Monday, August 31, 2015

Macklemore is Back: Will He Change Us Again?

Ryan Lewis and Macklemore (Ben Haggerty)
The last time we heard from the Ryan Lewis and Macklemore team, we were left with inspiring messages of not just hope, but the rewards of courage, compassion and hard work. Sobriety has never before been painted in such an amazing array of colors.

It made the rest of us working jocks and slaving artists feel better about having a job, keeping a budget and laughing at ridiculous marketing plays for not just our wallet, but our souls.

Instead, we wanted to jump out of a window with them, feel the rush of the cold fast wind blowing past our faces, and revel in the fact that we could feel that wind with every pore - taste it with every taste bud and embrace it fully into the depths of our hearts because we weren't high. We weren't drunk. We weren't shackled.

We weren't numbed - despite the tsunami after tsunami of 'you should be' waves that hit us so hard, over and over again by society, the media and the Google's and the Amazon's of this world - that want us to be all of those things. They want it oh, so so badly. Because we would be theirs, to vote how they choose, buy how they say and think like they want.

To be awake is to be out of their clutches. And the Macklemore team is nothing if not awake. Humble, honest, they were reckless in the right places and stubborn in the unpopular ones. Thank God.

I mean, really. Every time my playlist popped up their Can't Hold Us video (the one I purchased, thank you very much), I always found myself whispering Thank God Thank God Thank GOD for the miracle of this song. This group. This... everything. Somehow they managed to get through the mainstay labels and reach us. Oh holy heaven - THANK YOU!!! for getting them through.

I'll never forget hearing Thrift Shop on the radio stations in LA, marveling at the fact that they were actually letting a lyricist say - on air - that paying $50 bucks for a t-shirt - especially one that everyone else was wearing, wasn't savvy, smart or in. More like "swindled and pimped." Damn. My mouth formed a dropped "O" in shock... and suddenly I could just see them. Standing next to my car window. Knocking. They were knocking on all of our headsets saying, "Hellllooo!!! Wake up already! Look this s*** in the mirror!"

And then, as if the radio stations heard my shockwaves radiating from my car, they went silent. They eliminated all Macklemore songs from their playlists. But it had already begun. The match was lit. I was dying to hear them. In a rare display of unity, we could feel all of Southern California pounding the pavements for Macklemore too. The pressure of their desires was unreal. 

Still, it wasn't until the musicians hit the top of the charts everywhere else, on iTunes and the Billboard charts, that they finally, begrudginly, played the songs. But they did it as little as they possibly could.

That's because L.A. and the rest of Southern California - well, California in general, is the impulse buying capital of the world. Sobriety is nowhere to be found. Independent thinking is always some rehashed proposal one of the giants thought up and designed for them to think a long, long time ago. A radical idea in LA is a new lipstick shade, car upgrade or jean trend.

I grew up there. I studied there. I worked there. I owned a business there. I know it through and through. So startled I was not, by the filibuster of the radio giants. But it was too late. People noticed. They, for the first time, didn't get what they wanted. And I believe the radio giants inadvertently lifted their skirts and accidentally gave everyone a peek of the ugliness and truth that is their pill popping, booty shaking, cocktail swinging anthem of bass... lined up from here to the sun, it isn't popular because the people say it's so - it's popular because it's being forced on us. 

Talent, the people realized for the first time, was being cut from the picture. Their own opinions were as well. Uh oh.

And that's the brilliance of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. That is the kind of whoopsie-daisies they're getting corporations to accidentally do as they're tripping over this wire they never saw coming. It's classic. It's wonderful. It's awesome.

But at the same time - I worried. Having an extensive background in addiction and recovery cultures and journeys, I wondered if the fame and fortune would taint the purity of these boys' bravery. Their longtime fans called them sellouts. Their last world tour caused a relapse in recovery. And if I knew one thing about world fame - it's that suddenly - everyone wants to bend your ear.

Everyone. Everyone comments. Everyone has an opinion. Absolutely everyone, everyone, thinks you need to change in some way. Except for the ones who never ever speak. They don't think that they have to. They are the majority, but they are always unheard, because... they are content. They are satisfied. They are customers who can't wait for more.

I can relate to both sides. I myself found overnight success in my own field- too overnight, in my opinion. In one 24 hour period, with one single article, I was known in more countries than I could count. And the thunderous applause poured in. Ah ha! Gotcha. That never happens. Thunderous applause happens only in theaters, never online or in public.

I heard from all corners of the globe, and before I knew not to read any of it - before I learned to go on a road trip into the wild where it's just you, the one you love, and God's country stretching out before you, so that there is absolutely no voice but your own again - I did the opposite. I read it all instead. I listened to everyone I met.

And I changed as an artist because of it. There is a debate as to whether or not I'm a better artist for it or not, but in my personal opinion, I think I would have done my fans a better service had I kept my ear to the applause only - to the pageviews, the sales numbers and perhaps the thank you letters. It's hard to do, but Adele manages it, and I think that's a good model indeed.

If an actor were to come down from his stage after a show, and ask each one of the audience member's their opinion of the performance... would he perform the same ever again? Even if he got a standing ovation before he came down? No. It would be impossible.

So as I see the songs slowly trickling out from the Macklemore team again, I am shaking. I am trembling. We needed them so much more than they could possibly imagine, and we need them even more now. Will that hope, freedom and fight that they inspired in us before---- has it died on the vine?

Will we just get confusion, pain, self-questioning and doubt in their words this time - always the result of our global take-down society - or will they follow the same path they charted out for us before? Will they challenge us to follow them again? Shirk the lies of flood for the air of the open that is before us?

Will they make us proud to be us again, and nobody's else's?

I hope so. I really do hope so. 

Let's watch. And I'll wait - with my fingers crossed very, very tightly.

Copyright 2015 Eastvold. To reprint or to contact, email

No comments:

Post a Comment