Not the usual type of artists we’re interested in, but we urge our readers, who generally only listen to alternative rock music, to give him a try ’cause his heart is probably more hardcore than many other self-claimed rockers.
Macklemore – an independent musician and rapper from Seattle who gained mainstream success with his low-budge YouTube video and home-recording song “Thrift Shop” in 2013. Seattle is always famous for producing high-quality alternative musicians – Nirvana, R.E.M., Soundgarden, Alice in Chain, etc. And this year, she got Macklemore.
Though Macklemore’s rise has created a lot of debate over his Rap vs Pop identity, we decided to use a few hundreds words below to talk about his blending of rock, pop, hip hop and funk, especially in live concert. On 20 March, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, his best DJ / producer pal, were having the first concert in Hong Kong to show you who they are.
Macklemore is rebellious…
As said before, the rap community was pissed off pretty badly because they don’t consider Macklemore’s pop/rock elements in his rapping is appropriate. This somehow matches what’s going on in the rock genre (or other music, too), which labeling has gone too far from what its initial function is. How many times have you heard people saying “that’s not punk” or “just another metal poser”!? However, from what this writer saw in Macklemore’s first show here, he did not care. Instead, he maximized the pop elements to a theater-size performance – the look, the crew, the arrangement. Lovers gonna love, haters gonna hate. And that night, we could tell, Hong Kong loves Macklemore.
Macklemore is socially-conscious…
While most mainstream rappers talk about drugs, girls and I-Got-Money, Macklemore chose something else – life, rehab, equality and his treasure hunt in the Thrift Shop. This socially-conscious approach is more familiar in the rock scene than in the generally urban/hedonistic-related hip hop culture. Between one song and another, Mr. M made speeches in relation to his songs on LGBT right (Same Love), his journey to the rehab, the destruction of drugs and alcohols (Other Side) and how hard works can pay off and makes your dream comes true (10,000 Hours). However, the time he spent on his talks were almost as long as that he rapped, it felt like preaching than performing at some point.
Macklemore is a frontman…
Though it was so-called a rap/pop concert, Macklemore was joined by a large crew on stage – string players, trumpet players, his best collaborator producer/DJ Ryan Lewis, and even a dance team. He certainly look like a frontman than solely a stand-alone performer. I’d like to give the credit to the awesomely skillful trumpet players, who successfully added the swingy, dancey, big-band glitters to the songs. With this kind of backup band, the sound was more a mix of hip hop, pop, jazz and rock elements. Macklemore had re-arranged some of his songs in live for refreshment. He decided to perform “Other Side”, a confession-like song about destructive addition without ANY backup music but his own voice under a white light cone. It was filled with loneliness, powerlessness and helplessness.
Macklemore is an entertainer…
The flashy stage-wide screen with carefully-designed “Macklemore & Ryan Lewis” logos and video clips exclusively for concert purpose brought you the pop-esque visually. That synchronized with what was seen in Phoenix’s and Placebo’s concert a few years back then which relied greatly on the visual content to achieve overall cinematic effect as well.
Later, Macklemore appeared in flashy customs, eyeliners and large teased hair like a late 80’s glam rocker. This surely won’t be seen in a regular rapper’s show! His witty presentation reminded us a hair metal band Twisted Sisters who were famous for exaggerating clothes and focus on social issues.
Near the end of the night, the rapper came out with a huge national flag of Hong Kong and shouted “You are the most beautiful crowd” – which everybody kinda know it was scripted – still, it got the crowd hyped up. This trick always works! Having said that, there was no reasons of running through their hit “Can’t Hold Us” for twice. It will only make critics and haters see him as a sellout (which is not that case, at least not now).
It’s interesting to see how one independent musician explodes with hard works and his successful experiments on blending different genre of music. Though there is a wide hypocritical debate over why Macklemore rise above other “REAL” hip hop artists, we guarantee this Seattle boy, who care about the society he’s living in, is one sincere artist worth to listen to.
“Music is therapy. Music moves people. It connects people in ways that no other medium can. It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine.” Macklemore
Macklemore是西雅圖的獨立的說唱歌手，2013年以自家錄製的歌曲”Thift Shop“，在YouTube上獲得了主流的成功。而西雅圖是以出產高水準的另類音樂人盛名：如Nirvana, R.E.M., Soundgarden, Alice in Chain等。 而今年，就是白人說唱歌手Macklemore 。
Macklemore的音樂類型引起了很多爭論－關於音樂中的說唱與流行的比重、究竟他是屬於哪一種音樂類型等，讓我們簡單地介紹來他音樂中的搖滾、流行、嘻哈及放克的混合與演變，尤其是在演唱會現場。2014年3月20日， Macklemore和 他最好的DJ /製作人朋友 Ryan Lewis進行了他們首次的香港演唱會，告訴你Macklemore & Ryan Lewis是誰。
對於Macklemore，你要不討厭他，要不非常喜愛他。說唱界對他是頗為不屑的，他們不認為Macklemore的說唱中，流行/搖滾元素比重適宜。這大概跟其他搖滾音樂圈發生的情況類近（也許其他音樂類型亦出現相似景象）；所創作的音樂類型跟初衷相差太遠。有多少次你聽到有人說“這不是朋克”或“只是另一種裝模作樣的金屬音樂 ” ？但是，筆者從他的演唱會中看到，Macklemore並不在意。相反，整個演唱會都充滿流行音樂的元素－他百變的造型、音樂表演人員、舞蹈員、整個歌曲安排等。Macklemore是令人又愛又恨的，那天晚上，香港十分喜愛Macklemore。
大多數主流說唱談論毒品、女孩和金錢， Macklemore選擇去談別的東西－生命、毒品康復、平等和他在Thift Shop（二手店）的淘寶之旅。這種表現社會意識的方法較在搖滾音樂中常見，而非一般城市/享樂主義相關的嘻哈音樂中找到。在每首歌曲的間場，M先生講述歌曲中的同志婚姻權利、他的毒癮康復歷程、藥物和酒精的破壞性，以及如何一點一滴努力地讓夢想成真，站在這個舞台上。然而，在這點上筆者需作一點挑剔，他的「演講」所花費的時間幾乎與說唱表演的時間相約，有點像說教多於表演。
雖然是一個說唱/主流音樂演唱會， Macklemore在舞台上加入了大量的表演人員－弦樂伴奏、小號伴奏、他最好的DJ/製作人Ryan Lewis，甚至一組舞蹈員。他看起來像一個樂隊的主唱多於獨立的表演者。熟練小號伴奏居功不少，成功為歌曲添加了輕快、跳舞，有如是大樂隊的表演般。樂隊使歌曲混合了嘻哈、流行、爵士和搖滾元素。 Macklemore在現場演繹重新編排了歌曲，為樂棄帶來新鮮感。猶如是獨白般的歌曲”Other Side”沒有配備任何背景音樂，只有白色的燈光照射著Macklemore，說唱表現了其孤獨感，無力感和無助。
浮華舞台上的螢幕，精心設計的“ Macklemore & Ryan Lewis”字樣和專門為演唱會準備的影片，為樂迷帶來豐富的視覺效果。這跟Phoneix和Placebo當年的表演同樣地帶來極強的視覺效果，使演唱會的表演方式進入了另一層次。
Macklemore在表現後半部以閃爍的裝束、眼線筆和大型戲劇性的髮型，如80年代華麗搖滾的造型，這肯定不會在一般的說唱歌手表演中找到。他詼諧的表演令我們聯想起以誇張的衣著盛名，歌曲則著重關注社會議題的金屬樂隊Twisted Sister 。
接近表演的尾聲時，Macklemore拿出巨型的香港的區旗，高呼「你們是最美麗的人群」，非常懂得令樂迷窩心，觀眾情緒推至整晚的高潮 。話雖如此，重覆表演他們最熱門的作品”Can’t Hold Us”也是不合情理的，畢竟只會惹來樂評人挑剔他是否江郎才盡，只可以重演作品完成演唱會（雖然我們現在不這樣認為）。
「音樂就是療法。音樂可以感動人心。它連接人與人，而沒有其他的媒介可以做到同樣的東西。它拉動人心，也作為治療人心的藥物。 ” 引自Macklemore演唱會的一夕話。
(Photo credit: A Music Ltd.)