Wrap your mind around this: As of today, Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” is the #2 song in America. Number two! That means Macklemore is like Joe Biden to Bruno Mars’ Barack Obama.
A few months ago, I would’ve thought this was a sure sign of the apocalypse… that Macklemore’s success was our punishment from an angry God. But that was before I got it.
That’s why I can’t hate on Amanda Dobbins at Vulture, who just wrote a horrified post about “Thrift Shop’s” success. “Is this the No. 1 you want, America?” she says. “And if so, can you please explain why?”
Several commenters over on Vulture have already come to Macklemore’s defense, but I want to talk to Amanda Dobbins from a place of understanding. As a recent convert, I want to let her know how to fully appreciate “Thrift Shop.” So even though I don’t know Amanda Dobbins, I’m going to talk to her in the first person. It’s the Internet, right? Immediate familiarity is the name of the game. So here we go…
Girl, I feel you. At first, Macklemore seems like a clown-ass joke rapper like Asher Roth or Kreayshawn. But here’s the thing! There’s actually more to him than that.
For one thing, “Thrift Shop” is just one facet of Macklemore’s catalog, which also includes a devastating, beautiful ode to gay marriage; an exploration of Macklemore’s own struggles with drug addiction; and thoughtful riffs on his “right” to make rap music. Heard in the context of his entire record, “Thrift Shop” is easier to appreciate.
The way I hear it now, the song is actually a clever jab at our cultural obsession with fashion. That’s why there’s an entire verse about the futility of buying the same expensive t-shirt as everyone else, then trying to say you have style. Macklemore’s point is that brand names and fashion labels homogenize the people who wear them. True style and true swagger come from being one of a kind with your grandpa’s old fur coat.
But Macklemore makes this point in a song that sounds like your typical ode to Gucci or Louis Vuitton. He’s using the sound of brand worship to deconstruct brand worship. He’s shining his own lighthearted swagger through the lens of swag culture.
That’s pretty clever, and even better, it’s funny and fun. An awful lot of hip-hop is missing a sense of humor.
Plus—and let’s not deny this—there’s a dope-ass beat in there. Try not to bob your head during the chorus, slapping the air every time the guy sings “tags.”
See what I mean? “Thrift Shop” is a masterpiece.
When he isn’t thinking about swag culture, Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship