Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "This Unruly Mess I've Made" (Macklemore LLC)
There are plenty reasons —fair or not — that people dislike Macklemore, and his latest album alongside Ryan Lewis, "This Unruly Mess I've Made," makes one reason painfully clear: Macklemore is an insufferable, though perhaps well-intentioned, goody two-shoes.
Seemingly, he's trying to make the world a better place. He and Lewis did it on the previous album with gay rights anthem "Same Love," and maybe even on the save-money tune "Thrift Shop."
On their third release, the duo is pushing against police brutality on "White Privilege II," a nearly nine-minute production that weaves commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement with Macklemore's personal uncertainties about his place as a white man in the mix.
The song should be applauded for its audacity in tackling a serious subject and its inventive presentation. But listen to "This Unruly Mess I've Made" in its entirety, and "White Privilege II" loses its potency, in part because Macklemore comes off like a robot with two settings: politically correct and self-deprecating.
There's Macklemore delivering carefully enunciated bars on an unfair music industry, of which he casts himself a conflicted beneficiary ("Light Tunnels"); Macklemore on his naughty snacking ("Let's Eat"); and Macklemore 'fessing up to materialism. "Got some Jordans on my feet/ I went and matched 'em with my shirt" he raps on "Need to Know," featuring Chance the Rapper.
The whole thing feels like an after-school special, with Macklemore subtly and not-so subtly drawing his audience to a wholesome conclusion. There are exceptions — including the soulful and stirring "Kevin," in which Macklemore opens up about the overdose of someone close to him.
It's a message with gravity that needs to be heard. But on this album, the vibrations are drowned out by one good message too many.