This song has been out over half a year now and I’ve known about it for about the same time. Having taken an interest in Macklemore’s renaissance, I was never happier charting the Seattle local’s success than when his second studio album ‘The Heist’, coming a full seven years and a significant career detour after his first effort in 2005, hit #2 on the US charts. Independently released, independently produced and writing lyrics that mean something, Macklemore is anathema to the contemporary hip-hop hierarchy, run by conglomerates of similarly-minded rappers (many of them supported by this blog, don’t get me wrong) who celebrate their album launches in strip joints throwing hundreds. Macklemore, by contrast, strikes me as a man of the people, a man who sells his own merch at shows and one that got to where he is today (visiting Australia for sold out dates next month) by relying on the grassroots good will (not to be confused with ‘Goodwill! Popping tags!‘) that his music and his message cultivates. Which is why I only really paid attention to ‘Same Love’ today.
Undoubtedly, the sentiment underscoring ‘Same Love’ is epic. With an uncle who is gay, Macklemore has taken the personal and made it spectacularly public, accessible and obvious. Even on tracks like the poppier ‘Thrift Shop’ (Sister Z’s song of the year), Macklemore excels at telling a story simply and with startling panache. While thrift shopping is a hobby of mine, it certainly isn’t for the hordes who now exclaim ‘This is my jam!’ every time it drops in public. Moreover, the gay rights movement, regardless of whether you support it or not, is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. With ‘Same Love’ – and with the memorable Regina Spector-esque vocals of Mary Lambert in vital assistance – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis bring an issue that has been firmly on the political agenda for years into our ears, into our minds and, if they succeed, into our hearts. If the white kid from Seattle rapping about thrift shopping and topping the R&B and Rap charts is confronting for the genre, imagine how the major players feel when they hear Macklemore spitting against a cultural discrimination many have helped instill. Taking on issues is business as usual for rap. Gay rights goes slightly beyond the modus operandi.
Today I heard ‘Same Love’ on one of the biggest commercial radio stations in Sydney. There is a very significant chance that ‘Same Love’ is only getting play here because ‘Thrift Shop’ was such a sleeper hit and the stations are desperately playing catch-up, keen not to miss the Macklemore boat should it sail again. But regardless of the motives behind the push for ‘Same Love’ on commercial radio (and it has had play on other stations as well), the very fact of its existence on the airwaves otherwise exclusively reserved for Bieber, Minaj and Tay Swizzle to air their dirty laundry is important. Artists have the unique ability to influence the national discourse when they attain a certain level of fame. Macklemore is not there. That ‘Same Love’, probably the most worthwhile and controversial of pop songs to be released this year (Jake Gyllenhaal bashing aside) has somehow duped the puppeteers of popular taste and seen its contentious content fly under the radar is astonishing. Whether the song makes a difference or the masses merely indulge it because they don’t listen too closely and like the keys and chorus, ‘Same Love’ is a triumph. The ability of cultural works to impact the zeitgeist should not be overstated. But nor should it be understated. ‘Same Love‘ goes some way towards making that middle probability count.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love Ft. Mary Lambert