Radio Rant: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton – Can’t Hold Us

Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants. I’m back!

And so’s this guy. I went on hiatus for Radio Rants (and later everything else) because 1: College took more effort to finish than I thought it would, and 2: pop radio kinda slowed down for a bit. The two biggest hits have been P!nk’s “Just Give Me a Reason”, and Bruno Mars with “When I was Your Man”. They’re both tolerable songs, but they don’t bring anything new. Then there’s “Thrift Shop” by newcomer Macklemore that spent all of February and part of April at the top of the charts (and played no. 2 to one-hit wonder “Harlem Shake”, meaning that you could basically tack March on, too).

A few months and some ten thousand listens later, I’m still ambivalent to “Thrift Shop”. When I get right down to it, the song still sounds like too much of a novelty for me to really like, and the same thing goes for Macklemore. The guy needed a second single; you could see that he was talented with “Thrift Shop”, but dude’s main contribution to the world thus far has been bringing back godawful mink coats. If you listen to his pretty good (and pretty serious) LP The Heist, his goofball pop culture status feels a little weird. For context: the two songs after “Thrift Shop” are a somber look at how being a rapper screws up your relationships, and an earnest call for marriage equality.

The song before it, though, is “Can’t Hold Us”, which has officially become Big Mack’s second hit. For me, the strongest part of the song comes from Ryan Lewis’ stomping drum and stabbing piano beat that never lets up; it keeps the duo’s throwback feel without feeling shameless, and added synths and vocal chants make it one hell of a pump up jam. Much has been made of the duo’s “us against everything” mentality, and the gang vocals and horn breakdown sound like a new challenger stepping up in a glorious corny way.

“Can’t Hold Us” follows the usual pop verse-chorus-verse structure, but does so without sounding like it does. This is done in part due to Mack and Cheese’s extended verses that include a bit of a refrain themselves, but also because the official chorus falls flat. Ray Dalton’s hook was apparently the last thing written for the song, and he kind of came up with it off the cuff as a space filler, and it shows.

“This is the moment/Tonight is night, we’ll fight ’til it’s over/So we put our hands up/Like the ceiling can’t hold us/Like the ceiling can’t hold us” It takes every filler line from other self-empowerment songs and just jams them together. It’s like eating Lucky Charms, except your asshole roommate went through and took all of the marshmallows out already. I’d be a little more on board with this chorus if Dalton didn’t deliver it in one of the most rigid, bored voices possible. The guy sounds more alive when he just riffs towards the end of the song.

On the flip side, Knick Knack Patty Mack himself improves upon “Thrift Shop” tremendously here. His flow is still kind of off-kilter, but he’s a little less jokey this time around (the only “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Lonely Island” dud is “And I’m eating at the beat like you gave a little speed to a great white shark on Shark Week–raw!”, which is less about bad writing and more about Shark Week being unbearable), and a little more of his on the sleeve earnestness shines through.

“I shed my skin and put my bones into everything I record” This might as well be Mack Donald’s mission statement.

“Return of the Mack!” Dude, this is your debut album; you had to be here in the first place to return.

“Thrift shop, pimp strut walking, little bit of humble, little bit of cautious/Somewhere between Rocky and Cosby, sweater gang, nope, nope y’all can’t copy” Hey, fun fact for you: “Can’t Hold Us” is the song before “Thrift Shop” on The Heistand it was released as a  single before it. Theoretically, he could be referencing something that for all you know hasn’t happened yet. Also, yes, apparently Mack Rushmore really loves thrift shops this much.

“Go hard like I got an 808 in my heart beat” Then have I got the woman for you

The final verdict? I’d call “Can’t Hold Us” a good song. Weak chorus and one or two misfire lines aside, it’s a strong tune mostly based off of the driving beat and instrumental. The empowerment horse has been flogged to death, but Mack with a side of fries comes across as sincere to a tee, so I don’t mind it. In fact, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this wasn’t his last hit.

About bgibs122

I enjoy music and music culture; I hope you do, too.
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2 Responses to Radio Rant: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton – Can’t Hold Us

  1. John Hanson says:

    Actually, Macklemore’s debut album, “The Language of My World”, was released in 2005 – “The Heist” is his sophomore album, albeit the first album with Ryan Lewis.

  2. Joe Turner says:

    Wow coulda swore I’ve heard that line before that somewhere on recording brrr (teeth chattering) its cold..

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