Album Reviews

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This Unruly Mess I've Made

Artist:     Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Album:     This Unruly Mess I've Made

Label:     Macklemore

Release Date:     02/26/2015


Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s newest incorporates a variety of musical collaborations with Carla Morrison, Leon Bridges, Ed Sheeran, among others, and is comprised of 13 songs that are quite distinct in tone, thematic, composition and intention. Since the release of The Heist in 2012, Macklemore’s daily life has changed drastically. From being a local artist in the Seattle hip hop scene to blowing up and booking world tours, navigating fame and stardom, getting married, relapsing with his drug addiction, having a child, ultimately getting sober again and dealing with internal demons were all experiences that fueled his need to translate feelings into music. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made resonates in a much more honest way with issues that are pressing in contemporary society, and deals with Macklemore’s inner struggles with fame and identity.

“Light Tunnels” opens the album with a grand, harmonious melody guided by a gospel choir, subsequently followed by a dynamic simple beat. “Throughout the track, Macklemore recounts his uncomfortable experience at the 2014 Grammy awards, wrestling with the overall phoniness of the event and his desire to be known as an artist. “Downtown” is without a doubt the album’s biggest hit so far. It features rap pioneers Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz as well as the powerful vocals of Foxy Shazam’s frontman, Eric Nally. The record is an upbeat, fun tune that embraces mopeds and is reminiscent of the catchy hit, “Thrift Shop.”

Songs like “Brad Pitt’s Cousin,” “Dance Off,” “Lets Eat” and the trite “Spoons” deal with trivial issues involving eating food, body image issues because of eating the food, dancing and Macklemore claiming the title of “Brad Pitt’s ugly cousin,” whatever that means. The aforementioned songs don’t possess the same depth and level of passion as “St. Ides,” “Need To Know,” “Bolo Tie” and “The Train,” which incorporate nostalgic beats and a more confessional approach. “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)” is a heartfelt, epistolary style track that incorporates Ed Sheeran’s vibrant vocals. In the song, Macklemore gives advice to his child, Sloane, as he describes how life-changing experiences are part of growing up and becoming who we want to be as parents, artists, individuals, etc.

“White Privilege II” is an unconventional, nine minute song that deals with complex ideas of race in America, cultural appropriation, racism and white privilege through audio vignettes that invite the listener to join Macklemore in a journey recounting his raw, honest thoughts and struggles with these difficult questions. Macklemore did not intend for the song to be easily digested, but rather intended to spark uncomfortable thoughts and conversations within the structured sound bites.

Macklemore’s new album can be qualified as a sonically cohesive mess, but it’s a mess that is born out of his ability to be a creative disruptor. He’s a hip hop artist that aims to generate consciousness through his art. Macklemore has dug through complex themes and explored a variety of polarizing themes with honesty, versatility and at times, corny tunes that are all part of the human experience. Overall this album offers songs to laugh, dance, to think and discuss, reflecting on the practice of creativity through an independent voice in hip hop music.

-Tracy Montes

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