… and Ryan Lewis.
Over the past few days, in wake of the Grammy Awards, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have received a lot of backlash for their many wins on Sunday Night (Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for “Thrift Shop,” and Best Rap Album for The Heist). And it also centered on the long-simmering backlash against “Same Love,” their song in collaboration with Mary Lambert about asking for tolerance for LGBTQ marriage (which was performed at the Grammy ceremony in an epic presentation featuring Queen Latifah marrying 33 couples on stage that night of various sexual orientations, and a special appearances by Madonna and Trombone Shorty). And since everyone has been weighing in on this, I feel that I should add my two cents on the seemingly critic-proof group (as coined by my l’étoile colleague Jon Hunt mentioned in his amazing piece today).
Put on your wading boots, goslings. It’s going to get deep! But first, a disclaimer: I actually liked The Heist. It’s catchy, fun, has some clever wordplay, and is basically the aural equivalent of Doritios; sometimes you get a craving for junk food.
Before we start, let’s take a look at the video for “Same Love”…
Here’s the thing that shocked the shit out of me: this video wasn’t nominated for Best Music Video. Frankly a big part of the reason this song has become so ingrained on everyone’s minds is that this video is hypnotic as hell and really sells the song (and covers over some of the “questionable” lyrics – more on that in a bit). And of course the song’s catchiness is aided by (a) Mary Lambert’s lovely vocals, and (b) more importantly, Ryan Lewis’s quirky but earworm-worthy beats. But then again, there’s the weird “straight guy dude bro ‘No Homo'” vibe that the lyrics give off (read them here). And while I appreciate the earnestness behind the lyrics, the actual lyrics themselves are so wrapped up in the attitude of “Dude I’m Straight But It’s Cool Brah” that muddles the message. This is where the LGBTQ backlash has come from. My own personal “backlash” (which is tepid at best and meh at worst) is not in his message, but in the lack of sophistication in the message. Good rap and hip hop has always pushed buttons with lyrics that challenge the listener, but there’s no challenge here.
INTERMEZZO: Read Dan Savage’s post for The Stranger on the LGBTQ backlash which also has an on-point video by Arielle Scarcella:
As for the other type of backlash Macklemore has received, the big point is this: Even though he does speak over a musical track, this does not feel like a rap album to me. The sensibilities are far more oriented towards pop (which this album should have been under). On top of that, while Drake, Jay-Z, and Kanye West each had their admirers, many people felt that Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city was the truly worthy album; a bold concept album that was moody, complex, and a rewarding listen. Let me put it this way; if he can make Imagine Dragons look good, then he’s got the goods. And while I am nowhere near qualified to write on the racial implications regarding all of this, this article at Spin addresses it better than I could.
Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images