This Unruly Mess I’ve Made by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Macklemore)

CU Sentry reviews This Unruly Mess I’ve Made by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, from Macklemore.

This Unruly Mess I’ve Made does a lot of work to live down to its name. The sophomore album from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, released Feb. 26, features a handful of powerful moments buried under countless missteps.

Amateur rhymes frequently tread the line between tragedy and hilarity: The single “Downtown” attempts matching “tiramisu” with “tearing my suit,” and “Light Tunnels” plunges even further with “nipple slips” and “economics.”

The album is also host to larger thematic issues. Tracks swing wildly from humility to Kanye-level narcissism. “Light Tunnels” narrativizes the shock of their first Grammy win (“I should have prepared an acceptance speech”), but “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” abandons that ploy with lyrics like, “My cat’s more famous than you,” and “Every white dude in America went to the barbershop: ‘Give me the Macklemore haircut.’”

The social justice anthem “White Privilege II,” while thoughtful and strongly lyricized, is undercut by the vocalist not addressing his position as a white rapper collecting accolades over the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z. He missed the chance to reiterate his 2014 apology to Kendrick more publicly and thus discuss how regularly the Grammy voters select a white nominee over four black artists for their rap categories. However, even without that context, this is a powerfully composed song that speaks quietly to create a loud message.

Unruly Mess is at its best in the rare moments it takes itself seriously. Though the rest makes for a fun listen, the album would benefit from less clever antics and more craft.

—Taylor Kirby

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