Thrift Shop/Macklemore

Back in 2011 I wrote this: “The Age of Irony is officially over and a new era, one mainly defined by the deep desire to honestly connect with someone before it’s too late, The Age of Earnestness, has begun.”

My basic idea then was that our art was starting to be about real human emotions and not just making people think you were bad-ass because you were cooler than feeling feelings. Since then, the pop music world has pretty much proven me wrong. Lana Del Ray, Chris Brown and Rihanna have all made careers out of singing about one thing while meaning god only knows what and probably the exact opposite of what they are saying. On the other end of the spectrum, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift are all raking it in with cliches about love that are so fun to sing along to, no one notices how horrible and misleading and destructive they are for America. Then of course there’s always the casual misogyny of Lil Wayne, Drake and Future (currently NINE on the Billboard Top 100, which means MANY MANY children are listening to this song…where are you now Tipper Gore??).

Enter: Macklemore. This guy. I mean, he’s a white hip hop guy from SEATTLE, the first nerdiest major city to be from after…nope, the first nerdiest major city to be from (I love people from Seattle so I can say that). He wears pinks shirts and bolo ties (see below). His haircut is patently ridiculous. But. Somehow, he owns the whole thing like a boss and ends up being dreamy beyond dreamy. He’s so f-ing earnest, every single one of his songs seems to be an anthem to honesty, kindness, fun, hope and love, and he’s my age, turning 30 in June, not a baby teeny bopper. He has critics, which I’ve previously discussed, because everyone has critics, but what I love about him is that even if he oversimplifies things like gay marriage or thrift shopping, his heart and his brain are in the right place. Also: this is pop music; it’s inherently simple. Yes, he is a straight white man so he can’t exactly speak to the gay experience, but he can speak to his experience! And yes, he most certainly comes from a bit of privilege (though he went to public high school in a city full of private schools so he couldn’t have been too extremely privileged), so when he sings about buying sweet clothes at a thrift shop, it’s not coming from a place of need but of joy in being different and finding magic. It’s about not selling out to the brands that have come to define hip hop, even if that definition is a backlash from the many hip hop artists who DID start out shopping second-hand because it was the only option.

The thing I love about Macklemore is that he is who is he is, honestly, un-apologetically and very enthusiastically. This is where we should be with feminism: Straight white boys were born straight white boys, just like the rest of us were born whatever we were born. They shouldn’t feel bad about who they are, guilty all the time about something they can’t change. They should have strong, positive role models too. We should ALL have models of straight, white boys like Macklemore.

If you aren’t convinced about what an awesome dude he is, watch this Tiny Desk Concert from December. I’ve already watched it about 20 times. So much crazy humanness. Macklemore! Go for the gold buddy! Win this one for all the little boys out there!

Macklemore is a Feminist Who Proves Conclusively that Irony Should be Dead 3 April,2013Lizzy Acker

  • Amira Pierce

    I love how happy his is in the Tiny Desk Concert–what a freakin’ good time he is having! I do get scared he’s gonna break the desk–but he doesn’t, cuz who cares, it’s damn office furniture. Here’s to leaving irony behind. Thanks for the great article.

  • Great Article Lizzy! And awesome artist.

  • mfwillis

    Macklemore is the bomb.

  • rawbbie

    are you kidding me? his schtick is pure affect! The fake claps? The haha, I’m ok with being called a cold ass honkey? If he was forty pounds over weight, wearing cargo shorts and an Old Navy polo, then I’d believe you; I’d be the first to say, “Yes, this is post irony. How can someone be so cool and ok with themselves and yet look so dumb?” As it is, I’d say Riff Raff is a better example of post irony, with so many layers of affect that no one, not even Riff Raff himself, can tell what’s ‘real’ and what’s not. And say what you want about the tenants of the Dark Carnival, but at least it’s an ethos…

  • Wonderful piece. Your article caused me to develop a huge crush on this man.

    • Thanks so much! He’s very crush-worthy.

  • Esther MacCratic

    You wrote better than I could say, why I love the honesty in Macklemore’s music. This is exactly the direction I hope (and am betting) music, art, and our culture will take. Here’s hoping, anyway. I especially love your thought about enthusiastic self-expression, whatever your self may be!

  • James Gralian

    Can you explain what you mean by “And yes, he most certainly comes from a bit of privilege”? What “privilege” are you refering to?

    • I think just general white privilege. Also in one of his songs, “Wings,” he talks about getting sweet shoes that his friends can’t afford. I just meant that he didn’t come from poverty–that’s not part of his narrative whereas it is for a lot of rappers.

      • James Gralian

        So hang on, because he is white he didn’t come from poverty or that he is privlidged? He also talks about his friend being shot for his shoes, his struggles with addiction and that he worked hard for what he has. That doesn’t sound like privlidge.

        And being white isn’t what many would call an advantage in the world of rap. I just think it’s ridiculous to assume that white means privlidge.

        • Interesting perspective.
          I think that being white, male and not impoverished is sort of THE definition
          of being privileged in this country, but that’s just me. I also don’t think of the word “privileged” as a pejorative, just a descriptor about someone’s socioeconomic circumstances.

          • James Gralian

            That’s your opinion of privlidge, and that’s totally your call. I think being white and male is the popular opinion of what privlidge means. I think you and the internet are wrong, and that’s opinion.

            What I don’t understand is what it has to do with the accomplishments or behavior of Macklemore? If it isn’t meant to be negative, than what rationale is there in bringing it up other than to show your own biases and assumptions? I feel like you only tell the reason why you automatically wouldn’t like him at best, and make a half-hearted attempt at diminishing him at worst. And that may sound like an attack, but it isn’t meant to be. I genuinly don’t understand what point there is in it, and would like to know.

          • danielle

            I find it peculiar that you are trying to critique this part of the article. Whether or not you want to believe it, being a straight white male in this country inherently comes with some amount of privilege. That’s not to say poverty doesn’t exist among the straight white male population. But statistically speaking, that is not the standard and Macklemore’s life story is no exception to that rule. Regardless, it’s simply a matter of fact that Macklemore came from [at least] “a bit of privilege.” Therefore, Macklemore doesn’t write songs about living in poverty because that’s not his story, unlike a lot of other rap and hip-hop artists.

            So what does all of that have to do with the accomplishments or behavior of Macklemore? He didn’t write “Thrift Shop” as an ode to his early life, growing up economically disadvantaged, and having to shop at thrift stores out of necessity. So if he had the privilege of choosing to shop at thrift stores in the past, it’s not ironic that he is choosing to shop at thrift stores now as a highly paid entertainment artist.

            Lizzy is using the song “Thrift Shop” to demonstrate that Macklemore is an authentic artist. He is a person who exemplifies the very essence of her previous article (referenced in the first sentence) – he is a true role model of The Age of Earnestness. I’d say that’s quite an accomplishment.

          • Jonny

            Thank you for that! Very well put… 🙂

        • Jonny

          “Priviledge’ is a relative term; your definition will vary from other’s in relation to the standard of living which is ‘normal’ to you. Everyone has a unique and (at least slightly) different definition for the majority of the words in their vocabulary. This variance is actually the leading cause of misunderstanding in interpersonal relationships because we assume & expect that everyone shares the same meaning for words- that’s pretty much how language works after all.
          Millions of people born in Africa or Asia will never have access to countless opportunities or even basic necessities available to us as white (males) living in a developed nation- we are priviledged… to live in a country where we have so much clean water that we piss & sh*t in it!

          You strike me as someone who has done little if any traveling outside your familiar zones- certainly not beyond the realm of the white man (US, UK, Canada, Europe, etc.).
          I would encourage you to explore.. the world, the net, anything foreign, different or new to you.

  • Libby Colborn

    I think that this song wasn’t written for the LGBT community as much as it was written for those who were opposed to same sex marriage. I like it because I don’t think he is trying to pretend to understand what it’s like to be gay. I think he’s talking to other straight white people who don’t understand same sex love. It isn’t over simplifying anything because all it’s meant to do is throw out his opinion by using his own experiences in rap and with his personal life. I think hip hop and rap were given a look and anyone who doesn’t talk about getting “bitches”, having sex, and doing drugs in the club isn’t truly rap. The guy is dropping rhymes. That means rap to me. Almost everything he writes has a real message in it.


Lizzy Acker

Lizzy Acker’s work has been published in Nano Fiction, Fanzine, Joyland, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. She has read with Bang Out, RADAR, Quiet Lightening and others. Her first book, Monster Party, was released in December of 2010 by Small Desk Press.

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