When I started listening to “The Heist,” the album by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, I figured I would get a lot more songs like their breakout hit, “Thrift Shop.” In case you’re not familiar with that heavy hitter, the entire song is literally about shopping at a thrift shop (no hidden meaning), and the hook is “This is fucking awesome.” As inane as that all sound (and it is exactly that inane), it is also stupidly fun and addicting. Hence, I went in for more by listening to all of “The Heist.”
Certainly I found other songs that were fun, including my new favorite song “Can’t Hold Us,” which is guaranteed or your money back to put you in a good mood (I will personally give you your money back! I’m that sure of it! I sound like a t.v. infomercial!).
However, I was surprised to also find some serious material amongst the likes of “Thrift Shop,” including those addressing Macklemore’s struggles with addiction- the lure of alcohol and starting over after relapsing. It’s quite the gamut throughout “The Heist.”
However, the most poignant song, in my opinion, was “Same Love.” In it, Macklemore (born Ben Haggerty) recalls questioning whether he was gay as a youngster. His reasons for wondering including the fact that he could draw and he kept his room tidy, while he believed he might not be gay because he was good at baseball. While it sounds funny to think that someone would question his sexuality based on such superficial characteristics, that’s exactly the point of the song. Macklemore goes on to chastise both himself and the rap industry for making generalizations.
Lest that all sound too preachy, the song is interwoven with the vocals of the lovely Mary Lambert, herself a lesbian, whose words include “I can’t change even if I try, even if I wanted to.” It really is powerful and perfectly balances Macklemore’s chatter, culminating in a very strong gay rights song, particularly the support of same sex marriage.
But what about Macklemore himself? Is he gay? In this interview on a news show in his home city of Seattle, Macklemore explains (as he does in “Same Love”) that he has two gay uncles and grew up around committed gay relationships that could not be legalized. He was also raised Catholic and is now part of the hip hop community (it gives me a headache just seeing all those words in the same paragraph). Oh, plus he’s a white rapper, which makes him an oddity in itself. But no, he is not gay. He’s just pro-gay.
(Slight detour: After listening to "Same Love" and also recalling that Frank Ocean caused a stir last year with the revelation that he was bi-sexual, I started to wonder whether there were other gay themed songs that I wasn’t aware of. The answer is yes, and some are performed by very popular artists, including Talking Heads, The Police and Dire Straits. However, my observation was that most of those artists’ gay themed songs were in their early days. As artists’ popularity rise, do they become less willing to sing about gay issues? This is a conundrum for another day.)
I love that Macklemore is willing to sing about a topic that is so important to him and highly recommend this album, the first album I’ve really been excited about this year (even though it was released last year). If you’re only familiar with “Thrift Shop” you’re in for a surprise with the rest of the album. Enjoy the video here for “Same Love,” but please do yourself a favor and listen to “Can’t Hold Us”- it’s an instant mood booster. Enjoy!
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Filed under: Album Reviews