Macklemore is not necessarily the most respectable figure in hip hop. A scrawny white guy with a haircut that makes his head look like a tropical fish and outfits that rival Prince’s in gaudiness, Macklemore is, in a sense, a grand self parody. This is how his shtick has worked for so long. His biggest hit, “Thrift Shop,” would fit better into a Weird Al album than any other compilation. Even his more serious songs don’t take themselves too seriously — songs like “Can’t Hold Us” are in on the joke.
This method of self parody carries over onto Macklemore’s newest track, “Downtown.” Scarcely comes a musician who can legitimately make a five-minute burner about the joys of riding a moped, and even more rarely comes a musician who can make a legitimately good song about riding a moped, making us fully aware of the ludicrousy of the situation yet genuinely enjoying the moped anthem. As he did on “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore managed to encourage his self parody to the point where the viewer agrees: it’s cool how uncool he is. Despite how comical lines such as “There’s layers to this shit, players/Tiramisu” are, you can’t deny that that he looks really cool riding up on his rival gang on their shoddy ’80s mopeds. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are the peanut gallery of the hip hop industry; they’re goofy and you can’t help having fun with them.
In that sense, we’re fulfilling Macklemore’s wishes by making him music’s biggest running gag. That’s his image, and by making a mockery out of himself he’s remaining relevant, even if he’s caused a bit of trouble in the past few years. Other than that, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are legitimately talented — Lewis’ production on “Downtown” is slick and hard hitting as ever, mimicking the style of Michael Jackson and ’80s hip hop classics. But perhaps the star of the show is Eric Nally, former lead singer of Foxy Shazam, singing on the hook. His Freddie Mercury like anthemic voice, mixed with his insane energy and passion, makes the incredibly ridiculous hook of “Downtown” the most enjoyable part of the song. Nally’s blazing vocals are the only thing that make this track’s hook work in the slightest. If not for Nally, this hook could have been a complete throwaway.
Maybe there’s more to Macklemore than his clownish ways. In the few days since “Downtown” has been released, it’s already amassed 10 million views on YouTube and gained overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans. Perhaps Macklemore has mastered his eccentric niche.
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