I’ve been in a funk lately. A writing funk, a general happiness funk… basically I’ve been a walking avatar for a certain James Brown song.
Duke’s Saturday overtime loss to Syracuse — a symphony of raised and dashed hopes — can be blamed for a portion of this malaise, but my blog block dates all the way back to Grammy night. It started with a simple mistake — following along on Twitter. What I saw was as disheartening as it was difficult to detach myself from, this strange and sad parade of cynicism that was chuckle-worthy one minute, homophobic the next, and mean all the way through. I can’t imagine last year was all smiles and kittens, and I enjoyed the jokes about Pharrell’s hat as much as anyone else, but something felt different this time.
One difference is clear — I had an emotional stake in one of the groups that drew the sharpest criticism. I’ve been a fan of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis since October of 2012, when I discovered “Thrift Shop” via Reddit. I loved it for all the reasons listed here. It was fun and clever, with a message that rang true for me (“$50 for a t-shirt…”). Then I heard “Same Love,” and my respect for the duo grew. I think people of the same sex should be able to marry one another, and I saw the group’s participation in the campaign to sway Washington’s referendum on marriage equality as admirable. Doing the right thing. The song never seemed perfect, but it felt profoundly good to me, in the way that certain people or actions strike you as a net positive in/to/for the world. As a result, I watched the duo’s rise in notoriety with glee, like I was watching close friends succeed at the thing they’re most passionate about. Now, I’m watching with despair as their names and music are maligned in all sorts of ways.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about this, because there’s a lot to say, and it’s not the easiest subject matter to wade through. Race. Sexual orientation. Cultural appropriation. This is swampy stuff, and I have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth. I don’t have advanced degrees in any related fields, and my familiarity with the term “cultural appropriation” dates only as far back as the release of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” video. I’m also biased in a way that I have to acknowledge and account for. Like Macklemore, I am white, male, straight and strongly in favor of marriage equality. Throw in a fervent love for crate digging at thrift shops and I may be the most biased person in this situation whose name isn’t Ben Haggerty or Ryan Lewis.
That said, there are a few things I have to say or I’ll be mad at myself for not saying them. You can decide how much weight they carry, based on the disclaimers I provided in the previous paragraph. I apologize in advance for how sanctimonious some of them are.
For the second time this week, I’d like to hand the YHT keys over to someone else. This time’s a little different, though, because the designated driver isn’t a friend of mine and doesn’t actually know he’s a guest poster. He’s Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore, of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fame.
I’ve been a big supporter of his since October of last year. “Thrift Shop” quickly became one of my favorite songs, in part because it offered a rare fusion of fun — “Smells like R. Kelly’s sheets” — and seriousness — “I call that getting tricked by a business” — all while exhibiting an acerbic intelligence and a refreshing message of anti-consumerism. In the past week, he’s had to defend that message because of his participation in the intro to last Saturday night’s NBA All-Star festivities (posted above).
I have to admit — as I watched last weekend, I was a little surprised at the intro’s song choice, but I want to let Haggerty tell you the story himself for two reasons.
A few weeks ago, when the time came to start working on my 2012 Top-Whatever post, I started think about how much effort went into last year’s Top-10 albums post, and how the silly thing ended up being more than a thousand words, and, with no small amount of lazi/restless-ness, I decided I didn’t really feel like doing that again this year.
So what did I choose to do instead? Something even more time-consuming of course! Taking inspiration from the squirrel in that creepy White Stripes song, I’ve decided to split my year-end post up into 5 parts, each one a Top-5 unto itself (with a bonus, Christmasy Top-5 tomorrow). First up? My favorite 5 songs of 2012, in the order in which I’d put them if I was assembling a mini-mixtape.
If you caught my musical away message on Friday, you know I was up in Baltimore this weekend. Charm City. Home of the playoff-bound Orioles and the recently victorious Ravens. (Hey, 9-6 may not be pretty, but a win’s a win). Mrs. YHT and I made the trip to see two of our good friends get married almost exactly 3 years after our own wedding day, which I’ll always remember as one of the best days of my life. In many ways, it feels like it happened just yesterday. I can vividly remember the food, the conversations, the quirks that made the ceremony one-of-a-kind, and maybe more than anything else, the way my usual social anxiety was replaced by a joyful, floating feeling, as if a spell had been cast on me.
As time goes on, and I’m given the opportunity to watch friends and family members have their own special days, it gets harder and harder to celebrate without feeling pangs of guilt, knowing that the state I live in is preventing some of my very best friends from getting married because the person they love is the same sex as them. I was born in Virginia, and am proud to have lived here all my life, but sometimes it can be a huge asshole. Everyone deserves the chance to have that joyful spell cast on them. Period. End of story. Well… unfortunately, it’s not the end of the story, because the misguided selfishness of so many people has turned marriage equality into a protracted battle/wedge issue/lobbying money pit. All the same, I believe with all my heart that it’s a battle that will be won, and I have the utmost respect for artists who stand up to do their part in pushing our country toward a more equal future.
This is, as the song’s lyrics so concisely convey, “fucking awesome.”
There’s so much to love about “Thrift Shop,” I’m gonna have to make a bulleted list to avoid the post flying past the thousand-word mark.