In 2012, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis arrived on the rap scene with an astonishing freshmen debut. Their album “The Heist” was a great rags-to-riches album that addressed social issues plaguing people at the time. It spawned numerous hit singles, takingmainstream radio by storm. Four years later, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis try to re-create the magic they brought during their debut, but sadly, they fall short. Their sophomore album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made,” lacks the soul, energy and social awareness that made the “The Heist” so memorable.
At times, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” tries too hard to re-create some of their prior hits. Their lead single “Downtown” is their attempt to rekindle their huge hit “Thrift Shop.” While a fun and good track, “Downtown” is nowhere near the level of “Thrift Shop.” Likewise, “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” feels like “Can’t Hold Us.” Both songs try to take the more pophit route, as they’re written to be catchy singles. The two songs are meant to be wacky and fun, and while they are, they just can’t capture the spirit of what made “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” so great. The songs are desperately trying to make the top 10 list, but fail in the process. Often times throughout the album, Macklemore seems to be stagnant. An artist like him needs to grow and keep pushing.
“This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” is by no means a terrible album, gems are scattered throughout the hour-long journey, along with great features that range from Ed Sheeran to YG.
The production here is slick, Ryan Lewis uses a wide arrange of musical instruments to create a deep atmosphere. Many songs have multiple textures and layers to them, making them feel as if they’re on a grander scale.
Macklemore is at his best when he’s preaching about social issues. On album highlight, “Need To Know,” Macklemore is found criticizing commercialism, along with people’s infatuation with social media.
“And got some Jordan’s on my feet, I went to match them with my shirt/ And I just instagrammed them both to show you that I got them first,” he raps.
Chance the Rapper steals the show on this track as he discusses the fears he has for his daughter growing up in these times.
Chance raps, “I cry when she smile with her eyes closed/ I’m already afraid of tight clothes/ I want all her friends to be white folks.”
The powerful “White Privilege II” addresses, you guessed it, white privilege in America. This track finds Macklemore talking directly to white people, asking them to acknowledge the advantages and benefits they have for being white. The hefty nine-minute song holds nothing back, while Macklemore shows off some of his best lyricism to date.
“White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho/ White supremacy protects the privilege I hold/ White supremacy is the soil, the foundation, the cement and the flag that flies outside of my home.” The track is haunting as gospel singers sing, “Blood in the streets, no justice, no peace/ No racists beliefs, no rest till we’re free.”
The heartfelt “Growing Up” is a love letter to his newborn baby daughter. It finds him opening up to her and giving her advice on how to live a fulfilling life. Backed by the soulful vocals of Ed Sheeran, “Growing Up” is one of the best on the album.
“Kevin” finds Macklemore rapping about his friend that overdosed on prescription medication. He targets the pharmaceutical industry and how it needs to be regulated.
“This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” isn’t on the same level of “The Heist,” which is a tragedy. At times throughout the album, listeners will find glimmers of hope of what the album could’ve been if they had given it more time. On “Bolo Tie” Macklemore raps, “You don’t know what I’m doing/ Focusing on what I’m giving back/ Man, make better music.” Well my man, make better music.