Macklemore leaves positive impact on mainstream music

Within the past year, Macklemore has become one of the most popular artists in America’s mainstream music scene, and all I have to say is thank God. His inspirational lyrics, creative collaborations and his ability to relate to a wide audience, without question, sets him apart from the masses.

There is no doubt that most of the music you hear today, whether it is on the radio or at the bars, is catchy and provokes a sense of urgency to dance. It is well-produced and well-crafted, but just because music is well-crafted and produced does not mean it is a portrayal of what’s on the minds of today’s generation — unless the only things on our mind are drugs, sex and money. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl.” Without question, it is one of my favorite songs of the year, but check out these lyrics: “My heroine, my cocaine/My plum wine/My MDMA, I’m hopped upon it/It won’t go away/And I can’t wait ‘til I get home to get you in my veins.”

Timberlake’s album “The 20/20 Experience” is a masterpiece. The production quality is out of this world and just simply knowing that the modern-day king of pop’s name is on the cover makes it an instant success. No song has instilled in me the longing to dance as much as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Well, need I say more?

But I was never much of a lyrics guy. So long as the music had good instrumentals, a sick beat and an awesome melody then I was a happy camper — until Macklemore became famous.

Due to my interests in writing about political and controversial issues, and strong advocacy of LGBTQA issues, one could only assume my reaction the first time I heard Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’, “Same Love,” only because I was told to listen to the lyrics specifically. This was before the song went mainstream (hipster, I know).

With powerful lyrics like, “America the brave still fears what we don’t know/And God loves all his children is somehow forgotten/But we paraphrase a book written 3500 years ago,” and resonating hook sung by the incredibly talented Mary Lambert, “And I can’t change/Even if I tried/Even if I wanted to,” I thought to myself, wow! How cool would it be if this made it on the radio someday? I figured it wouldn’t because it’s political and invokes some religious ideals. And what are two of the most divisive topics of our time? Politics and religion. Well, lo and behold, it did. And it became one of the most popular songs around the world.

Once I started seeking out and appreciating lyrics in music, I noticed that much of the music I listened to had lyrics that left me disillusioned and disenchanted. Not only due to their lack of substance, but because of the messages that are being portrayed to the public. Boys, women are not animals that you domesticate, and no, you cannot successfully get with them by repeatedly telling them, “I know you want it.” That’s gross. And perverted.

When I listened to more of Macklemore’s music, though, I realized that most of his lyrics had strong messages he is trying to convey. Ranging from the dirty politics in Washington, D.C., and money’s influence on people, to how he overcame the struggles of being an alcoholic and drug addict, he managed to make music with substance and music that’s popular. He’s not making music to create hits, but instead making music to create a platform of his beliefs and share what’s important to him.

Music has the power to influence the lives and minds of millions of people — including some of the most influential. But why would you want 13 and 14-year-old children reciting the words of Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”? Wouldn’t it be much more desirable for them to recite lyrics from songs like “Same Love” or, shockingly enough, “Roar” by Katy Perry? For them to learn that as long as you work through adversity, you’ll accomplish something worthwhile. With a platform of that size, I’d hope most artists want to create music that not only entertains, but that matters.

Trying to find what Macklemore stands for doesn’t take much. You don’t need to sift through YouTube videos and interviews to see what he really believes in; it’s in his music. But to procrastinate from doing homework, I looked up some interviews anyway, and I’m not surprised to see that his interviews and lyrics in his music reflect one another:

“I want to be someone who is respected and not just in terms of my music. I want to be respected in terms of the way that I treat people ... music is my creative outlet in terms of expressing what is important to me; what has importance, what has a value. And I wanna be respected for that.”

Yes, music is subjective, but I share his sentiment as to what music should be. Music is a creative outlet to express what’s important, what has importance and what has value. It’s a reflection of the artist. If things like drugs, sex and money are things today’s mainstream artists value then I encourage them to see what type of impact they’re leaving on society, if any.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at mpasqui2@dailyillini.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpasquini.