen to... if I wanted hip hop junk. Not alt rock like expected on 94.5

tabytha.00
tabytha.00

You can't possibly think that listening to one song by an artist gives you enough opinion to sum up Macklemore as an artist. And even then, so what if he's a 'gimmick,' I think everyone is secretly beating themselves up that they didn't think of it first. Basically, you can judge all you want, but the guy has made, whether it's short term or long term. People love the guy and the people that don't still don't affect my opinion. To each their own. 

Ozeal DeBastos
Ozeal DeBastos

I guess "the album-The Heist" isn't worth the mention. Dude is nice. There's actually music composition involved in his songs unlike 99.9% of today's rap music. I dig his music. His single isn't a representation of what's he's doing. *sigh*

Wendy Browne
Wendy Browne

UGH I hate that song and how 94.5 keeps fucking playing it. Damn my Jeep for not having an ipod adapter!

MadMac
MadMac

Hm, I remember reading Joey Ramone, Joe Strummer, and The Edge all stating they couldn't play their instruments well (or at all) so they just turned them up loud to compensate and point of fact, airplay/girl frenzy/billion$ aside, Bono/Britney/Sting can't sing. ZZTop still sells more tickets than The Black Crows, who DON'T lip sinc/"play" to recorded tracks.

As for extremely calculated--Ed Sheeran's "The A Team." So, bottom line, you don't like this cat, I can dig it. I can't stand ICP/Eminem/John Legend and I won't wax 500 words to justify...oh, wait you get paid per blog post, right? Cold business.

Lauren MacQueen
Lauren MacQueen

...I also enjoy Vanilla Ice. Excuse me while I go pop some tags.

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